Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reactions to Tragedy

Reposted from Live Long and Prosper.
I can't imagine any teacher in America, or the world for that matter, who hasn't spent some time in the past 48 hours thinking about what he or she would do if faced with a deadly attack on his or her students.

The story of Vicki Leigh Soto whether 100% accurate or not, is an indication that she, along with many of her colleagues at Sandy Hook, did whatever was humanly possible to protect the young lives under their care.

The loss of so many young lives is just the latest in a series of similar stories. Our reactions are predictable...anger, sadness, disbelief...and fear. It's a reality in our nation that those who are entrusted with the education of young children are -- and have always been -- entrusted with their safety as well....from the air raid drills I remember growing up with in Chicago during the Cold War, to storm and fire the current need for lockdowns and "red alerts."

Pundits, politicians, and the usual teacher-bashers are praising the acts of the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How long will it be, however, before teachers are again accused of being failures, of only being in it for the money, of only caring about their pocketbooks, of teaching only because "those who can't, teach?"

How long will it be before more contract rights are taken away from teachers, more public schools are closed because of the nation's failure to deal with poverty (and violence), and more public money is transferred to private schools or corporate charters?

At first...immediately after the attack on children, words failed. Now the words are starting to come out. The words of anger and of anguish. Here are just a few voices...

Let the Nurturers Nurture
In another room in that building, fellow first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig locked her little ones in a bathroom and pulled a bookshelf in front of the door. She told the children to be perfectly quiet. She told the children there were bad guys out there right then and that they needed to wait for the good guys.

“As their teacher, I’m their protector,” the teacher told Diane Sawyer.

“I told the kids I love them,” she said, “and I was so happy they were my students…I said anyone who believed in the power of prayer, we need to pray.” And she didn’t leave out the children who didn’t believe in prayer. She told them to think happy thoughts. Even in a time of extreme stress, her thoughts were on the individual needs of those children.

She said she wanted “I love you” to be one of the last things they heard, because she was sure they were all going to die.

As this teacher contemplated her own death, she didn’t think about what she needed. She thought about what those little ones needed.

Thank you, teachers

This is from a science blog. The authors generally focus on the conflict some people have between science and religion...and evolution topics. Speaking about teachers...
And for this they get to be one of the most denigrated groups of professionals in the United States, targeted every single [expletive deleted] year for one “reform” after another, vouchers from the fundies and charter schools from the liberals, forced by law to take every spark of individuality and interest out of their curricula and then blamed when their students lose interest, resented their pensions and their health care by people who then blame them when their kids turn out to be apathetic.

Once the media horror dies down about Soto and her co-workers’ sacrifices, I guarantee you this: public school grade school teachers will go right back to being the despised class. “Union thugs.” “With three-month vacations.” “Teaching kids their ABCs.” All the idiotic, ill-informed, right wing anti-intellectual myths will rev up again as if nothing had happened. And in the meantime the people the Fox pundits despise will go on teaching kids to read and do math and treat each other with respect.

In other words, it’s not really that much of a jump to imagine all the teachers I know instinctively taking a bullet to protect their kids. To a first approximation, every single one of them does the same thing every waking moment, giving up their lives by increment to give their students a chance at a better life.

Proud To Teach

Jerzy Jazzman reminds us that teachers put their lives on the line...not just in a wealthy Connecticut town, but across the country in many difficult situations. We all walk into our classrooms thinking about how to reach our students, not how to protect them from evil. But, in an emergency, the first thought of most teachers would be for the safety of their students.
Let me, instead, remind all of you a terrible truth:

The last adult who tried to protect the twenty (dear God, twenty...) beautiful children who died yesterday was their teacher.

Twenty sets of parents - maybe single parents, maybe couples, maybe step parents - twenty sets of parents literally put the lives of their children into the hands of a teacher. Those wonderful teachers literally died because they were will willing to take on the awesome responsibility of caring for and protecting twenty wonderful, precious, innocent lives during the time they were in school.

Michelle Rhee Never Misses an Opportunity To Exploit a Tragedy

How does saving a child's life fit in the VAM evaluation process?
Both these teachers are heroes in their own way. Both these teachers did something extraordinary that cannot be measured with a test, with a piece of paper, with an observation. They did something that none of us put in their situation have no idea what we would do.

If their acts (and I am not omitting any other acts of bravery yesterday, just only know of these two thus far), are the ultimate acts, the very definition of effective teachers, what then would have become of them if they were subject to VAM as whether or not they are effective.

Now, I do not know what the new evaluation system in Connecticut consists of. I can only speak for what is coming or might come in NYC. But what these teachers showed is what happens in schools all over the country in one way or another every day. Intangibles that are so subjective there is no way to measure.

For Rhee and her sycophants to call these teachers in Newtown colleagues is not only laughable, but it is worse. It is vulgar. One of the worst vulgarities I have ever seen. These teachers are career teachers, went into teaching to have a career, a lifetime of education children. Rhee and her ilk stand for everything that is opposite of these two teachers belief systems.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

This article came out after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado -- July 23, 2012. It's an interesting read. Will we ever reach the point where a dozen shooting deaths in a year is too many for the entire country?
America's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world's 23 "rich" countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America's ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America's.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

Guns Don't Kill People--Crazy People with Guns Kill People

Read this for an idea of how powerful the gun lobby is in America. We have restrictions for toys and ladders, but not for guns.
Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.

So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.

American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.

We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips — but lawmakers don’t have the gumption to stand up to National Rifle Association extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?

As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Fischer Explains God’s Inaction

It was only a matter of time before someone said that God didn't protect those children because we "took God out of schools in 1962." One question in response, why did 4 little girls die in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963? Did someone "take God" out of the church?

Those people who use religion in this way are the lowest of the low...stupid, hateful, ignorant people.
And I’m so tired of this “God isn’t allowed in schools” nonsense. Kids pray in school every day and no one stops them. They pray individually and in groups. They gather around the flagpole and pray. There are literally thousands of Christian student groups at public schools all over the nation. They meet for Bible study and prayer sessions before and after school in classrooms and elsewhere on public school campuses. The only thing that can’t be done is the government cannot force a student to pray or read the Bible or be forced to listen to someone else pray.

Snopes: Newtown Rumors
As is typically the case in the wake of tragedy, many rumors began to swirl after the 14 December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 victims dead at that school. We'll try to keep up with some of the more widely-circulated ones...

Thank you Fred.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." -- Fred Rogers

1 comment:

NEIFPE said...

Thanks to reader Mitko Ivanov for providing a correction to the location of Fred Roger's comments above. Mr. Ivanov wrote the following:

"If possible, I would also be thrilled if you would consider linking to an additional resource here.

"I think that your readers would appreciate the different angle of dealing with tragic event news."