By Debora Gordon
Since the Newtown school shootings, there has been talk among some, such as John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” calling for teachers and other school staff to carry guns. Their perspective is that, as National Rifle Association Executive VP Wayne LaPierre put it, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
As a 25-year veteran of the classroom, mostly in Oakland, I respond to this with an emphatic NO. That is not the only way, nor even the best way. And it is certainly not the way most educators would choose, or even consider. Never once during the many school shootings that have taken place before and since I first stepped into a classroom as an educator, have I ever thought, “what teachers need are guns.”
Logistics aside – whether I would be able to access a firearm quickly in case of a threat on campus, or whether teacher professional development would now include target practice – it is simply not an effective solution, and actually is really a disaster waiting to happen. It is not that difficult to envision the gun being used against the teacher and students, or the teacher wounding or killing a student by accident, as well as other potential calamities.
One of the great challenges educators always face is how to fix the problems of the now while creating solutions for the long-term. As shocking as the Newtown shootings have been, I remain unshaken in my absolute conviction that the only way to stop all shooters, is through love, education, understanding, and compassion.
I know that some will dismiss this as unrealistic, but it seems to me no less realistic than continuing to build up an armed society, to the point where everyone is prepared to shoot and every misunderstanding becomes potentially explosive.
In the schools, we need to present a structured, articulated course of conflict resolution, non-violent communication, and anger management. Students need instruction on the impact on society, families, victims and perpetrators when lives are lost.
The massacre in Newtown happened to take place on one day. But there has been no less of a massacre in Oakland, where, as of this writing, there have been 124 homicides this year alone, with 5 days to go. Despite having been spread out over time, this is no less tragic, no less hurtful to or destructive of the communities than the violence in Newtown. Oakland does not get the same outpouring of grief and support, but needs it no less.
As teachers, our job is to educate – not just in the core curriculum, but how to be contributing parts of the society. That – not more guns – is the only way to stop violence. The pen, the word, and the lesson – in the long run, these are still mightier than the gun.