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Name: Mister Rea
Gender: Male
Hometown: Houston
Home country: Moon
Current location: afk
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 48,808

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mostly harmless

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As a teacher, let me tell you why arming teachers won't work. (a rant)

(1) It's dangerous. It's not a stretch to say most teachers would be gun wielding newbies. And newbies make mistakes; accidents will happen. And sure, most teachers will just say, "Not me" and refuse to go to class armed.
One reason we have to make public policy is that people sometimes exercise bad judgment. We have unemployment insurance because people pick the wrong jobs for themselves. We have homeless shelters because some people fall into poverty and can't maintain a home. We accept people into emergency rooms, even if they can't pay, when they've made dumb mistakes on motorcycles or while using pruning sheers.
To err is human. To be unforgiving and say, "Screw you for being irresponsible; you don't deserve help" is to stand in polar opposition to basic human civility.
And so, when inevitably, when you hand a bunch of noobs DOE approved classroom guns, even if they've gone through a 10-hour two-weekend course in basic gun safety, you're gonna have incidents--including accidentally discharged weapons around minors. You're gonna have lawsuits, you're gonna have injuries, you're gonna disrupt the fundamental relationship of in loco parentis that defines a teacher's care for their students.

(2) It's reckless. Teachers are role models. Yes, even to recalcitrant teenagers, they behave in ways that students will inevitably emulate. And students emulate teachers not just because they're young, but because students are humans. In a society, we constantly renegotiate norm references. When a leader does a thing, it sends a message to all those in their community that that behavior is normal, acceptable, desirable.
Historians often wonder why there was a resurgence of the KKK during World War One, particularly when this was still the middle of the Progressive Era. One critical answer was that there was a reform minded, otherwise liberal president who also just so happened to be a complete racist. Wilson perversely thought both his good government initiatives and his nationalizing of Jim Crow standards, including the full segregation of the civil service. In stark contrast to his two equally progressive predecessors, Wilson sent down the message from high office that racism was a-okay. The populace followed suit. When a minister of a church embezzles, when a president inveighs against official corruption, when a mayor steps up and says "let's be compassionate to our city's homeless," when a company says either "let's give to our community's charities" or "let's lie on our annual reports," the people whom they lead tend to follow suit. Role models matter because humans are a gregarious animal.
And so if teachers model packing heat on campus, their young charges will follow. The example alone will encourage students, other staff, parent & community volunteers to do the same. Guns are powerful alluring things. If teachers conceal carry, others will conceal carry, even if the rules forbid it. That's how people are. And conflicts over those rule violations will happen--unnecessary conflicts. And other normal school-based conflicts between teens or between students and staff, will turn into armed conflicts. Normalizing guns on campus is chumming the waters.

(3) It's stupid. Students are rules testers. They are boundary testers. It's what immature adolescents and pre-adolescents do. Schools are little sociological sandboxes where young people discover what it's like to exist as a person within a bureaucratic organization. And one of those rules they test is 'Thou shalt not steal.' Kids steal things all the time. And of course they usually get caught--but not always. And a gun, being the alluring, powerful thing that it is, will draw the attention of many young kleptomaniacs. This happens even in "safe" and "nice" schools, cause Five-Fingerism afflicts representative cross sections of American society.
Ask any teacher. Kids steal art supplies. They steal dry erase markers. They steal books from the lending library and calculators from the plastic shoe tree hangers in the class closet. They sure as hell go after any cell phones the teacher has confiscated from other students.
Can you imagine a middle school classroom where one or two guys aren't distracted by their teacher's gat peeking out of her coat? Or where the art teacher, needing to quickly switch over to a smock for the next project, somehow forgets to lock his desk when he temporarily moves his Sigsauer into the file drawer? It'll be a daily, unnecessary threat to classroom safety, multiplied daily by 10,000 classrooms across the country. Shit will go down and conflicts will ensue.

(4) It's uninformed. Think about all the minority youths and young adults who've been shot by police, many of whom were unarmed. But often even an armed civilian can and should be interdicted by the law without the police resorting to legal force. The internet's replete with images of armed white suspects being detained and cuffed. It's the oldest story in human civilization; the armed force of the state being used to control the unruly or nonconforming individual. But there's something in the American character that makes race a major determiner of how lethal a force the police are willing to exert to maintain order (tho not always law and order).

Do you image that teachers, gifted with the tools of tolerance and a philosophy of inclusion and equality, are going to behave with less racial discrimination than police will? I fear you imagine wrong. But it gets so much worse when you arm a bunch of teachers. Like it or not, police and teachers share one characteristic in the range of job duties they perform. Both professions require a public employee to assert control over a variety of civilian situations. A good cop will be in control of street confrontation, should the need arise. The good teacher is in control of her classroom while students pursue often individual learning events.

But the critical difference is that when confrontations arise, the police officer usually has the luxury of giving 100% of his focus on the individual needing to be contained, controlled, or corralled, when the peace of the community is at contention. And yet even with all their training, all too often police officers go into territorial mode and use too much force, too much lethal force, to control the people they confront. All too often the result leads to a hail of bullets flying about the open street. Sometimes the wrong innocent bystanders get struck by.

Now translate that same dynamic to a classroom. Only where a cop is charged with controlling a single situation with one or two agitated people (and even then, often reacting wrong and resorting to force), the teacher is often in a purposefully and creatively chaotic environment with multiple distractions, a plethora of moving parts, a thousand distractions going on simultaneously in enclosed space. -Great self-directed learning occurs in situations that may look (and often come close to) true chaos. Good teachers are taught to toe up to that line because that is where actively learning happens. Good teachers know how to still keep it safe, but of course sometimes things don't work out perfect. Kids are still kids. Should a heated incident arise, as happens with younger teens and their rollicking hormones, then reasserting control becomes important for the safely of the students that the teacher's responsible for.

And so, inevitably, when some kid with issues at home or some poorly controlled rough-housing slips in among the 30 active learning arcs playing out simultaneously, some teacher, with only a tiny fraction of the armed peace officer's training and experience, amid the confusion and the need to redirect the chaos, is going to over react.

And sadly, the human character is such, that if you put a tool in a person's hands, they will use that tool--even if it's very much the wrong tool. This human propensity is why the militarization of police forces since 2001 has led to the occasional, but periodic, misapplication of force. If you give cops urban assault vehicles, they'll use UAVs to resolve street situations even when hindsight discloses that a lesser application of force would have been better. This are all too frequent errors of judgment made by experienced, senior police officials. A rookie teacher with a gun trying to function in a stress-filled rambunctious class in a desperate moment will inevitably, tragicomically, and periodically make the same mistake. They'll have that perfect storm moment that all new teachers experience several times in their young careers and the gun will come out. Or a kid will grab for it. Or it'll fall from their holster. Or, if it's locked up, it'll be nudged out of the broom closet or off the book shelf and the box will pop open.

They'll be trained not to overreact, they'll be trained how to defuse these moments... and some times the training won't work.

How often will it happen? Once or twice a year across the country? Once or twice a month? I have no idea, but how many people are killed by armed curious toddlers every year? It sounds like a ridiculous premise, right? And yet in a typical year more Americans are killed by toddlers than terrorists. I know it sounds like a joke. But dumb things happen all the time in life. Especially in schools. I can't count the number of idiotic (and in hindsight laughable) incidents that could have been dangerous over the course of my 20+ year career. All teachers know what I'm talking about. Those moments are rare, but there are a million classrooms in America. Putting a gun in even 10% of them will inevitably produce, at regular intervals, needless tragedies.

And of course doing so won't do anything toward preventing yet another mass-shooting incident like we've saw in Florida last week. The worst part of the president's suggestion is that it's irrelevant to the problem we're all worried about. It's not just a band-aid on a wound; it's a band-aid on a wound put on the wrong knee. To sum up:

* Arming teacher won't prevent any shootings
* It's highly unlikely to even foreshorten any shooting sprees.
* It's damned likely to create circumstances in which new shootings occur.
* It's going to encourage a lot of people who shouldn't have gun to try out carrying one anyway.
and finally
* It's just another Republican thoughtless dodge ginned up without any thought applied to consequences or scale of funding.

Don't give me a gun.
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