The Despair of Knowing That Nothing Is Going to Change – Part Two

In part one of this two-part blog, I shared a post I wrote ten years ago about why America will do nothing about gun control. It was written after the Sandy Hook Massacre. At the time of writing this, yet another school shooting has occurred in Uvalde, Texas. In the years since Sandy Hook, there have been 2,654 mass shootings in the United States (at the time of writing). At the same time of writing, we are witnessing legislative attacks intended to limit what is taught in public schools, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and a push to overturn Roe v Wade and make safe abortions illegal. It might seem that school shootings, anti-public education legislation, and anti-abortion measures are not connected. Yet they are connected, and it’s what connects them that fills me with despair about why nothing will change. It’s only a matter of time before we are seeing more thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting in a school. 

So I write this looking ahead at what the outcomes might be should we continue doing things the way we always have. Let’s begin by looking at proposed solutions and outcomes to address mass shootings in schools.

What to Do About School Shootings

Let’s assume that any form of gun control is not going to happen. It’s been 10 years since Sandy Hook, 23 years since Columbine. If we had the will to do anything about it as a society we would have done so by now. So let’s look at alternative “solutions” that I’ve read about recently. Firstly, it’s been proposed that teachers should be armed. Forgetting the fact that legislation assumes that teachers cannot do the job they are trained to do (that is, designing meaningful instruction), they are not trusted to interpret and deliver curriculum, and they are endangering students with their woke ideologies, I find it hard to believe that lawmakers actually trust educators to be armed. Unless the aim is to further deprofessionalize the teaching profession and make teachers responsible for “delivering” pre-packaged curricula and ensuring compliance in their students. Much like law enforcement, only with degrees. There are approximately 3.5 million public school teachers in the United States. So if we armed every one of them with an appropriate weapon, ammunition, and gave them annual training in how to use these new instructional tools, then according to the National Library of Medicine (2013), it would cost around $22 billion ($27 billion in 2022). That would have to come out of a federal education budget of $585 billion. That’s a sizable chunk of taxpayer dollars going to weapons manufacturers and related industries. It also would mean a sizable cut in other spending areas within education. Alternatively, taxes could be raised to pay for this. Either way, that’s a lot of taxpayer dollars going into the hands of weapons manufacturers. 

But in reality, this is not a likely outcome. So instead, it’s been mooted that we could hire and train dedicated armed security professionals to protect schools from future attacks. According to Bouchrika (2022) there are 97,568 public schools in the US. Let’s say we need three armed security people per school, that’s nearly 300,000 folks we need to train and recruit. That’s 300,000 personnel to arm and maintain. The US Army currently has over 481,000 active duty personnel, while the reserve is around 274,000. So this would mean creating, equipping, and funding a standing army on US soil. While problematic, it does mean that there is an opening market for weapons manufacturers, so once again this solution creates an opportunity for taxpayer education dollars to go to private corporate hands. And we have no guarantee that this would even prevent further violence. 

Even if none of these measures are adopted, school shootings help undermine public education because they perpetuate the idea that schools are not safe. What parent would willingly send their children to an unsafe school? Coupled with the anti-public education legislation, we are going to see parents finding alternative solutions and enacting their right to “school choice.”

Anti-Public School Legislation

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen growing moves at legislative levels to denigrate the work that teachers and public educators do. School shootings play into this. Public schools cannot keep your children safe, whether that be emotionally or physically. This encourages parents with means to seek other venues to educate their children. Before the pandemic there was a 2-8% annual increase in homeschooled children, with 2.5 million being educated at home (Admissionsly, 2022). In 2019, 80% of parents surveyed indicated that security concerns were one of the reasons they homeschooled their children (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Every one of those students equals money that is not used in public education. 

Likewise, under the guise of “school choice,” anti-public education sentiment and legislation pushes parents to embrace charter schools or private education. Funded by vouchers, tax credits, and “scholarships,” they give parents who can afford them the opportunity to send their children to privately owned schools, bringing their tax dollars with them. Charter schools in themselves are problematic, as they don’t serve the needs of all students, although that is another post in itself. And while this sector continues to grow, taxpayer money intended for public school systems is taken away, causing more cuts to public education and a further decline in “standards” (Barnum, 2019). It’s no secret that hedge funds love to invest in charter schools (Ravitch, 2018). It’s fundamentally free taxpayer money that is not under the same scrutiny as it would be in the public school system. As public schools are further undermined, there is money to be made. All at the taxpayers’ expense. 

The End of Public Schools?

If the current trend continues, at some point we will have a two- or three-tier education system, where the most affluent parents send their children to private schools or homeschool them. Those who can afford (through vouchers, scholarships, or tax credits) will send their students to charter schools, while the rest of us send our children to increasingly underfunded public schools. These schools, because of the need for safety, are staffed by armed “instructors” teaching a limited curriculum, or have armed security guards patrolling the hallways. School buildings are already designed to similar specifications as prisons (Valencia, 2020) and we might soon see charters and underfunded school systems partnering with private prison companies to run and keep these facilities secure. There is an existing connection between school disciplinary practices, arrests, and private prisons, which could be further streamlined to ensure that the tax dollars associated with those students seamlessly transfer when they become prisoners. 

So will public education decline to a point of unsustainability due to declining enrollment and increasing privatization? Well, I think not. With the impending rollback of Roe v Wade it will be the poorest Americans who will be affected, leading to an increase in child poverty in many states (Scott, 2022). Remember that each child born is worth tax dollars to the private education sector, so it’s in the best interests of the private sector that more children are born. If they are born poor, then they will attend public schools which will increasingly feed the private prison system. Once again there are tax dollars to be made from banning abortions. 

Why Nothing Will Change 

So we won’t see any meaningful gun reform anytime soon. There is too much money for weapons manufacturers to make for that to happen. Indeed, this is a golden opportunity for growth in this sector as arming teachers, or creating a small standing army to stand guard over schools will be good for business, all at the expense of the taxpayer. Meanwhile, “school choice” will siphon those who can afford other options away from public education, increasingly underfunded and limited in what it can offer. Perpetuating poverty and incarceration. Rolling back abortion laws ensures that more kids are born into poverty, thus maintaining the conveyor belt, and the tax dollars that go with them. Meanwhile, the weapons manufacturers, hedge funds, and private sectors become increasingly wealthy. All at the taxpayer’s expense. There’s too much money to be made to actually do anything to stop school shootings. Indeed, it could be argued that school shootings are better for business. Our children are expendable as long as the money continues to flow. Politicians will continue to shrug their shoulders and offer thoughts and prayers, while taking campaign contributions. While the rest of us will keep trying to do our best in an increasingly broken system. The despair will continue as we realize that nothing will change. 

Unless, that is, enough of us act. 

So my question is: what are you willing to do?

3 thoughts on “The Despair of Knowing That Nothing Is Going to Change – Part Two”

  1. Your question may be rhetorical, but I am going to respond as if it is not. 🙂

    One thing I have been talking to my husband about – you all know where I stand on guns. Even though both my sons go to a school they had to apply for and will lose their spots if I do so, I plan to homeschool them if my local school system arms staff members. That is a deal breaker for my family! Creating a safe space for learning is of the utmost importance for children to learn, grow, and develop. While inconvenient for me professionally, it will become necessary to fulfill my most essential role as mom and shepherd of my sons’ future selves!

  2. LouAnne Metzger

    I am not yet willing to go down the path that nothing is going to change. I have hope. This question of “what am I willing to do” keeps roaming around in my head. Then my head says “there’s will and there’s actual actions.”

    What I will do includes:
    -pushing our friends, co-workers, community members, and politicians to be more child centered in all decisions (educationally, medically, etc.) Investing in children is akin to a rising tide lifting all boats kind of thing.
    -being clear on my position on guns and saying no to guns in the classroom out loud as often as possible to anyone who will listen
    -supporting our schools to deliver engaging learning opportunities in an emotionally and physically safe, caring, environment where children are the priority
    -doing what I can to become a hope advocate

    1. LouAnne, I love how you are always willing to think about the hard work of being a “hope advocate”, which is just about the best job title I can think of for you! I too will join you on saying “no to guns in the classroom as often as possible to anyone who will listen”. I’ve even talked to my husband about homeschooling our children as a form of protest and forming a little co-op for others who choose the same path. I want my children to feel SAFE in school, because child-centered educators like you are making sure we have “emotionally and physically safe, caring, environments” for ALL children or I must provide that myself. In the meantime, I too, will hope with action, openly reflecting on what I am willing to do and then doing it!

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