Home > Uncategorized > More Good Guys With Guns? More Surveillance? More Lockdown Drills? NO! None of the Above!

More Good Guys With Guns? More Surveillance? More Lockdown Drills? NO! None of the Above!

Education Week featured an article by Bryan Warnick, professor of education at The Ohio State University, Benjamin A. Johnson, assistant professor at Utah Valley University, and Sam Rocha is an assistant professor of education at the University of British Columbia, that offered a rebuttal against those politicians and gun advocates who reflexively call for more security whenever a school shooting occurs. Using evidence to support their arguments against more good guys with guns, more surveillance cameras, and more drills, they also offered a powerful argument why such  “target-hardening” approaches to school shootings make matters worse:

Filling schools with metal detectors, surveillance cameras, police officers, and gun-wielding teachers tells students that schools are scary, dangerous, and violent places—places where violence is expected to occur.

The “target hardening” approach also has the potential to change how teachers, students, and administrators see one another. How teachers understand the children and youth they teach has important educational consequences. Are students budding citizens or future workers? Are they plants to nourish or clay to mold?

Instead of inculcating fear into students, the three writers propose that we look at how our schools function and how effectively we engage students in academics and the life of the school. Instead of examining checklists on door locks and performing drills led by experts on school security, the authors suggest examining the ways schools isolate some students:

To what extent does the school—through things like athletics, homecoming royalties, or dances and so forth—encourage what some political scientists have called the “status tournament of adolescence” that lurks behind the stories of many school shootings?

As one reads about such shootings, one often senses a feeling of social anxiety and betrayal on the part of perpetrator. Americans hold high expectations for schools as places of friendship and romance, yet too often students find alienation, humiliation, and isolation. The frustration at these thwarted expectations at least sometimes seems to turn toward the school itself.

And the authors also believe schools should examine how they impose discipline and order and how that might affect the thinking of impressionable adolescents:

To what extent does the force and coercion employed by many schools contribute to a “might makes right” mentality and associated violence?

It is true that bullying is often a part of some of the stories of school shooters. Students who are bullied or who are bullies themselves will quite naturally think of schools as places appropriate for violence. There is also sometimes a rage, however, against the day-to-day imposition of school discipline and punishment. Since schools are experienced as places of force and control, for some students, they also come to be seen as appropriate places for violence.

To their credit, the writers do not offer glib solutions that will work for each and every school. Rather, they ask that schools engage in deep reflection… and ask that the public join with them in their introspection:

Our suggestion is simply that, instead of trying to find solutions to school shootings in the dubious arms of security technologies, or even solely through more promising public policy, society should ask deeper questions about the nature of education and schooling in American society.

It is time to think about school shootings not as a problem of security, but also as a problem of education.

After reading article after article calling for quick and easy and highly visible “solutions”, it was refreshing to read an analysis that called for schools to take a deep breath and engage in thoughtful reflection. I would encourage every school to look at the students they serve and see what steps they might take to ensure that every child attending is making the most of every minute they are attending… identifying the obstacles that the child faces… and advocate for a means of having those obstacles removed. In doing so, I doubt that any school will conclude that more surveillance cameras, more good guys with guns, and more lockdown drills are necessary.

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