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Learning at its Best

If Not Now, Then When?

The shock and horror of a school shooting becomes a reminder for me that schools are still seen as safe places, refuges, at times even sacred spaces in a broken world. The fact that we are so surprised speaks volumes about how safe schools feel to most people.

Still, when the collective unity begins to fade, people will begin to ask questions about school safety. Over the next few days, we will be permitted, as a nation, to talk about school violence. We will hear calls to beef up security and add police officers and medal detectors.This, despite the fact that schools are still one of the safest places a child can be. Neighborhoods, city streets, even homes are often more violent than schools. Still, we will collectively reexamine schools.

However, out of “respect for the dead,” we will not be allowed to talk about gun violence, gun safety and keeping guns out of the hands of potentially violent people. In other words, we will be allowed to question the safety of the place where kids learn phonics and fractions, but we will be asked to refrain from questions about the handheld devices that spew metal pellets at deathly speeds.

I am not opposed to gun ownership. I don’t know which guns should be allowed and which ones should be banned. I don’t pretend to know the details or the motives of this event. But I know there are hard questions we need to ask about the culture of fear, the existence of assault weapons, mental health and mass shootings. However, every time it happens, we’re asked to avoid “politicizing” the event out of “respect for the dead.”

Children died.

If we’re supposed to wait to have this conversation, when is a better time than now?

About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


3 thoughts on “If Not Now, Then When?

  1. I sat here in the comments box for a good five minutes trying to decide what to say…. and this is the best I can do. Today was a trajedy and would have been even if children hadn’t been involved. Any time someone takes the life of another it is a trajedy. But, we can’t save ourselves from ourselves. If you take one tool out of the hands of someone intent upon doing harm they will will their hands with something else. We can’t know who is going to get behind the wheel in a car and drunk drive. We can’t know who is going to build a bomb with the ingrediants they find in their kitchen. Do we ban everything? I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m not comfortable with giving up even more of our “freedoms.”

    Posted by djmatticus | December 15, 2012, 1:22 am
  2. Freedom is an idealised myth, and even “freedoms” have some restrictions. Of course people with a tendancy towards violence will find anything they can to inflict the damage. You only have to look at the guy with AIDS who ran a muck during the opening of the Berlin main trainstation. But having easy access to weapons that maximize damage is still a freedom that can be restricted surely? I also agree that the issue should not be put aside till another time. Often it is swept under the carpet by the next hot topic to surface. Likewise, banning guns will not lead to banning everything, this is an extreme reaction at most. It is as simple as saying allowing guns means society should allow everything, ey.
    Schools should be safe havens for our children, from banning guns on the premises to not permitting bullying or other damaging behaviour. Firearms can be permitted with tighter controls, or you educate society in proper usage. It has worked in Switzerland, so what needs to be asked is what is going wrong with America?

    Posted by theLingoGuy | December 15, 2012, 6:44 am
  3. The incident was tragic, as was a school bombing back in 1927 ( ). I think the primary issues go much deeper than shootings or bombings of schools; it would seem the roots of such occurrences are broad and intertwined within US society itself.

    Posted by Brent Snavely | December 15, 2012, 1:21 pm

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