Monday, December 24, 2012

Safe Sanctuaries or Armed Fortresses?

On Thursday, (Dec 20, 2012) the AFT and NEA put out a joint statement opposing the position of extreme gun advocates that calls for arming teachers in schools. A day later (Dec 21, 2012) the NRA said in a press conference that they encourage law makers to make more guns available to trained personnel in schools and across a wide spectrum of our society.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a press statement on Friday that "Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students."

How many more babies have to be killed before we have the courage to rethink the issue and enact strict gun control laws that at a minimum limit access to WMD-type weapons and volume purchases of ammunition.

Take a look at Japan in this Washington Post piece. Strong gun control laws, thorough background and mental health checks all contribute to making Japan's gun control laws the strictest in the world. In 2008, 11 people were victims of gun violence in that country, while in the United States more than 11,000 were killed.
Video games are not the issue because Japanese teens love violent video games as much as their American counterparts. The one obvious difference is that in America, we have access to guns.

During the last election cycle, I got two calls from the NRA who wanted me to know that they were endorsing a local candidate. I let the caller know the the NRA's endorsement was the primary reason I would never vote for their candidate. That wasn't entirely true, but I figured it would be one way to stop them from calling me again. By the way, the NRA endorsed candidate lost the election.

Perhaps thoughtful people should start considering NRA endorsements in the same way they would consider KKK endorsements.

As the news attention moves to the fiscal cliff debacle in Washington, I urge you to keep the gun-control momentum going and make sure you sign up on Facebook and "like" One Million Child March on D.C. for Gun Control, and sign the petition  that tells the NRA to stand down and endorses CREDO's emergency march on the NRA in Washington D.C. Sign on to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence that said in its press statement "The solution to protecting our children is not to place them in the middle of shootouts between “good guys” and “bad guys."

Contact your local representatives and let them know what you feel. It doesn't have to be a very involved message. Just let them know that you will be watching how they vote on the issue.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sadness in Newtown, CT

I really don't want to add my voice to the expressions of horror and sadness the teachers, families and citizens of Newtown, Connecticut experienced at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. I think empathy and reflection are all we can do to help as we come to grips with the extent of the tragedy.

There are no immediate answers that can prevent this from happening again. There are simply too many guns out there, too many mentally and morally deficient people and too much glorification of violence in our society. Greater control of WMD-type guns would help, but that's not the only thing we can to do. Better understanding and treatment of mental illness and personality disorders would go a long way to prevent some of these situations in the future. Finally, it may be time to classify depictions of violence the same way we classify pornography--not fit for mainstream public consumption--definitely not to be viewed by children.

As an educator who served once as an ad hoc grief counselor in New York City after a student was assassinated in his classroom in front of his high school classmates, I can tell you that the psychological trauma experienced by the students and teachers was difficult to deal with. No one there was able to face the world and the school environment in the same way again. We tend to think that only little children will need our sustained attention and counseling, but even older children and adults need tender treatment and concentrated counseling.

The AFT has a series of valuable links that parents, teachers and student should find helpful when confronted with school violence. You can find them here in both English and Spanish. Here's a link from the Connecticut Department of Education. American Psychological Association has some very good information for dealing and talking about this kind of school trauma.

I call on the AFT and Connecticut Department of Education to offer the educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School the highest award for public service in their roles as "super heroes" who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the children in their charge.

Let us reflect on thoughts of peace and kindness.