I’m angry. I am way beyond concerned or sad or disappointed or even aggravated. I am just plain angry. When is enough, enough? Really?
We had another school shooting last week. According to USA Today, it represents at least the 30th such occurrence so far this year.
CNN defines a school shooting as a firearm event that occurs on a school or college campus resulting in the injury of at least one person, not including the shooter.
So, do the math. Last week was number 46 of the current calendar year. To date, we have endured at least 30 school campus shootings. Lives are being lost. Many more are injured. And countless numbers of children are scarred for life from the horror, the fear and anguish of experiencing something so horrific. When is enough, enough?
In a May 25, 2018 publication, CNN reported that there had been 288 school shootings in the United States since 2009. (We know that sad number is significantly larger now.) But, 288+ . . . That’s a huge number. It is incomprehensible. 288+ times in less than a decade. Let the magnitude of that number sit with you for a minute or two.
That same CNN report compared the incidents of school shootings among the G7 nations since 2009. That seems like a very fair comparison pool. These are seven of the leading political and economic powers in the world. Here’s the data. Prepare to be shocked.
0 United Kingdom
288 United States
If that doesn’t illustrate a problem, I cannot imagine what would.
Let me be clear. I do not need to be reminded that I am an educational blogger. I am not advocating any particular platform or position on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I am not rallying either a pro or a con stance as it relates to the agenda of the National Rifle Association. Not here anyway. No, I am writing about, and for, kids.
I am an educational blogger. An angry one, at that. I am an education advocate who is fed up with the complacency and inaction of policy-makers. Again, not just on the topic of gun control (though that should loom largely in their agendas). Rather, I'm disgusted that their inaction is adversely impacting the opportunity for all children to be assured a safe educational experience.
Within the sphere of public education, we talk a great deal about needed instructional reforms. We discuss the truest ways to assure that our education systems promote equity, in edition to equality. We debate school funding, teacher salaries and spending priorities. We actively consider how best to instruct our students, and how to effectively assess and report what they’re learning. There is no end to conversations about accountability and what, exactly, it should look like. I am happy, no, enthusiastic, to discuss and write about each of these topics. It’s what I do. But, there’s that nagging problem - that elephant in the room.
We could have the best textbooks and curriculum, we could have stellar teachers in every classroom who are appropriately compensated, we could have the stability of adequate funding. In addition, we might imagine the most beautiful and technically advanced facilities in every community. We could even have the most progressive instructional and assessment practices as commonplace in every setting. We can visualize outstanding professional development for every educator and the assurance of practices that are equal and equitable for all students. But, unless kids feel safe, all of this is for naught. We know that in order for children to realize their full potential, they must experience intellectual, emotional, psychological, creative and, at a minimum, physical safety.
Schools are supposed to be havens of safety. Parents bundle and kiss their children with the trust and expectation that they will come home at the end of the day - hopefully a little smarter, but, at the very least, safely. Students enter school house doors and classrooms every day trusting that they might have a “good day” - one filled with curious discoveries and joyful interactions. Yet, we complicate these expectations with all manner of “what if” drills.
Are we failing our children with our unwillingness, or inability, to affirmatively assure their safety?
How can we expect a child to be focused on learning when they must figure out where to hide?
I sadly recall the fearful questions asked of me, the building principal, from my middle school students following a 1998 school shooting that occurred 60 miles from us. “Will this happen here?” was their fervent query. Shootings like this were extremely rare back then and I was confident in our protocols, so I offered them my assurance of the safety they desired. Little did I know that communities large and small would experience these catastrophes with increased frequency. Looking back, I realize that the assurance I offered my students would prove false. These could, and would, happen anywhere.
Yes, I am angry.
When is enough, enough?