A Long List of Questions: And Why Arming Teachers Is Not the Answer

A Long List of Questions: And Why Arming Teachers Is Not the Answer February 27, 2018

Guest Post: Aimee Hicks Graham

in-san-ity. noun: The state of madness (synonyms: madness, dementia, lunacy, instability, mania, psychosis)

Extreme foolishness or irrationality (synonyms: folly, foolishness, madness, idiocy, stupidity, silliness)

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” 

I can think of no other word. After Columbine, I was shocked. After Sandy Hook I felt broken. After Parkland, I feel like we are all slowly going insane. Some of the suggestions for how to combat the issue only perpetuate this feeling of madness. Arming teachers? Insanity.

Arming teachers to protect students is an over-simplified, knee-jerk reaction to a very complex societal problem that has been brewing for decades. This is no longer the Wild West. We may have to swallow our American pride and realize that other countries have the right response. The problem is complex and multi-faceted and deserves an equally complex proactive solution. Components of the problem have been batted around for years: access to weapons, issues with mental health, anger of white teenage boys, violence in the media and video games, disconnection with others… The only way to end this lunacy is by addressing these problems head on.

It is absolute madness to arm teachers, whether by lethal or non-lethal means. This is just not within the scope of what we have signed up to do. In fact, it completely changes the role of teachers in American society from nurturing educators to part-time police force. It is not the role of an educator to take up arms, and if it comes to that I think even more teachers and administrators will flee from an increasingly stressful job.

The logistics and potential liability of arming teachers do not add up either. Where would these weapons be stored? How would they be accessed in an emergency? Who would pay for the training? How would teachers add this training to already overloaded schedules? Who decides when these weapons are used? What happens if a student gets access to the weapons that are meant to protect them? And what happens if a teacher with access to weapons uses those weapons inappropriately? 

With all of these unanswered questions, it is absurd to think that state legislators–already denying funding for necessary things like school busses– would pay for weapons to arm teachers.  I would much prefer funding go to sources that would prevent young men from thinking about shooting their classmates. However, I fear that lawmakers will find money “somewhere,” in the name of safety, to fund this irrational idea. Somehow, that is easier than dealing with the more nuanced social issues that lead to systemic and widespread violence. 

It is much harder, for instance, to deal with the complexities of adolescent mental health, and think creatively about long term solutions, and the funding thereof. It is harder to address the matter of ‘violence as entertainment’ that saturates the games and movies that influence young minds. And yes, it is much, much harder to face the incendiary matter of common sense reform of our gun laws. It’s far easier, on all points, to place blame and come up with short-term solutions that may cause more problems in the long run.

But our children deserve better.

I became a teacher because I love kids, especially goofy adolescents. I love talking with them, connecting with them, helping them. I will protect any student in my classroom by shielding them in a heartbeat. However, I will not wield a weapon, lethal or otherwise, to do that. We are not fighting a war. We are supposed to be caring for and educating children. Arming teachers provides nothing but a band-aid on a gaping gunshot wound. There are other, more effective ways– and far better long term solutions.

I choose to protect my students by reporting abuse and neglect. I choose to protect students by talking with them not “at” them. I choose to protect my students by seeing them–really seeing them– and not the image they are trying to project. I choose to protect my students by listening to them. I choose to protect my students by calling my legislators, advocating for more funding for students and schools. I choose to protect my students by supporting their right to speak out against the insanity that has gripped this country. Providing access to counseling and limiting access to weapons is how we will end these massacres of our children: not arming those who are there to educate them.

Aimee Hicks Graham is a teacher, mother, wife, and recovering coffee addict that lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, twin boys, and two cats. 

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