A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

The Young Awaken

As I write this morning, students across the country are leaving their classes to participate in seventeen minutes of silence in remembrance of the seventeen students killed in Parkland, Florida. In Washington, DC, students from the metro area converged on the Whitehouse, turning their backs to it in protest of the federal government’s failure to enact reasonable gun safety measures.

For a man who was their age in the 60’s, the awakening of student activism on a national scale is beyond heartening. I’ve watched far too many classes of students subordinate their feelings and concerns for matters beyond themselves to the race to get into the best college, to get the best job, to earn the most money. While it is indeed sad that it may have taken a massacre of their peers to wake them from their careerist torpor, the fact is they are awake. They’re marching, registering to vote and, even more importantly, experiencing the exhilaration that come with commitment to something bigger than one’s self. The adrenaline that comes with the experience of working with others for social change is a wonderful addiction that leads to a lifetime of good citizenship.

Bravo, young people! You put your parents who have been sitting on the sidelines to shame. March on!

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The Unsafe School Myth

Readers will have notices how the discussion of a response to the school shooting in Florida has gradually changed from a focus on guns to hardening schools and providing gun power in some form to school buildings. Students, teachers and parents are being encouraged to believe that going into a school building poses a significant risk, one that demands quasi-military defenses that will have long range implications for school environment and culture. I have argued that school remains the safest place for children to be, the risk of serious injury at home still being far greater than falling victim to a crazed individual with an assault rifle. While I know it’s risky to challenge thoughtlessness with facts, certainly educators have an obligation to try to do so.

Eric Levits, writing in New York Magazine, offers what to me is the best writing on the subject of school safety that I have read. His work should receive the broadest possible circulation, as he offers chapter and verse in support of the fact that contrary the avalanche of stupid talk generated by the Florida tragedy, school remains a very safe place to be. The act of traveling to school puts one at far greater risk of injury and death than succumbing to mass murder. Unless reason can prevail, we appear to be on the verge of vast, unnecessary expenditures, expenditures that will certainly displace badly needed educational resources.

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