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Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

Good Guy with Gun vs. Bad Guy Who Never Should Have One

January 4, 2020 Comments off

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This article is the latest twist in a shooting at a church where a good guy with a gun killed someone AFTER that person killed two innocent people. Initially this looked like a case where gun laws allowing church goers to bring guns was validated. But now it looks like those who want gun restrictions are being validated. MAYBE the day will come when the need to carry at all will be questioned.

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Today’s Collegians are Surveilled 24/7, in Keeping with In Loco Parentis Standards Set By Student’s Parents

December 27, 2019 Comments off

I was initially appalled when I read the headline in Drew Harwell’s Washington Post article that appeared earlier this week. It’s title, “Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands”, led me to wonder why college students were accepting this surveillance… until I reflected on the upbringing of today’s students.

The students entering college today are the first generation to go through their lives being surveilled from cradle to campus. Their parents almost certainly had baby monitors in their rooms and, as part of the post-Columbine generation, likely attended schools with video monitors in the hallways. Upon entering adolescence, their parents purchased cell phones and provided them with phone service, enabling the parents to monitor their every movement and check on every text and phone call and monitor their screen time. In short, in loco parentis- the concept that colleges should keep track of students in the same fashion as parents, is far different in the age of telecommunications than it was when I entered college in the 1960s and when my children entered in the 1980s and 1990s. I was not surprised to read the reaction of one parent who was pleased with the impact of this kind of monitoring:

Some parents, however, wish their children faced even closer supervision. Wes Grandstaff, who said his son, Austin, transformed from a struggling student to college graduate… said the added surveillance was worth it…

He now says he wishes schools would share the data with parents, too. “I just cut you a $30,000 check,” he said, “and I can’t find out if my kid’s going to class or not?”

The article also offers a chilling description of how acceptable this kind of monitoring is to students today and how administrators justify its use based on the results:

This style of surveillance has become just another fact of life for many Americans. A flood of cameras, sensors and microphones, wired to an online backbone, now can measure people’s activity and whereabouts with striking precision, reducing the mess of everyday living into trend lines that companies promise to help optimize.

Americans say in surveys they accept the technology’s encroachment because it often feels like something else: a trade-off of future worries for the immediacy of convenience, comfort and ease. If a tracking system can make students be better, one college adviser said, isn’t that a good thing?

As a parent who did not have a baby monitor, I can appreciate the “convenience, comfort and ease” that such a device offers. It would have saved many trips up and down stairs to see if my daughter was really taking a nap and many nights of shuttling between our bedroom and hers when she was fighting a childhood illness. And as a high school disciplinarian in the late 1970s I would have appreciated the ability to remotely monitor distant hallways and to track students who were wandering off campus instead of attending class. But as a parent and school administrator, I have some misgivings about the overreach of technology, especially when it is being used to classify students and predict misbehavior as described in the article:

A classifier algorithm divides the student body into peer groups — “full-time freshmen,” say, or “commuter students” — and the system then compares each student to “normal” behavior, as defined by their peers. It also generates a “risk score” for students based around factors such as how much time they spent in community centers or at the gym.

The students who deviate from those day-to-day campus rhythms are flagged for anomalies, and the company then alerts school officials in case they want to pursue real-world intervention.

And what might that intervention looks like? In one case cited in the article, the university sent an adviser to knock on the student’s door. On one level, that kind of intercession seems invasive. Yet if the gathered data suggests the student is suicidal or, worse, contemplating and capable of carrying out some kind of shooting the institution would be faulted if it failed to act. This kind of conundrum contributes to the mixed responses of students, a response that is ultimately fatalistic given the ceaseless “advancement” of technology:

Students disagree on whether the campus-tracking systems are a breach of privacy, and some argue they have nothing to hide. But one feeling is almost universally shared, according to interviews with more than a dozen students and faculty members: that the technology is becoming ubiquitous, and that the people being monitored — their peers, and themselves — can’t really do anything about it.

But some administrators and students are rightfully concerned. Here’s the reaction of a disaffected administrator:

“It embodies a very cynical view of education — that it’s something we need to enforce on students, almost against their will,” said Erin Rose Glass, a digital scholarship librarian at the University of California San Diego. “We’re reinforcing this sense of powerlessness … when we could be asking harder questions, like: Why are we creating institutions where students don’t want to show up?”

And here’s a disenchanted student’s reaction:

“We’re adults. Do we really need to be tracked?” said Robby Pfeifer, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, which recently began logging the attendance of students connected to the campus’ WiFi network. “Why is this necessary? How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to keep progressing until we’re micromanaged every second of the day?

Mr. Harwell does an admirable job of providing a balanced perspective on this difficult issue, his closing paragraphs reveal the paradoxical perspective on the issue of 24/7 surveillance:

Joanna Grama, an information-security consultant and higher-education specialist who has advised the Department of Homeland Security on data privacy, said she doubted most students knew they were signing up for long-term monitoring when they clicked to connect to the campus WiFi.

She said she worries about school-performance data being used as part of a “cradle-to-grave profile” trailing students as they graduate and pursue their careers. She also questions how all this digital nudging can affect students’ daily lives.

“At what point in time do we start crippling a whole generation of adults, human beings, who have been so tracked and told what to do all the time that they don’t know how to fend for themselves?” she said. “Is that cruel? Or is that kind?”

Fear is driving decision making in our public sector and services suffer as a result.

December 21, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes features an editorial titled:

New York’s Subways Need Better Service, Not More Police

This same headline could be written for public schools who need more resources for classroom teachers, more counseling and mental health support for students and improvements to their infrastructure but are using money to “harden” their schools and hire “good guys with guns” to guard their entry ways. Fear is driving decision making in our public sector and services are suffering as a result.

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Training for School Shootings… and the “Right” to Military Grade Weapons… Are a Given?

December 17, 2019 Comments off

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This article assumes that training citizens for shootings is a “given”, something only imprudent schools, hospitals, places of worship, shopping venues, and businesses would avoid. If this assumption is not challenged the implicit accompanying assumption is that we are truly living in a constant state of fear… and if that is the case we are ripe for totalitarianism.

Why should everyone live in fear so that a small number of individuals can purchase military grade weapons?

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CNN Report on Gun Violence Shows Sad Statistic: US is Leader in Children’s Gun Deaths

December 1, 2019 Comments off

This headline from a March 2019 post from a CNN article by Ray Sanchez got me to click:

More US school-age children die from guns than on-duty                                           US police or global military fatalities, study finds

The American Journal of Medicine study had other gems as well:

“It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms,” said Dr. Charles Hennekens, the study’s senior author and an academic adviser at the medical college…

Of the deaths, 86% involved boys, the study found. Black children accounted for 41% of those killed, though in recent years they’ve comprised just 14% of the US population, US census data show

In the 5-to-14-year-old age group, accidents accounted for 12.8% of cases (830 deaths); suicide, 29.6% cases (1,912 deaths); assault, 54.8% cases (3,545 deaths); and undetermined, 2.7% (177 deaths), according to the study…

The United States led the world in 2016 in the rate of firearm deaths in youth among countries with available data. The rate in the US was 36.5 times higher than in a dozen comparable high-income countries around the world; the rate of firearm deaths was five times as high compared with a sampling of low- to middle-income countries.

Our test scores might be declining, but our gun deaths continue to edge upward.

 

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Oregon Teachers Leaving Classrooms Over Lack of Resources… NOT “Disruptive Learning”

November 24, 2019 Comments off

My niece who teaches school in suburban Columbus OH recently posted a report from KHOU, a TV station in Houston Texas, that was reporting on the decision of many Oregon teachers to leave the classroom early. The headline of the May 2019 posting and the subhead read:

Classrooms in Crisis: Teachers retiring, resigning over disruptive learning

Teachers say they’re leaving a profession they love because of an increase in classroom disruptions.

The headline is misleading. After reading the article it is clear that the problem isn’t disruption: it’s a lack of resources. This sentence in the middle of the article says it all:

“It wasn’t the kids that made him want to stop teaching, it was the lack of resources to help them.

Teachers know what children need… and it has nothing to do with getting higher test scores, teaching coding, or spending money on guards, surveillance cameras, and “hardening” of schools. It has to do with providing help for children who show up each day distraught over the problems they face.

In our country, where we seem to feel that because SOME children can rise from adversity it is “soft” to cushion any of them when they are in school, we “harden” children the same way we harden schools. Providing visible safety measures like surveillance cameras, armed guards, wands to check students for guns, and protective fences and doors is far more appealing that spending money on invisible safety measures like more counselors, mental health professionals, and— yes– classroom teachers. Students get the message early and it is reinforced throughout their school years: the adults think it is more important to get high test scores and learn how to use technology than it is to learn how to get along with each other and to cope with stress. When students act out in school they are often acting out of frustration; out of a sense that no one cares about them and no one knows them. Time to give schools the resources they need to show students that they DO care.

“Personalization” Exacerbates Loneliness… and Loneliness Undercuts Our Well-Being

November 10, 2019 Comments off

Nicholas Kristof’s NYTimes op ed piece today describes England’s War on Loneliness, a national effort to address a phenomenon that adversely impacts their culture— and one that also impacts ours. As Mr. Kristof acknowledges, the root causes of loneliness are complex and may defy the reach of government intervention. In describing how England is attempting to address the problem by creating a minister for loneliness, Mr. Kristof sidesteps a description of how our country is making things worse. I left this comment to underscore how skewed our spending priorities have become in terms of education spending:

I fear that our schools are not helping the situation. Instead of spending money to fund counselors who might help those children who are lonely we are instead spending money on good guys with guns, surveillance cameras, and ways to “harden” schools. When it comes to measuring the “effectiveness” of schools we focus on things that are easy to measure like standardized test scores, per pupil spending, and the number of computers. Since it is difficult to measure the happiness or connectedness of children and even more difficult to address the underlying causes of those problems they are ignored. And worse, in the name of personalization, we have students spending more time isolating themselves on computers and less time interacting with each other. If we want to improve our connections with each other, we might start by disconnecting from technology in classrooms and re-engaging in dialogue.