A Teachable Moment

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

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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The Surveillance School

Last week, I watched a presentation on the safety measures our board of education has taken, much of it in light of events in Connecticut last year. The presentation nauseated me, as I believe it should anyone concerned with freedom. Swipe cards to get into our public schools, cameras surveilling almost every move of students and adults, cameras tied into some kind of systems that provides off site monitoring – by whom we don’t know, big brother watching everybody, everywhere, day and night.

To be sure these security measures mirror broad tendencies in our society. More and more Americans are submitting willingly to the surveillance state. So great is our fear of attack that freedom seems a small price to pay for an illusion of security. Why not start early teaching our kids to trade the illusion for their freedom. As the capacity to watch our every movement improves, as every communication is retrievable, as we more and more become virtual communicators, preferring security to human engagement and intimacy, we should not wonder why there is less and less that binds us together as a nation.

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