Saturday, December 22, 2012

Arming teachers?

I'm not going to pretend to have an answer to this cultural problem, but I did want to comment on the reaction of "let's arm the teachers".  Overall, I am pretty strongly against this idea.  Here is my take:


1.  It could be a deterrent.
2.  It could limit casualties.
3.  Relatively cheap and easy implementation.


1.  It could be a deterrent, but that's about it.
2.  It could limit casualties, but barring highly idealized situations, won't actually stop these shootings--making it a bit of a half-assed "solution".
3.  Relatively cheap and easy implementation--if you get full buy-in, which is extremely unlikely; it would pretty much require every teacher to be armed to be remotely effective in stopping these shootings.

To expand on the cons a bit (since I'm trying to show why I do NOT support this idea):

Realistically, it most likely won't actually stop a shooting, it can only hope to limit the casualties.  Even if the teacher is armed, a rampaging student will most likely get off several shots before an inexperienced (in firearms & self-defense) teacher could draw the gun.  Further, if said shooter(s) think the teacher has a gun, that may just make said teacher the first target; again, without extensive training, they'd be down before they could do anything (see video above).

While the theory is sound--armed citizens keep people safe--the reality is that it doesn't seem to hold much water.  This is another solution that requires several ideal assumptions to be true--every time.  (e.g., the shooter has to come into a room where the teacher is armed, the teacher has to react faster than the shooter...otherwise, it won't stop the shooting, it will at best minimize casualties).  And how much of a deterrent will the possibility of getting killed be when many of these massacres end with the shooter killing themself?

How many teachers would want to carry a gun?  I like guns--grew up shooting them--which probably (I have no data to back this up; just an assumption) makes me unusual as far as teachers go.  However, I would never take one onto a campus--way too much liability for something to go wrong, for starters.  (God help the first teacher that, for whatever reason, has their weapon accidentally discharge on campus, regardless if anyone is hit.)  But most importantly--have you seen kids these days?  Half of my male students--and a handful of female students--could easily overpower me and take the gun with little problem.  Between that and the potential for accidents, this situation has "mistake" written all over it. 

The last one is more of a cultural awareness.  When you think of a place where teachers have to be armed to keep kids safe, what/where do you think of?  I think of stereotypical third-world places.  Is this really what America has come to?  As the president said, surely we can do better than this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How do you sell a solution to a nonexistent problem?

You make the problem up, that's how!

In the case of (self-described) educational "experts" and their corporate-centric "reforms", nothing could be worse than any data indicating our schools are doing fine.  And the media seems to be right along for the ride.  Case in point:

International test scores expose U.S. educational problems

Now, to their credit over at Huffingtonpost, the headline was changed sometime between this morning and this afternoon to the less-antagonistic International Tests Show East Asian Students Outperform World As U.S. Holds Steady.  The problem is that this still leaves the (false) impression our schools suck compared to the rest of the world.  The article itself states:

Overall, the U.S. ranked sixth in fourth-grade reading, ninth in fourth-grade math, 12th in eighth-grade math, seventh in fourth-grade science and 13th in eighth-grade science.

This is out of 60 countries taking the TIMSS.  This is, considering the challenges we face that other smaller, culturally-homogenous countries do not face, is amazing.*  How did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan handle this fabulous news that we're (far above) average in many categories?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the U.S. scores encouraging, but described older students' performance as "unacceptable."

Encouraging?  Really?  Yes, we need to address the falling-off in later grades (which is, I'm betting, a cultural problem, not a schooling problem) but that's it?  Not even a "This shows we're on the right track" or "Congratulations to our teachers for making us competitive"?  Does education "reform" have ANYTHING to do with, well, actually educating people or is it just a money-making (and union-busting) scheme?  (Or, to paraphrase the late Dr. Gerald Bracey, "It is important to remember that to 'reform' does not necessarily mean improve, just to reshape.")

*  And let's not forget our horrible funding of schools, which presents all sorts of challenges as this (5+ year old data) shows:
But in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, American kids in low poverty schools stomped the top-ranked Swedes. Even kids in schools with up to 50% of the students in poverty attained an average score that, had they constituted a nation, would have ranked 4th. Only American students attending schools with 75%+ poverty scored below the international average of the 35 participating countries.