How do we stop these insane school killings? Readers sometimes ask why I don’t weigh in on this issue. After all, I write about firearms, ammunition, ballistics and hunting.
I rarely address homicides with firearms for the same reasons automotive writers rarely address mass murder with automobiles; why baseball writers don’t weigh in on beatings and murders with baseball bats; why writers who cover competitive swimming don’t drone on and on about drowning.
Homicides, murder, and mayhem have nothing to do with recreational firearms use.
That said, I will confess I do know how to stop school shootings: Close public schools.
Radical idea? Perhaps, but no more radical than rewriting the 2nd Amendment. Considerably less, actually, since the Constitution says nothing about mandatory education. Forced education is not an individual liberty or human right.
Am I just being facetious? Maybe. A little. But I’m also serious. Like you, I’m disgusted, appalled, sick, and tired of violence and murder, particular mass murder. Particularly at schools. Perhaps it’s time we thought outside the box. Instead of automatically blaming firearms, violent video games, inattentive teachers, ineffective law enforcement, lenient parents, etc. for every school shooting, why don’t we come at this from a new angle? Close or radically revamp our oversized schools.
Gasp! I realize this might smack some readers as sacrilege. After all, education is the bedrock of civilization, every person’s road to a successful life. No argument. But I’m not advocating against education. I’m questioning how we go about it. I’m suggesting we could do it better.
Why do we blindly accept the notion that we must warehouse all children between the ages of 5 and 18 in narrow age groups on one facility for eight hours a day, five days a week? Why do we assume they must be segregated from adults and the real world? Does this really make them smarter, wiser, saner, healthier, and better prepared for adult life? Or does it create an unnatural, artificial sub-culture in which immature, poorly disciplined children have more influence on one another than do their parents and other responsible adults? Peer pressure, pop culture, fashion, bad behavior, foul language, disrespectful attitudes, bullying, gangs. All are part and parcel of many, if not most, public schools. I suggest this is neither normal nor psychologically healthful.
We might need billion-dollar, multi-year, multi-discipline, double-blind studies to prove this, but common sense informs us it’s true. Historically, humans lived in families and small groups that interacted daily to survive. By observing and interacting with teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, and senior adults, children learned language, crafts, skills, social norms, personal interactions, kindness, respect, and cooperation. They learned what to eat, where to find it, how to capture it, and how to prepare it. They learned how to sing, dance, celebrate, love, and mourn. As they grew, they found models in all age groups for successful and unsuccessful behavior. And they were guarded, guided, directed, and disciplined by a balanced age demographic. They learned what to do and how to survive, behave, and thrive as productive members of their families, tribes, communities, and cultures.
Out of these “unprofessional” educational systems emerged, against all odds, brilliant intellects like Archimedes, Aristotle, Confucius, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Hippocrates, and Galileo. These and dozens more from Jesus to Abraham Lincoln did not attend formal schools. Andrew Carnegie (been to any libraries lately?) learned under his uncle’s tutelage. At age 13 he began working full time. Booker T. Washington, born a slave and not allowed to attend formal school, somehow managed to become president of Tuskegee Institute. Mass education as we know it today is not essential, let alone perfect.
It wasn’t until 1642 that the colony of Massachusetts made basic education (elementary reading and arithmetic, boys only) compulsory. The first official U.S. state, again Massachusetts, passed mandatory education in 1852, but the last, Mississippi, didn’t until 1918.
Do not read this to mean I believe education is bad. Education is a wonderful thing, an essential thing, and critically important. But, done poorly, it can be detrimental. Poor schooling can stifle enthusiasm, creativity, and initiative. It can create dull, resentful, vengeful students warped by bad influencers and an imbalance of experiences.
The United States of America is replete with successful schools — inner city, suburban, and rural — that have done remarkable jobs of graduating bright, eager, cooperative, friendly, happy, helpful students ready to join society as contributors. Alas, the USA is also replete with poorly managed schools from similar places that have done a remarkable job of turning out dull, negligent, sluggish, dissipated, disillusioned, angry students ready to spread unhappiness and misery. Must we continue to defend and fund those schools? Are there no alternatives? Smaller schools? Closer to home? Better managed? More nimble and better able to identify and treat potential problem children?
Perhaps I’m way off base here and mass shootings at schools are simply a bi-product of guns. Except that drop-magazine, autoloading firearms have been built and sold since 1900. And, as hundreds of pundits, politicians, and ordinary citizens have repeatedly pointed out, guns were common, unlocked, and regularly brought to schools in the mid-20th century without mass school killings. Now firearms are strictly prohibited in and around schools. Now we have gun free zones. And now we have mass school killings. Something has changed, and it doesn’t appear to be the firearms.
I’m not pretending to have the ultimate solution here. But I am willing to consider new options. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work. Marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked. It’s obvious that Gun Free Zone signs aren’t working. As parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, police, and ordinary citizens in a tolerant democracy founded on maximum liberty for individuals, it is our responsibility to raise and educate our children. Properly. And safely. In recent decades, many of our schools have not done this. Perhaps we should focus more on that and less on guns.
Author Ron Spomer is not a recognized authority on education or crime, but as a father, a grandfather and a concerned citizen interested in a peaceful, fair, safe, functioning democracy, he is deeply concerned about school shootings.
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