I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, December 15, 2012

UPDATED: Obama & Romney: Bad Schools Cause Gun Violence

UPDATE: A commenter on Facebook accused me of "twisting the debate," claiming the original question was about education. This is completely false: the question from an audience member was specifically about guns:
MS. CROWLEY: Because what I want to do, Mr. President — stand there for a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzales, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
Q: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
So let's dispense with the notion that these politicians only bring up schools when discussing education - they don't. Public school "reform" has become their first response to a wide variety of social issues.

Via digby (who else?), here is what the two major party candidates in the last presidential election said we should do about gun violence (all emphases mine):
CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.

ROMNEY: Yeah, I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons, and that's already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

And you ask how — how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we'll — we'll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea. 
OBAMA: The — first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that's on the record.

But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts. We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed and we have got to make sure they don't get weapons. because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they're less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts.

We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we've got to make sure they don't get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.

And, Candy, we haven't had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we've put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We're starting to see gains in math and science...
This is, in a word, absurd. Both of these men were seriously suggesting that incidents like Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and Virginia Tech should be mitigated by having "better" schools.

Virginia Tech is ranked by US News as the #72 college in the country; Seung-Hui Cho must have had decent grades to be admitted. His problem wasn't that he had a lack of opportunity; his problem was that he was clearly mentally ill (a problem the high school he attended addressed), yet was able purchase extremely powerful weapons. Even if Cho had attended a "better" high school, not one victim of the Virginia Tech massacre would have been saved.

I can make the same case about Columbine and Aurora and all the other mass shootings that have occurred in the US over the last 30 years. None of them, near as I can tell, can be placed at the feet of an education system that didn't provide "opportunity" for the killers. Not one of the victims would have been saved by charter school expansion or merit pay or value-added modeling in teacher evaluations or vouchers. It is ridiculous and offensive to imply otherwise.

Of course hopelessness leads to violence. Of course schools can help provide opportunity to people who are at the bottom of our society. Of course our schools can get better.

But this is yet another example of how problems are being laid at the feet of our public schools that have nothing to do with education. Economic inequality is not the fault of our public schools. A corrupt political system is not the fault of our public schools. Rampant gun violence is not the fault of our public schools. The melting planet and war in the Mid-East and our insipid media and skyrocketing health care costs and a hundred other problems are not the fault of our public schools.

And yet, over and over, politicians on both sides of the aisle point to our teachers and our schools and say: "Fix this!" The entire conversation is ludicrous.

President Obama and Governor Romney: we teachers are doing our jobs. Don't blame us if you aren't doing yours.

So, guys, what should we blame on teachers today?


giuseppe said...

I am livid with rage at this latest slaughter of innocent children. We need stronger gun laws. I'm to the point where I am ready for a hand gun ban in this violence prone blood soaked country where any maniac can get his hands on a semi-automatic gun or rifle. If the news reports are accurate, the guns he used were guns which his mother bought FOR SELF PROTECTION. Her demented son used those guns to kill his own mother and then to slaughter innocent kids and adults/teachers at an elementary school. Dear God, when is enough enough and I made that statement about the last mass slaughter a few weeks ago.

reality-based educator said...

You can make a pretty good case that the more we focus on test scores and academic "achievement" over everything else, the more the system churns out alienated individuals who sometimes act in horrific ways.

I have long said that true education reform would mean teaching to the whole child, not just the part that takes tests.

That means teaching to the heart as well as the mind. That means social and emotional learning. That means community-building. That means helping kids and adults to see their inter-connectedness and interdependence with each other rather than the current notion that we're in a Darwinian "race to the top" with a few winners and lots of losers.

That we are seeing more and more of these kinds of horrific acts from individuals is a sign that something is seriously wrong with our society, our culture, our values, our nation - with us.

Thomas Merton said the following:

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have - for their usefulness.”

That is even more true in the years since Merton's death.

I truly believe that the more we give our political, economic and education systems over to people who value nothing more than sleek efficiency, utility and material wealth and power, we will continue to see horrific acts such as what we saw yesterday.

Guns are part of the problem, yes - but they're just the last piece of the problem.

The rot of the sickness goes much, much deeper than that.

Individuals who shoot six year olds in a school or movie goers at a Batman movie don't just drop down from space.

They're created by society - out society.

be careful said...


Can you look at the Rhee statement and her inability to acknowledge the teachers,. See here from Ravitch:

Cosmic Tinkerer
December 16, 2012 at 1:47 am
Thanks for pointing this out. I found Rhee’s statement here: http://www.studentsfirst.org/pages/michelle-rhee-statement-school-shooting-tragedy-in-newton-connecticut

I think it’s shameful that Rhee completely ignored the heroic acts of all the Sandy Hook educators who put the safety of their students’ lives before their own, and that she exploited this tragedy, in order to take another swipe at schools and promote her cause. (It also sounds like an underhanded plea for more donations to her organization.)

I left this angry message on their contact us tab. How dare she exploit this tragedy:

Could you even include one sentence to recognize the educators who died, to recognize their commitment to children, to acknowledge what teachers do everyday…the union, collective bargaining kind?

You include a self promoting statement about your mission, which is nothing more than the destruction of our PUBLIC schools. YOU, Michelle, make this about your pathetic, self promoting, back stabbing, privatizing mission.

P.S. Don’t dare record this message as a supporter of your “grassroots” scheme…we know all about your deceptive tricks.

Duke said...

BC - check tomorrow.

rbe: that's a beautiful quote from Merton. Haven't read him in forever - must go back.

G- Angry is what I'm feeling now as well. Why is this allowed to happen?

Thx everyone.