We'll get to that, but first things first.
What do you remember about school? What is your favorite memory? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite subject?
In first grade, mine was Ms.Burke, I remember our afternoon math lessons and the sturdy tan desk in the corner with my name across the top in colorful capital letters. I remember her long brown hair, the way the smell of wet sidewalk would waft in through our classroom window during spring rainstorms and I remember our reading circle, criss cross applesauce on the checkered carpet we would sit, enthralled by that week’s book choice. We memorized the seasons of the year with a song we sang in the mornings while we were still munching breakfast, glassy-eyed, wiping the sleep from our faces. That is how I remember school. As my safe, familiar place. The place where I made friends and learned. The place where I grew up.
But even so, not all my school experiences were positive. In middle school I had a particularly ill-tempered teacher who was known for flying into a rage in which any object nearby was liable to be chucked across the room at the subject of his fury (as I often was). One of my closest high school friends was molested by her elementary school teacher, luckily nothing like that ever happened to me but it’s not the first time or the last time that it will. There was a kid in my middle school who was particularly big for his age and overpowered a teacher during class, breaking her arm. It’s terrible, but terrible things happen.
Now I want you to think of your worst interaction with a teacher, with another student, in your school years in general. Now add a gun to that equation and tell me how that improves it. Can you imagine if we armed teachers and went from worrying about students shooting up our schools to worrying about the possibilities if the guns we are giving our teachers end up in the wrong hands? What about gun misfires? What about accidents? What about the mental health inside our schools on the student AND the teacher level? What about the pure distraction of knowing that somewhere in your child’s kindergarten classroom, a gun is hidden. Isn’t access to guns the very issue that brought us here in the first place? Does placing them in schools give people less access or more? And how do you explain gun violence to your six year old? How do you tell your baby that their teacher is packing and how do you explain why?
I attended montessori school as a child on the west coast, a local public school for first grade, was home schooled from 2nd to 4th, public school from 5th to 8th and eventually graduated from a private, all girls high school in Baltimore City. In my time, I have literally experienced almost every style of schooling there is and as a product of each of them, I can tell you first hand each experience has contributed greatly to the kind of person I became. My teachers (my mother included) were one of the sole reasons for my success in their unrelenting quest for greatness, unwilling to take no for an answer, always pushing me to do more, be more, want more. As a Latina, as a minority, as a woman, as a citizen of this great world, as a steward of future generations, my own included.
So when I think about the teachers I have had, the ones I have known, the future of our education system and that of our children’s children, I am continually disappointed and generally discouraged by recent events in our nation’s schools and our government’s approach to it. After all this time, have we not listened to the cries of those whose real life experiences have only played out in our worst nightmares, or have we just simply chosen not to hear them?
Out of pure curiosity I have spoken with teacher friends of which I have more than a few, genuinely seeking their opinions, wanting to know their thoughts, picking their brains on this issue. The general consensus and common thread I’ve heard is “PLEASE, we do not want to be armed. We never asked for this. And how do you monetize this great responsibility you’ve placed on us? We are already underpaid and underappreciated and now, this?”
The teacher’s strike in West Virginia is a true testament to just that. I cannot for the life of me rationalize how when it came to their educators pay, the government couldn’t find the room within their budget to raise the average annual income five percent from where it stood at 48th lowest salary in the nation. But yet, somehow we will be able to find the funds to not only train our teachers but arm them? Those numbers simply don’t add up. I had a friend of mine point out recently that if she were single, living on her third grade teachers salary with her two kids, she would never be able to even afford to live on her own. But yet, politicians nationwide are proposing that those very same teachers (the same ones the state can’t be bothered to pay a reasonable salary) be the ones to literally hold the lives of our children in their hands and make decisions in the moments between life and death that could very well impact the rest of their own lives, their students lives and ultimately our lives also.
The student’s at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were specific in their cries for gun reform, raise the legal age of gun purchase/ownership, require more in-depth background checks/mental health evaluations and ban automatic, assault style weapons. Oh yes, and arming teachers ISN’T the answer.
What progress have we made on that? Why is it, that even after all of this, arming teachers is still a solution we would consider? By the way, I find it more than a little ironic that the very namesake of the high school that has become a fierce advocate for gun reform (one of the single largest battles of our time by the way), was herself a journalist and champion of women’s suffrage, civil rights and environmental protection. Looks like we’ve come full circle.
I suppose my point in all of this is for us to ask ourselves, what exactly are we trying to solve? And what outcome would we ultimately like to see? Apply the situation and its outcome to your own family, your own children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, neighbors and friends.
Because if our inalienable right to the second amendment overpowers the right to an education and the right of the future leaders of the free world to feel safe in their pursuit of that education, what kind of right is that anyway? If you want an example of a government who learned quick, by now you’ve probably heard about Australia’s approach after a single mass casualty resulting from a lone gunman. And also, when are we going to realize that time, experiences and modernity may change the definition of rules created over 200 years ago when the constitution was enacted. Gay rights ring a bell?
If you can’t tell, I’m a little impassioned. And you should be too. Because you never know when these things will impact you.
I try not to write many politically charged posts, that’s not the purpose of this blog. But I’ve also never been one to stand idly by when I feel so strongly that something is wrong. Now is the time for action. There are just so many things weighing heavily on my heart, I feel this is the right time to start lifting that burden with activism.
So please join me and thousands of others on March 24th in Washington DC for the March for Our Lives event where we will unite to bring attention to this issue. Don’t wait, the time is now :)