Had I been able to foretell my future back in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, there’s much that I would have had a hard time believing, not the least of which was that I would spend over 30 years teaching students who behaved a whole lot better than I ever did for the first several years of my schooling. I also would have been incredulous that school calendars would modify so drastically that the first day of a new school year would be weeks before the Tuesday after Labor Day.
However, here we are on the cusp of another school year that has encroached on summer’s reverie, with several local districts ringing that first bell just a few days from now. Despite the now 17 years since I placed my chalk on the blackboard ledge for the final time, I still think about my past life and dream I’m back in that setting.
While these dreams pretty much amaze my Lady Jane, who walked out with me on that late May day in 2005 for the last time as a full-time teacher as well, I do have an explanation as to their frequency. Among the many jobs I’ve held in my life, without question, the one that was the most important and that mattered most to me were those days when I stood before my students trying to teach them about the beauty and the intricacies of the English language.
While in my dreams there are occasional scenarios where I’m not having the kind of success a teacher wants to see, in not one of those dreams is there anything close to the gun violence that has happened in schools so many tragic times in the years since I left.
From 2005-’06 through 2021-‘22, the number of gun-related incidents either in high school or on college campuses easily crests a staggering 300, according to the website The Edvocate.
As far as solutions to stop the potential for such incidents, there are no guarantees. Nonetheless, the question renewed in the minds of so many since the shocking incident last May in Uvalde, Texas, just days before school gave way to summer, is this: How can we best safeguard our most precious kiddos and those who stand before them each day to teach them?
Of course, the strong Second Amendment advocates have always adamantly resisted any attempts to limit an individual’s ability to possess any type of firearm, from single-discharge weapons to the rapid-fire military-style weapons such as the AR-15 used by so many of these shooters, many of whom fit the profile as young men full of rage and mentally unbalanced.
While it was gratifying to see our two political parties this summer do what they almost never do, which is reach an accord and get a bill to President Biden’s desk that puts in place measures to decrease the likelihood of school shootings, there is still so much to be done.
As far as what states can do, in Ohio, I have some mixed feelings about the passage of a bill by the Republican-controlled House and Senate and signed by Governor DeWine this summer that allows, with local school board approval, arming teachers after just 24 hours of weapons training. Personally, I think there’s a far greater likelihood that introducing weapons into schools by teachers rather than police-trained resource personnel creates more dangers than adding any measure of increased safety should an active shooter occurrence manifest itself.
More security to bar entry to schools by unauthorized individuals, more use of resource officers, more emphasis on identifying threats and more emphasis on keeping guns out of the hands of certain people, all of those, I can certainly see, but arming the English or math teacher?
Back in the 1990s in the last part of my teaching career, I helped chaperone a National Honor Society spring trip to New York City for several years. One of the sites we always visited was The United Nations. And, every time there has been another heartbreaking story about gun violence in schools, I think of that iconic sculpture of a large gun with its barrel twisted in a knot that’s in the UN Sculpture Garden.
Officially, the sculpture is called Non-Violence, and it was given as a gift by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Ruetersward. The artist created the piece as a memorial tribute to his friend John Lennon after he was gunned down in New York City in 1980.
As another school year commences in a few short days, both here and in many other parts of the country, it is my prayer that all who enter our school buildings each day to go about the most important business of teaching and learning are able to do so in absolute safety.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]