Jed Babbin gets the basic facts right…:
Politicians and media are preoccupied with the idea that gun control is the only answer to these murders and that nothing else is worth discussion. But the inconvenient facts include that the Oregon mall shooter used a stolen weapon. Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer, used weapons stolen from his mother who had them legally and registered them under Connecticut law. He reportedly shot his way into a locked school. The time and political energy that’s being wasted on gun control could be put to better use. That’s our job, so let’s get to it.
He posts some proposals for making schools more secure. He opposes arming teachers – and I can see many reasons for that, and we’ll come back to them.
One – getting more realistic about the extremely mentally ill, who make up all of our crop of school shooters – makes obvious sense.
The other – improving school security, without turning them, as Babbin says, “into armed camps” – is a little dodgier.
Babbin quotes a friend, a former SEAL who works as a security consultant, who advocates putting ballistic doors and mag locks on classrooms, issuing “ballistic blankets” (think “flak blankets”) and drilling the kids on their use, and teaching the staff to “buy time” for the police to arrive. Which makes sense, from a purely security perspective; make the target harder.
The consultant advises against arming teachers: “It would probably cause more problems than keeping them unarmed.” Maybe, maybe not – people in law enforcement and the military tend to think the rest of society are mindless sheeple, but I can see the argument. There are problems.
Which brings us not only to the beef I have with Babbin’s thesis – which is a perfectly valid one – but what I think the real problem is.
Look at the issues facing school security:
- Schools are big, fat, juicy unarmed targets full of helpless victims. Never more so than now; as school districts centralize more and more kids to “cut costs”, schools get bigger and bigger. You don’t need to be a terrorist or a nutcase to know that; how many times has Hollywood turned to the “evildoer at a school” plot? Everyone knows; if you want to screw with a society where it really hurts, screw with the kids.
- As schools get bigger and bigger, the kids at the margin – the kids with emotional, behavioral and mental health issues – get pushed further and further to the fringe. The emotionally-disturbed kids get more alienated; the mentally-ill kids get more siloed. Teachers and administrators get more involved in the endless process of running a huge, institutional, “factory” school, and less in what’s ticking with each individual kid.
- Some of the kids on the fringes will act out on their adolescent hormonal aggression, and on the criminal behavior they currently pattern themselves after in our society, and commit stupid crimes of opportunity. Which, if we did happen to arm teachers, would likely involve students jumping teachers and stealing guns. It’s a fair point – in a school where students can form an in-school criminal underclass.
- Other kids on the fringe – after years of bullying in a huge, soulless school that already resembles a prison – will, like Columbine’s murderers or the kid at Cold Springs/Rokori, get their revenge in the way that seems most satisfying to their troubled minds; killing their schoolmates and destroy the thing that, in their warped little adolescent minds, left them so alienated. Others, like the shooter at the Red Lake school or at Dunblane, Scotland, will hear voices telling them to find a school and start shooting. Or, like Lanza, react to God only knows what – but through whatever motivation, find the biggest, fattest, least-defended target they can; a mall, a movie theater, or in too many cases, a school.
What do these all have in common?
The big, soulless, impersonal megaschool. They’re everywhere; big cities are cramming thousands of kids into huge “campus” schools, like Columbine, where the staff can barely keep up with the paperwork, much less the states of mind of their individual kids. Rural America is consolidating its schools into ever-bigger buildings, to save money (or, really, redirect more of it to administrative overburden).
There’ve been examinations of the psychological effects of cramming children into huge schools. They’ve been shunted into the circular file by an education establishment that created the status quo.
But you didn’t see these kinds of shootings when schools were in the neighborhood, when staff knew their kids, and could tell when something needed attention.
Along with looking at what makes American schools so insecure, maybe it’s time to look at what makes so many people what to destroy them.