04 October, 2015

this teaching thing is dangerous

So another school shooting. That special epidemic we have here in the US. That totally unpreventable epidemic which we cannot discuss because REASONS. My least favorite proposed solution to gun violence is the one that says arm everyone! Especially on campus! Because a NO GUN campus means only the bad guys will have guns! (and the cops, presumably)

Let us consider this. A little thought experiment. Students can be armed (concealed carry, open carry). Teachers can be armed (again, concealed or open carry). If we see guns, then everyone knows who's got them and who doesn't. Imagine being an unarmed professor and seeing your students--one, two, five, whatever--openly carrying weapons in class. Imagine looking out at those students and having your own firearm within reach.

Tell me how the fuck learning happens in an environment where we're all measuring the size of each other's weapons. Tell me how I make anyone care about Aristotelian ethics when we're adhering to Strength Is All That Matters. Tell me how we do calculus or chemistry with the knowledge that some of us have the power to kill others of us right now.

And say shooting starts... what to do? Run out and find the shooter and shoot him? Or, if it's in my classroom, shall I duck behind the podium and open fire? Will I be able to tell which student started it? And if we're all shooting at the bad guy--assuming we can tell who he is!--what will the cops do when they arrive? Are we all armed and dangerous? Will we good guys drop our weapons on command, and allow Mr. Bad to keep firing? If my black students are armed, will the cops shoot them? What about my Muslim students? My Latinos? What about me?

I've worked on campuses since the 90s. I am a writing teacher now on a rather large campus. I do not want to be armed in the classroom. I teach. I do not enforce. Seeing my students as potential adversaries whom I am prepared to kill (because you don't draw a weapon unless you plan to use it, and while wounding shots are all well and good, only the very very skilled can do that reliably. The rest of us shoot to stop, and dead is the most stopped there is) will seriously fuck up my teaching mojo. I could not do my job. My students cannot be a learning community (and we writing classes are little intimate things) if they're afraid of each other, or sizing each other up as potential threats.

You want to solve this problem, folks, more guns on campus ain't the answer. Making us our own enforcers doesn't fix the problem. Making the prof into a cop is not a solution.

I lost a friend back when Columbine happened. She was mad at me for saying guns themselves are tools; it's the wielder who's the problem. I still believe that. But at some point, we need to consider why a particular tool lends itself so well to bad behavior, and take steps to remove its temptation from people who want to behave badly. More regulation? Okay. Licensing? Okay. Banning? Not as okay with that.

I'm no pacifist. I own a firearm. I don't have any bullets in the house. Our home defense will be bladed, and possibly my knitting needles. Don't laugh. Those fuckers are sharp.