Grown Up Christmas List

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Well done Saturday Night Live...well done.

This morning I heard a Meet the Press commercial use the words "Learning in Tragedy" to reference an upcoming show.  It caught my attention because that is the beginning of my dissertation title (the rest of my title is way boring, trust me).  But I wonder how much a nation, as educators, as lawmakers...will learn from it that really makes a difference.  And the Today Show anchor said that there aren't many people who truly understand what it's like when a typical day at school turns to violence.  But there are a few who do.

One of the reporters asked a school security specialist if there was anything parents should be concerned about in sending their kids to school tomorrow.  And my first thought was that they should be and will be worried about everything.  But the thing's a very different world than what my parents experienced in school or what my grandparents knew sending their kids to school.  I'm guessing my dad's parents worried about all the young men they knew who were draft age during Vietnam, and that's something that I will probably never understand.  But I'm also guessing my parents never walked across the campus of Oklahoma State University with a mental emergency plan for what actions to take if a gunman emerged on campus.  I know my grandparents never thought the possibility of mass violence in sending their kids to school or the movies.

But if you're in your twenties, it's all you know.  I was in the sixth grade in Oklahoma City during the bombing, high school during Columbine, three weeks into Baylor on September 11, and grad school for Virginia Tech.  It's a scary world out there and if you're around my age, it's all you've ever known.  Forget fire and tornado drills.  It's bomb threats and active shooter drills and lockdowns.  I don't and won't talk about it much, but when it was my campus, the baby boomers didn't understand the fear students and young staff felt...but we grew up with a fear they did not and knew what it meant when it actually happened.  And now the generation that grew up with school violence at every level are teachers and leaders in those schools...and it's still there.

So we can talk about school security and policies, and we should do everything we can to keep schools as secure as possible.  And we can talk about gun control...and we should do a whole lot more than talk about a ban on assault weapons.  But it's not about guns, not really.  I firmly believe that people should have the right to legally carry weapons to protect themselves, but I do not believe Kindergarten teachers should feel forced to carry firearms or that individuals should have military-style automatic weapons, certainly not without background checks.  What we really need to do is stop ignoring mental health issues and trusting our gut when we know something isn't quite right.  It's not everything, but it's definitely a start.  If you haven't read it, Thinking the Unthinkable is worth it.  Gun control alone won't help.  Mental health awareness alone won't help.  Security policies alone definitely won't help.  I don't know if you've noticed, but criminals do not tend to follow security procedures...they shoot their way right past security procedures.  But all of it together just might start to make a difference.

Maybe it's cheesy and it's definitely naive, but I've been out Christmas shopping and subway riding, and I just can't escape one particular song...

No more lives torn apart
Then wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

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