I‘ve long thought that public school teachers are under appreciated and underpaid. They must keep order in classrooms. The young, impressionable eyes looking up at them for guidance or discipline come from a wide variety of backgrounds and influences. Some parents are positive for teachers to deal with but others difficult, and some are sadly rarely seen or show that they care. Teachers must navigate the varied personalities and goals of administrators and their fellow instructors.
Now, in addition, there’s rising pressure for them to be skilled with firearms in the classroom. Or for them to share the break room with someone who is.
The world has gone too crazy. But we’ve known that for awhile now through repeated school shootings. The Columbine school massacre in 1999 seemed to usher in this era. Yet even before that, in the late 1980s, I covered as a newsman a school shooting in southern Buchanan County. In that tragedy, a boy shot another student and then took his own life. The day was so incredibly sad. Now comes the latest in deep sadness with the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and staff died.
The Trump administration has announced a new federal commission on school safety. As if we didn’t already know the problems: too easy access to high-capacity magazine firearms designed to primarily to kill people; public schools given bare-boned funding; glorification of violence in video games, movies and television; a fast-paced world where parents in poor and lower middle class families are both working to make ends meet and don’t have enough quality time to spend with kids, a lack of community enthusiasm and support for long-standing youth programs such as Scouts and 4-H.
Maybe we need better local park program development and funding, with more emphasis on youth activities and adventures, rather than more guns in schools.
I’ve been thinking back through the teachers that I had in schools. I can’t imagine any of them packing pistols.
I do support trained police officers in schools. Give them some special social work and counseling skills along with their law enforcement training, I think they are a valuable addition in schools in today’s society. Albeit, I greatly rue that they seem like a necessity.
I’m a hunter. I’ve enjoyed target shooting and trap shooting. I admire the craftsmanship and engineering in firearms old and new. I especially appreciate their role in history. So I’m not an anti-gun zealot who disparages the Second Amendment.
But the proliferation of more and more firearms designed just to kill people is distressing. The distress creates fear that puts up walls between people and more guns in the hands of the fearful, and many of the latter don’t understand the finality and magnitude of what they hold in their hands.
I pray that the repeating of mass shootings and school massacres doesn’t make us numb, that we don’t view it like driving past a fender bender on the highway, looking for a moment and moving on.
I worry for education. The far political right doesn’t seem to care much about quality public education. Urban sprawl puts more pressure on school districts to accommodate student growth. And sometimes sprawl leaves schools in older neighborhoods struggling.
My children were blessed to have some very good, smart, dedicated teachers. But I worry that schools will keep attracting quality teachers to a career that now involves a national discussion on firearms in classrooms and hallways.
We expect teachers, counselors and administrators to be dedicated. Now we expect them to be shields for our children, too. Let us tell them, thank you for your service, and may it be gunfire free.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.