Newtown and my students

Well, here it is. The Monday after the Newtown CT shooting. Facebook is covered with teachers talking about how they will talk to students today. Families wondering how they will talk to their children, and everyone else seeming to be engaged in either sharing some memes online or engaging in nasty political talk.

This bothers me. Not because I am not sympathetic to the victims and families in Newtown (I am very much so). Not because I think our main message should be about how school is actually probably the safest place they can be, and these shootings are rarer than rare (it is a fact that this is very rare). Not because it feels so close to us, even though it probably shouldn’t. (thank you internet). Not because people are claiming this is because God is not allowed in the classroom, these things were happening well before 1962. In fact the the United States worst ever school massacre was 1927 in Michigan, likely just after morning prayers.

I am not  bothered today because this has turned in to a heated political debate (which I think, now is the time for, regardless of how controversial it may be).

I am not today, bothered that people are now going to stigmatize people with mental health issues even more, even though they are far more likely to be the victims of gun and physical violence than the perpetrators of such acts.

I am not even that concerned or bothered by the thought that there will likely be a run on purchasing weapons as you fear that your right to own them might be infringed upon soon even though just by having one on you, or in your car during an assault makes you 4.5 times more likely to be shot. The myth of “personal protection” will continue in the face of the facts as escalation of violence by having your own gun leaves only 1 choice. Shoot or get shot. Often, you get shot.

It bothers me because this happens every single day and we ignore it. 8 students PER DAY are murdered through gun violence in this country. Yes, you read that correctly. In 2008-2009 more STUDENTS were killed by guns than American TROOPS in the Iraq and Afghan wars… COMBINED. 5,740 children to 5,013 for those of you counting at home . In Chicago alone 700 children. Yes 700 were hit by gunfire. 66 of them died.

Every single day a total of 80 people are killed by guns in our country. By count that is  29.000 people every year killed by guns, and of that 2,920 are kids.

Those kids are my students. The ones we do not give a shit to care about Some how seem to ignore until a rare shooting like this makes the news.

We ignore the fact that my students go home and have almost all seen gun violence. I teach a course called “Get Real About Violence” to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. I give a survey to start every year, and in that survey I always ask them to write one sample of violence not on the survey that they have personally witnessed. This year 10% of my students wrote about guns.

10%… in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Are we O.K. with this? It seems like we are. It seems like we don’t care and the only reason I can think of is that my students do not look like most of the people reading this. If it happened in Pittsford, Brighton, Penfeild, you better believe we would be doing something about it.

Why don’t we care? When people say “Give me liberty or give me death“, do they realize the death they are choosing is for almost 3,000 innocent children every year?

How is the fact that so many children are killed every year so blatantly ignored by all of us so often and with such arrogance?

The 2nd amendment is clear – You get your right to bear arms. You know what else is clear? That the constitution and its writers knew times would change, and thus laws should be capable of changing as well. It is not anti constitution to hope for change, in fact is is very Constitutional to expect change.

We stand so steadfast to some of the constitution, yet ignore so much of the other stuff. It reminds me of Christians who often ignore most of the bible while clinging to the parts that fit the narrative they want to see unfold. The patriot act seems to have taken more rights than any second amendment change would take, and we were able to lay right down for that one for “safety”… Even though the odds of being shot compared to being hit by a terrorist attack are astronomically different.

You cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre, even though you have the right to free speech, limitations on our rights can be reasonable and accepted. Your right to freely swing your fist stops when it meets my nose.

I digress though. The thing is, 8 kids a day are killed.


Because of guns, or as some may say “people with guns”, some are even mistakes with guns.

I did not even mean to get political about this, but as I type my heart is speaking I guess…

So I guess what I am saying is this. Stop ignoring the mass murders and killings happening every single day in this country. We have more gun deaths in a day than most developed countries have in a year. In fact, 87% of all CHILDREN killed by guns in the 23 most wealthy countries in the world… happen right here in America. If this was happening somewhere else, we would have a benefit concert and send in our troops to help stop “the problem.”

Some actor or athlete or performer would be the face of the movement. In America, those people are the face of the defense of guns. It’s mind boggling.

It seems to me the only arguments I hear will be “criminals will always get guns” (ignoring that is not the case in countries where guns are banned) or “You are a communist” (This place seems to be pretty democratic to me right now) or “It is my right to own a gun, stop taking away my rights”. I will even hear “most of those killings were done with illegal guns” Which only supports my point about why we need to find a solution…. There are so many we have lost track and they just change hands all over the place now.

To those excuses. I say. Stop. Killing. Our. Kids. Then you can have the freedom to walk around with an AK47 for all I care.

To everyone else… how about we start talking about it? Stop hiding from it. Stop only caring if the students killed are killed in a school instead of a bedroom or street corner or bus stop. Start attacking the problem from a social and cultural perspective.

Dialogue is a must, calm, cool, collected…. without it, all we have is pointless argument, and more dead kids. I know you don’t want that. Do you?

3 thoughts on “Newtown and my students

  1. shme

    Great post! I think we, as a country, need to start talking about why violence is so acceptable to us. It’s a conversation no one wants to have, but most of us are ok with at least SOME violence. I am just as guilty of it as anyone–I love the big hits in football or watching lacrosse to see the fights. Why is that? And where do we draw the line? Laws might need to change, but our culture and our society need to change more.


  2. Excellent post. My husband’s school is in an area where many of the kids have horrible home lives. It saddens me every day to see what some kids have to go through. I wish that kids were allowed to be kids.


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