My daughter posted Maria Konnikova’s New Yorker article on gun violence research on Facebook with this synopsis:
This article is worth a read. It provides strong scientific evidence that really debunks the prevailing theory that mental illness is the main cause of gun violence. In actuality, it’s a much more complex mix of factors.
The article IS worth a read and provides an overview of research done by Jeffrey Swanson, a medical sociologist and professor of psychiatry at Duke University on gun violence incidents over the past several decades. His research demonstrates that there is not a causal link between mental health and gun violence. One of the telling sections of the article was this:
(Swanson) found that the occurrence of violence was more closely associated with whether someone was male, poor, and abusing either alcohol or drugs—and that those three factors alone could predict violent behavior with or without any sign of mental illness. If someone fit all three of those categories, the likelihood of them committing a violent act was high, even if they weren’t also mentally ill. If someone fit none, then mental illness was highly unlikely to be predictive of violence. “That study debunked two myths,” Swanson said. “One: people with mental illness are all dangerous. Well, the vast majority are not. And the other myth: that there’s no connection at all. There is one. It’s quite small, but it’s not completely nonexistent.”
Swanson concludes that laws linking mental illness with gun purchases are unsupportable if the purpose is to commit violent acts like school shootings, though his research did show that preventing mentally ill people from acquiring guns might have an impact on suicides. Near the end of the article Swanson did offer his thoughts on gun control and mental health:
If Swanson had his way, gun prohibitions wouldn’t be based on mental health, but on records of violent behavior—not just felonies, but also including minor disputes. “There are lots of people out there carrying guns around who have high levels of trait anger—the type who smash and break things,” he said. “I believe they shouldn’t have guns. That’s what’s behind the idea of restricting firearms with people with misdemeanor violent-crime convictions or temporary domestic-violence restraining orders, or even multiple D.U.I.s.”
So how would Swanson’s ideas prevent school shootings? One possible means might be to restrict the availability of firearms to students who engage in violent behavior in school or who have a history of drug and alcohol use. Such preventative measures would require school disciplinary records to be shared with whoever is charged with enforcing gun restrictions… a concept that has obvious privacy issues… This poses some thorny questions. Why are we reluctant to identify students who are arguably at risk to commit violent crimes using firearms while at the same time being willing to install surveillance cameras that arguably impinge on every student’s privacy? Why are we reluctant to restrict access to weapons and at the same time impinge on the public access to schools by having armed guards and/or security locks at the entry way? And lastly…. why are we concerned about the liberty of gun owners but not concerned about the liberty of school children?
Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes poses this question: “Do Politicians Love Kids?“. My answer is: “Yes…. but… they love shareholders more!”
Kristoff’s column focuses on the need for universal prekindergarten, an issue he believes both parties can support. The column offers James Heckman’s research as evidence along with lots of statistics comparing our nation’s preschool programming with our “competitors”.
But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, I believe Republicans and “school reform” advocates will use the expansion of prekindergarten as an opportunity to expand “choice” and expand the privatization movement that has burgeoned under NCLB, RTTT, and in urban districts under the control of business minded neo-liberal and/or conservative mayors. This led me to leave the following comment:
Given the Republican majority in the House and Senate and a handful of sympathetic neo-liberal Democrats here’s the likely pre-kindergarten scenario: vouchers. Instead of putting prekindergarten programs under the aegis of public school systems Republicans and “school reform” Democrats will advocate for “parental choice” and use the funds to open privatized programs instead of expanding the mission of “failed government schools”… and the shareholders of these programs will benefit while urban neighborhood schools and small rural schools wither.
Politicians love kids… but they love shareholders even more… because kids can’t vote or make campaign contributions but shareholders can.
Frank Bruni’s column in today’s NYTimes celebrates an emerging trend of the election of Governors who have a background in the private sector, a trend that I see as ominous for the traditionally operated public school system. Titled “From Profits to Politics”, the column profiles several recently elected governors whose business acumen presumably swayed voters… and includes this hypothesis:
… in a country convinced that government is broken and its servants hopeless, perhaps plutocrats are cuddlier than bureaucrats.
No one ever accused Michael Bloomberg of being “cuddlier” than any of his opponent, but his can do methods worked effectively as mayor in many of the business-like functions associated with the city. But some aspects of public service, notably those involved with human beings, do not lend themselves to “business solutions”… with public education being one such service. In response to the column I left the following comment:
If we run the public sector “like a business” expect more outsourcing, more privatization, and less democracy. Look across the river to Newark public schools to see what “running schools like a business” looks like. The local board has no control, the CEO/Superintendent has unquestioned authority in oversight of the schools but complete obeisance to the Governor who appointed her, and the “customers” (in the parlance of school reformers) have no say over where their children attend school. So taxpayers have forfeited their democratic oversight of education and their neighborhood schools while privatized schools generate profits, some of which they use to “invest” in the election of businessmen who will help them earn even more.
As noted in my post earlier today, the State takeovers and privatization movement do not eliminate the endemic problem of patronage in public education. Instead the patronage increases the wealth of the 1% while diminishing good jobs for the 99%….
This Public School $hakedown blog post by Jan Ressenger describes the American Enterprise Institute’s unwillingness to hear bad news about the impact of the two-decade-long takeover of Newark NJ public schools on the parents and students who reside in that city. The mismanagement of urban schools several decades ago combined with (or perhaps cause by) patronage by mayors and school board members made State takeovers a popular solution twenty years ago. The reasoning in the 1980s was that State Departments of Education had the expertise to operate underperforming school districts effectively and under their apolitical oversight the district’s would shed the patronage assignments and be organized more efficiently. Once the state intervened, so the thinking went, the State’s expertise would increase test scores and their administrative skill would reduce operational costs. Twenty years later, as this post indicates, Newark still flounders academically and the patronage associated with locally elected officials has been replaced with state-level patronage (aka privatization). In the meantime, in the past thirty years the expertise of State Departments has diminished due to deep budget cuts making the whole notion of State control preposterous. And now instead of Newark being able to determine it’s own destiny with locally elected officials it is being privatized clumsily and dictatorially by the State appointed Superintendent who answers only to the Governor.
It would be good to see State legislatures who have “state takeovers” as a solution to underperforming schools either repeal those laws or provide the State with funds to oversee the schools they are mandated to operate. Instead, I expect the majority of states to move in the direction of “market based” solutions whereby an administrator is given the authority to oversee the dismantling of the public schools and their replacement with for-profit charters…. because we ALL know that making money is the primary reason people go into the field of education.
You can see from this blog post what DeBlasio and Farina are up against… and the mainstream media in NYS are lined up in support of the close’m down mentality as well. A spring showdown looks to be in the works…
Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:
Recently Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina announced a plan to help struggling schools by providing extra tutoring, after-school programs, and other needed resources. They made clear that they wanted to support schools with low test scores instead of closing them. The mayor said he would invest $150 million in extra resources to the lowest performing schools.
However, Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said on a radio show that if the schools didn’t show progress by this coming spring, she would move to close them and replace them with charter schools. The Tisch family, in addition to being generous philanthropists, are big supporters of charter schools.
Giving the DeBlasio plan only a few months to prove its success seems awfully unfair. Schools don’t get “turned around” in a few months. Surely Tisch knows that.
The main issue, according to Tisch, is that…
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