January 18th, 2013

Unintended consequences of making schools fortresses

On Jan. 16 Pres. Obama adopted the NRA suggestion that public schools be fortified by police. Already, a third of schools have SROs (School Resource Officers), cops whose beat is the school. The reason is to ostensibly make schools “safer.” Will it be more cops at any price for strained cities and police departments?

Here we go again America. An outrageously disproportionate solution for a problem so rare as to be nearly non-existent, albeit headline grabbing. Meanwhile, on a daily basis, students are exposed to psychological violence from peers and they witness their teachers being victimized by abusive administrators or more senior teachers. They see and emulate the witnessed adult bullying on a regular basis. Anything being done? Nope. The excuse is that there’s no money.

Mysteriously though there will be funds for putting cops in schools, denying coverage of the very cities that hire them. Of course, in urban schools in America street violence long ago walked right in. [Watch season 4 of David Simon’s brilliant HBO series The Wire for a realistic portrayal of life in underfunded, overtested, and ignored inner city schools.]

This capitulation to the NRA, believing weapons on the premises provide security, is foolish but a well-worn path we always take. We are told to believe that nudie airport scanners that do not detect some materials that pose real risks to safe flight provide “security.” Mall rent-a-cops who sit in their vehicles on the edge of parking lots smoking all day are supposed to make merchants and shoppers believe they are protected from robbery. The entire industry preys on fear.

A little bit of forward thinking suggests that armed guards in schools will easily militarize the facilities. That environment, in turn, will change children. They will grow desensitized to guns. It’s just what the NRA wants, more gun owners from a population that might not have had guns in their homes — no hunters, no paranoid parents believing “they” are coming to get them.

If it is true that 41% of American households have guns, then the other 59% will be dragged into ownership by their children exposed to it at school over time.

Because I did not grow up in the video game generation, I still reel whenever I see the indiscriminate spraying of bullets in many games. Perhaps nothing in games shocks kids. It’s all they know.

This I know. If school children have their schools militarized and weaponized, they will change in subtle negative ways. They will grow up more cynical, more accepting of violence, less afraid of guns and how easily they can kill and maim, more willing to shoot rather than negotiate and talk when differences with others arise, and more accepting of authority with weapons.

In other words, the weaponized school environment to which kids are exposed daily will change them. All the anti-bullying, conflict resolution efforts to get kids to dialogue to deal with differences will be overturned instantly. Power trumps intellectual, effortful approaches to life’s difficult tasks like getting along with others. Hey, grab a gun and you can dominate others, if for no other reason. Might makes right.

Decades of research show that individuals are susceptible to shaping by their environments. Everyone knows the power of peer pressure. It even overwhelms parental influence, to the chagrin of parents. Prisons are armed fortresses where prisoners are treated like cattle. In return, they hurl every imaginable bodily fluid on corrections officers. Over time, the brutalized overseers become brutal themselves. Veteran correctional officers lose their innocence and optimism about people early.

School children, exposed to a dozen years of armed officers, will change, will evolve, into hardened cynics.

If you think we have become a coarse callous society today, wait until the first cohort of kids graduate from schools with ever-present weapons. And in subsequent generations, most will accept the NRA suggestion that we all carry firearms. It will be the rule, not the exception, to them.

The lunatic LaPierre, speaking on behalf of gun manufacturers, will have completed the ultimate marketing goal — thanks to a scared nation whose president bought into the nonsense.

Let’s remind ourselves of the innocence of the Newton 20 and try to preserve the innocence of future generations of children. It takes courage to fight the easy fix to which fear leads. Empathy, kindness, love all require more work than arming ourselves. Let’s, for once, do the hard work up front as parents. Inculcate positive values in our children. Employers, pay parents well enough at work to allow them to spend more time with their children.

Guns, and those who carry them, as the solution is too easy. We will come to regret it through the unintended consequences that result. It will hasten the unraveling of our society.


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This entry was posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 10:29 am and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, The New America. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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