The GOP is proposing a great idea nowadays: Let’s give teachers and school administrators classroom guns! In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown Connecticut last week, GOP leaders are announcing plans to introduce legislation in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee to arm school personnel.
Let’s think about this. What if teachers and school administrators carried guns? Imagine a stressed out, overworked, underpaid teacher with too many students snapping one day and shooting blanks in the air to get everyone to shut up: “Sit the fuck down, kids, and raise your hand if your neighbor is talking.”
It’s difficult to summon appropriate outrage over this because it’s so incredibly ridiculous. The people who demonize teachers, battle their unions and cut they pay now want to train them as law enforcement officers.
This isn’t the first time GOP extremists have proposed armed schools, but it’s definitely the first time the idea has garnered any mainstream play. Every major news outlet has reported it in the course of reporting proposed solutions for protecting kids and teachers in schools. The idea is catching on, with Republican proponents coming out of the closet throughout the country. It’s bound to pop up in more and more states in the upcoming year.
Before Sandy Hook, arming schools was considered a fringe Right-wing idea, something that not even regular Tea Partiers would ever get behind. Now you can hear it debated live on CNN.
Here’s the thing: This idea is patently batshit. It speaks to the routine America paranoia that ensues after a terrible thing happens. Oh no? Remember the first time someone told you not to travel to New York or DC after 9-11 lest you perish in a terrorist attack? Anyone?
But this bright idea is potentially far more dangerous than, say, banning large bottles of shampoo in carry-on bags. Let’s consider some of the possibilities:
Many teachers are smaller than students in their middle and high school classes. I know some very petite fourth- and fifth-grade teachers with students taller than they are. How hard would it be for a bigger student to wrest the gun from a teacher’s hands? This could happen anywhere. And if it does, a behavioral issue that should be a minor incident remembered by nothing but a quick incident report could become a site of mass slaughter. And a measure ostensibly prescribed to prevent violence just leads to more violence.
School guns could get into the hands of students and/or murderers in a number of other ways as well. If people can break into schools to steal computers, why on earth can’t they steal weapons? It happens all the time. Schools are not designed and built with maximum security law enforcement in mind. Most of the time there are no bulletproof windows or burglar alarms. Stealing guns could be as easy as throwing a rock through a window – and this isn’t something any school system should be willing to risk.
Again, let’s remember that the people proposing guns in schools are not exactly proponents of public education. They’re proponents of teacher union-busting. They rally to decrease pay, get rid of class size caps, lay off teachers and cut school funding. And now they want to treat teachers like law enforcement officers – and require firearm training? “They’ll call it ‘professional development’ and schedule meetings for this,” said my mother, a teacher, when I told her about the proposals last night.
Teachers are so maligned in the media and in politics these days that many parents barely trust them to teach their kids well. Now, if teachers are given the power of life and death via automatic firearm over their kids, how might they feel? And it’s not just people who buy into the anti-teacher rhetoric who will be nervous about this.
Think about it: Would you really trust your child’s teacher – whom you probably do not know well as a person – with a gun in class? At minimum, wouldn’t the fear of death be rather overwhelming for lots of kids? Do we want our kindergartners to be thinking about how their teachers are carrying weapons that could kill them? Is this going to be a good learning environment for small children, or would it terrify them?
The funny thing about this? Many of the people promoting it are the libertarians who complain that public education is too regimented and prison-like. And yet they want to train teachers as law enforcement and hand them weapons.
If it happens anywhere, there will be a mass exodus of both students and teachers from the public school system. Teachers will leave because their jobs have been turned into a farce and because they never signed up to serve as prison guards. Parents will pull their children out of schools, understandably concerned about what might happen once guns are introduced in the classroom.
What kinds of people would benefit from this? I can think of two: (1) Politicians in the business of undermining and defunding public education and (2) politicians who rely on the gun lobby or the Koch brothers for campaign support. None of these have the best interests of students in mind. They are enemies of public education.
So, let’s continue to point out how utterly ridiculous this idea is – and ensure that our public schools don’t suddenly turn into law enforcement centers. Good education prepares students to be responsible citizens in a democratic society. I’m not sure what law enforcement schools will prepare students for, but the answer certainly isn’t democracy.