Children In Danger

In the 1950s, when I was a child in elementary school, we were taught to hide under our desks and shield our eyes in the event of an atomic bomb attack. The nuns in my school didn’t seem alarmed. Simply another thing we practiced at school, like fire drills, multiplication tables, and penmanship. It was called “duck and cover.”

Adults talked about the A-bomb.

We lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, a likely target of our enemy, the Russians, who lived far away.

My mother mused that we might evacuate to get away from a bomb. My father worked in downtown Washington, and we were in the suburbs, so if we decided to evacuate during the day, we should plan to meet up at some church about an hour’s drive west, near Frederick, MD. My father was more interested in reading the afternoon paper. A day off from school! That was my thought.

This atomic bomb thing, should it ever happen, would be a big explosion in the distance, and a main danger was that the bright light would hurt our eyes. Duck and cover was the thing to do.

No one, adults or children, had ever seen an atomic bomb explosion. We hadn’t heard of such a thing actually happening, certainly not at any school nearby. Or anyplace else in our state. Or anyplace, really. Adults recalled that airplanes had dropped two atomic bombs, but that was far away, long before we children were born.

The 1950s are more than a half-century in the past. The distant and naive past. Today’s schoolchildren and parents live with the fears of 2018. The more things change, the more they remain the same?

No.

In elementary school, today’s dangers are different. 

Children now drill on how to survive an “active shooter.” A shooter inside their school. It’s not a distant, abstract danger. It has really happened in schools. Already happened! 

It’s happened over and over. It’s happened in schools in your own state. Everyone knows about it. No one denies it. The danger is in your neighborhood, possibly next door. Maybe in your very own house!

In my childhood, we saw guns in cowboy movies. For today’s children, guns are everywhere. Sometimes it seems as if nearly everyone is armed, at least here in Florida.

As the new school year begins, the state is belatedly (reluctantly?) spending some money in reaction to public opinion. It is, after all, an election year. Nothing to control guns, mind you. But they’re putting up fences around some schools. Rushing to hire and train more school security personnel. Dress them in more military-like uniforms. Putting on a show to placate fearful parents. In some cases, making schools look like prisons with correctional officers.

Meanwhile, inside the schools principals and teachers conduct active-shooter drills. Children are taught something new: “Run, Hide, Fight.” Sounds like basic training in the army. But it’s not the army. It’s elementary school and high school. It’s worth repeating: “Run, Hide, Fight.”

Wait.

Children are now expected to fight a man shooting a gun in the classroom, the hallway, the cafeteria?

Oh, well. Only as a last resort. First, you should run or hide. Hope and pray (is prayer OK?) that the police arrive. Hope and pray that police arrive, like, RIGHT NOW.

And yes, you might have to fight a gunman with your bare hands, as a last resort. That’s what the schools are teaching. Is it possible that I’ve misunderstood? If that is incorrect, please, somebody correct me.

No, the danger children face at school is not the same.

Yes, the danger at school, and other places too, is WORSE. The danger is not abstract. It’s real. It’s immediate. It’s everywhere.

Are children traumatized by this fear? Or do they ignore it? What about parents? What about teachers? How do teachers cope with fear? Some suggest teachers should carry guns.

Full Stop. Those thoughts — danger in school, children and parents in fear, teachers, guns. More than enough for one day. A good place to stop writing. The only place to go from here is: Can a society live like this, and survive?

— John

Note: This post was prompted by a news story, “Parents block shooter video: Pinellas elementary school kids won’t have to see it as part of active shooting drills,” in The Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 21, 2018, page 1B.

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35 thoughts on “Children In Danger

  1. They’re also teaching children things like how to stop someone from bleeding out until first responders can get in. Our hearts are heavy sending our boy of to school every day. Instead of the usual ‘be sure to focus and behave respectfully’ we now have to throw in reminders to be safe because neither one of us wants to actually say, ‘if you heart anything remotely off run!’.

    We have found in our 4 years in Florida the schools are lax and even negligent in many of the bullying issues going on inside their schools. Our son has been punched and even sent to the ER by another student just wanting some one to hurt and yet the schools lied and misdirected us on both counts to not have to acknowledge they have an issue. Problems like these that get swept under the rug are what feed larger issues.

    Many parents like us have seriously considered home or cyber school and some have take the leap. I believe its a direction our society is headed because with failing school systems, lack of funding, and increasing violence we can’t afford to ruin our children any further. We are taking this first semester to make our final determination as a family.

    Today we will ready our son for school, look at his sweet face as he smiles and hugs us goodbye, and hold onto the fear all day until he returns home to me. And why? Because we as a society won’t grasp the root of the problem. Change is too hard and to most, our children aren’t worth the sacrifice that sacrifice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We here in the USA seem to be failing our children, to a greater or lesser degree, throughout the country. I have the impression that we Americans are much worse in this regard than nearly every other advanced civilized nation in the world. Children in England, for instance, do not have to worry about guns at all. Children in any number of countries are way ahead of our children in learning about Science and math and languages in their public schools. How can we explain why we Americans are doing so poorly by our children? And at the same time, many among us live under the delusion that we are the greatest in the world!! Obviously, something has gone very wrong in our American society. It is perverse and unnatural for people to fail to protect and care for the children. Makes you want to weep.

      In all this, it appears that schools in Florida may be among the worst in the country. Does that mean that people in Florida have the lowest regard for children? I can hardly blame principals or teachers. They are caught In the middle. And not parents, in general, although it’s clear that many parents are either uncaring or unable to cope with conditions impacting families. No, conditions in schools and conditions affecting families reflect on society as a whole. Society as a whole must be willing to spend the necessary money to provide good schools. The community and the economy as a whole create conditions in which All individuals and families struggle to survive. I’ve only been in Florida for one year, so I can’t claim to be an expert. Schools are deficient in many states.

      Mandy, parents like you are right to consider homeschooling or whatever alternative seems best. Some seek out a private school that is both safe and academically sound. But relatively few can afford that. At the extreme some retreat to remote rural communities of like-minded families who can band together to provide the education they want for their children. Not a possibility for most people! I hope you can find a good solution for your family.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I should clarify. I’m not an advocate of abandoning the public schools. Universal access to good education is essential! But I support the right of every parent to make whatever decisions they deem necessary for the good of their children, whether it be private school or homeschooling.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Can a society live like this, and survive?

    The question invites perspective. While the prospect of a school shooting is terrible and the fear of it is not to be discounted, it is not like living on the south side of Chicago or the barrios of Tegucigalpa where the everyday danger is up close and personal.

    I once read a piece in a forensic journal that anthropologists who studied the graveyards of primitive societies found that on average 30% of all males died by violence, read war. Considering that, the world, especially our First World, is a much safer place, nuclear weapons not withstanding.

    There are simple cost effective ways to mitigate the virulence of school shootings. One is to install dead-bolts on classroom doors, the other is for the media to quit obsessing about shootings. I know it generates clicks, but it also generates more tragedies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes and no. I will have to give this more thought. Conditions in drug infested inner-city neighborhoods have been beyond deplorable for many years. And yet it continues. Reading history confirms that violence and war are the norm. I’m not ready to agree with you that there are simple and cost-effective ways to eliminate school violence. Deadbolts trap people inside in the event of fire. The answer is not anything as simple as deadbolts.

      Cost-effective? The answers will be quite COSTLY in order to be cost-effective. One of the root causes of poor and unsafe schools is an unwillingness of people in general to pay sufficient taxes to support education. Just my opinion.

      And the other easy solution to the problem: the media should simply stop talking about it? Surely you jest. Responsible newspapers and television news do not make things worse by reporting the facts. But if you are speaking of the new social media, such as Twitter, then I agree. I wish we could do Away with most social media, probably even including blogs. 😢

      Liked by 2 people

      • I doubt we can “eliminate” any social ill but we can “mitigate” them, as in do simple things to lessen the occurrence and effect A dead-bolt on a solid core door would function as a safety device only in the case of emergency. I would not see it being used at any other time but who knows with the foolishness of people.

        Security is always implemented as “in-depth”. For instance, locking doors and windows reduces burglaries and home break-ins by up to 80% yet when you think about it, that only leaves 1/4 inch of glass as a protection. Something a child could break – yet it works. Each level of security then reduces the remainder. It is how mitigation functions.

        School funding is often not a matter of how-much, but where the money is spent. In Minneapolis, we spent approximately $20,000 per student per year and the results were and continue to be atrocious.

        Lastly, the news.

        There is a world of difference between reporting the facts and dwelling upon them. There is a difference between civic interest and prurient interest. School shooting and acts of terrorism are in large part aimed at the media and its audience.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If I were a parent — something I never wanted to be for a multitude of reasons — I would simply, uncompromisingly, refuse to send my child to school until civilians were no longer allowed to own rapid fire killing machines, gun show loop holes were closed, diagnosed mentally ill people were prohibited from owning guns, and probably until anyone who wanted a gun had to prove proficiency and clear understanding of gun safety, to include locking the damn thing up.

    I’d get every parent i could on board with me and we would accept any penalty attached to this act of civil disobedience. We’d find a way to share out the child minding so that parents could still work; we’d invent a curriculum to keep those young minds working; we’d do whatever it takes. Tell me American parents don’t have that will, if someone could get the ball rolling. I would not send my child every day to a killing bottle that has been proven a magnet for vindictive crackpots eager for whatever sense of revenge and glory they might get from mass murder.

    That wouldn’t solve shootings at malls, festivals and theaters in the meantime, but it might ignite the passage of gun laws that would make those places safer. This is BS that we are looking at, and nothing but the easy availability of guns is at fault here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ms. Sled, you’ve said exactly what needs to be said, as usual, and in a strong and persuasive way. I would add only two points: First, plenty of parents are already doing exactly what you advocate, keeping their children out of schools, homeschooling them, banding together with other parents to provide instruction of children in lieu of school. I think this is all legal and no need to be concerned about penalties for civil disobedience. (So long as parents are not simply neglecting their children and failing to provide any education at all.)

      Second, I agree that the virtually unregulated availability of guns, particularly in states like Florida, is a fundamental problem that must be corrected. But I fear that the decline of our society in general and education in particular has additional causes, beyond the availability of guns.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I’m thinking, is that the homeschooling and the like that is already done is fine, but that the protest would involve refusing to go through the hoops usually required; You usually have to submit papers or allow an inspection if I understand things rightly. This would just be a clear FU.

        And while I agree that as a society we are screwed up, and that it is mostly about greed and shortsightedness, removing access to the killing machines solves the problem of people using killing machines. We can work on the rest at greater leisure then. Starting with the weird worship of wealth — either by the people who accumulate it ruthlessly beyond any rational need, or the people who are thereby deprived and yet somehow seem to think that filthy rich people are godlike and above reproach. You know the sort of thing I mean — the fascination with the lives of rich people, as if they were wonderful and admirable rather than parasites in a majority of cases. We’ve been boiled-frogged into a kleptocracy, and that means there’s no money around to work on way too many problems — crummy schools, mental health, making sure people can get medical care. The whole thing is propped up by a propaganda campaign that makes those who are simply doing okay believe that taking care of the nearly drowning would rob them of what they have. It’s as if you’re not supposed to see the extraction economy, which funnels the value of people’s work to the already obscenely wealthy top few per cent, going on right in your face.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I think you’re correct that homeschooling, whether done by individual parents or by a consortium of parents, has to follow some regulations and jump through some hoops. However, I’m afraid that the FU type of communication is to widespread in our society and usually not helpful. I feel the people in the education bureaucracy are not responsible for the lenient gun laws. They are only trying to do their job of making sure the children are receiving some sort of education and not being totally neglected. I don’t think they deserve a FU.

        On the more important part of your comment — about removing the killing machines and the greed that is destroying our society — I am with you all the way. I especially liked your comments on the kleptocracy and the “ extraction economy“ which are well on the way to destroying whatever is left of our society. Write on!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think educators deserve the FU, but plenty of people do — DeVos, for instance. And any school system that chooses to “harden” a school rather than demand sterner gun laws, with some sort of forcing action, is pandering and rolling over and has the FU coming in lights. Hell, if I were a teacher I’d be on strike as much as if I were a parent; we’re getting teachers shot too, and then asking them to be Hopalong Cassidy. Also, as a parent, as much as I know it squeezes the teachers, I’d try to organize a tax strike — however much of my local tax bill paid for schools, nearly 50% in my county. That might force a local or state legislature, at least, to act, and these things can ripple upward. What I can’t see is just going along with the anemic efforts that are currently in place and saying “nothing to be done, buy the kid a bulletproof backpack and teach him trauma first aid.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. The gun situation traces back to state legislatures. And also to the voters Who elect them. Voters and the public at large seem infected by a virus of free-floating anger and hostility, and seeing violence as the answer to everything.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. To Almost Iowa: I apologize for the somewhat snarky tone of my first reply. However, I think it important to underscore the complexity of the problems. First, school security is a unique situation because so many of the shooters are students or former students who are normally permitted inside the schools or who know how to get inside. Doors at most schools are already securely locked from the outside, but of course that doesn’t prevent some students from opening a door from the inside to allow a friend in, or propping a door open from the inside for their own convenience, such as sneaking outside to smoke. Thus the securing of schools probably requires installing alarms to sound when unsupervised doors are opened from the inside; and metal detectors (sigh) to prevent students from bringing in guns under their coats or in their backpacks. And school security personal to monitor it all. In total, it’s expensive!

    You raise a valid point about EDUCATION FUNDING. Some jurisdictions indeed spend quite a lot of money and still fail to achieve results. A confounding problem for sure!!! Obviously, there must be other variables in the equation besides money. Notably, are administrators and teachers simply incompetent, in some cases? Are tests and the interpretation of test scores invalid or improperly administered? Are there additional social or educational factors involved? For instance, is the money failing to have desired results because too many children cannot speak English? Or because learning disabilities are not being addressed? Perhaps the most difficult question of all: In our determined effort to offer equal and nondiscriminatory opportunity for all, are we trying too hard to force ALL students to pass advanced academic tests? These questions boggle my mind. We need the wisdom of Solomon.

    And here’s the kicker: Because increased funding doesn’t always and automatically work, far too many citizens — already opposed to taxation and tax increases — feel justified in opposing nearly all education spending? Society requires a citizenry prepared to take responsibility for paying the bills.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In a word John NO… we cannot keep continuing as we are… Violence increasing this side of the pond too.. Although we do not have the many guns you have.. I have no idea how to combat what is already ingrained within your society as your right to hold guns.. Here in England our gun laws are very different.. But we still have our crime.. murders and children still live in fear..

    This is why I feel our world cannot stay the same.. If we are not willing to embrace change and bring peaceful solutions and as individuals we are all of responsible for our thoughts and actions.. And if the world is not changing, then its because we ourselves are not prepared to change.. We are still divided, judging, pointing fingers, as we each hold onto our view points never meeting in the middle for the greater good of the whole..
    We say we are right.. and you are wrong.. Its a human failing as Ego always wants to rule the roost..
    So too are the ruling fractions of the world.. It becomes more scary when the leaders can then have their off days and tantrums and upset another.. And it makes one wonder if ever one would go that extra step further to push a button if mad enough..

    And we have both seen the world get even madder by the minute…
    Which is why Nature I feel is going to step in and do her own thing… We may then be too busy worrying on our collective survival against the elements.. For she will be doing her own pushing of buttons if we do not all wake up to what we are becoming..

    Great food for thought John… Take care. and good to be reading your thoughts again.
    Sue 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • So good to hear from you, Sue. I feel bad because my time and energy for blogging have faded as I age. I miss regularly reading your great blog and the many others that I like to follow. I write posts all too rarely now. I would like to write about a simple lifestyle, but usually I am prompted to write about the decline of our society.

      I think you are correct, Sue. We humans appear to be unable to embrace change and adopt peaceful solutions. Over many thousands of years, we evolved to be the way we are now, that is, suited to survive by using our agricultural, gathering, and hunting efforts. With a little bit of trading gradually added. Suddenly, over a few centuries, the fundamental agricultural lifestyle and economy changed drastically. You might even say it ended. The rise of technology is mind-boggling. And we humans seem unprepared by our instincts and evolution to adapt to the modern era of industry and technology. The modern era for the purposes of this discussion began perhaps 200 years ago, around 1820.

      I think that males, in particular, evolved through the ages with two main purposes or abilities: 1) Hunting, and 2) Making war to protect their family and tribe. Females evolved with a somewhat broader skill set. That is, gathering food, caring for children, making necessities such as clothing, and agriculture. The first farmers were almost certainly women.

      Wars continued almost constantly through the first half of the 20th century. The male population was repeatedly called into service as soldiers. Significant portions of the male population died in wars, as much from disease as from battle. Of course wars continued unabated during the last half of the 20th century and in the early decades of the 21st century. But over a span of about 100 years, from the American Civil War through the First and Second World Wars, military technology developed such terrible new weaponry that large-scale warfare became almost unthinkable around 1950. It has been replaced by smaller regional and gorilla wars. At least so far. That could change at any time, as you note, in the present madness.

      Your conclusion, Sue, is brilliant and bears repeating: “Which is why Nature I feel is going to step in and do her own thing… We may then be too busy worrying on our collective survival against the elements. For she will be doing her own pushing of buttons if we do not all wake up to what we are becoming..”

      Nothing more I can add to that wise observation.

      — John

      Liked by 1 person

    • Doesn’t seem odd at all. It used to be common for people to drive around with shotguns in the window their pick up trucks in lots of rural areas, especially in the south. And BB guns were common in my childhood, but never considered a problem. Except for boys who shot at birds, and were sternly reprimanded by parents and teachers. But you hardly ever heard anything about handguns in those days. I have never thought that hunting rifles or shotguns are a danger. But handguns are another story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The second amendment is there for a reason. We should all be taught self defense at a young age, and respect for life. Instead, we have reality TV and everyone wants to be on it. Too many children are taught, “you have rights,” but few these days are learning the responsibilities that go with those rights.

        We may be able to live an easier life than our ancestors, but there are still preditors and opportunists among us.

        Like

      • You’ve given a good summary of the complexities of our modern situation. I have some reservations about whether teaching self-defense to everyone might have unintended consequences. In the way that allowing law-abiding citizens to Carry concealed handgun is well intentioned but has had some tragic results.

        I think the Second Amendment should be no longer a subject of debate. The Second Amendment is settled constitutional law. It obviously covers rifles. I doubt that the founders ever envisioned concealed handguns when they endorsed a “well regulated militia.“ The details of constitutional law sometimes come up for interpretation, and we have the Supreme Court to take care of that function.

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      • Our founders envisioned having the means to overthrow a government that is out of control, by whatever means it takes. Every citizen IS the militia, and the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

        The problem is that “interpretation” greatly depends upon whether or not a judge is following constitutional law or legislating from the bench. Perception can be a problem, too, as well as the way words were used 250 years ago.

        A good example of that is the word “discrimination.” People used to have discriminating taste and it was a good thing. 🙂

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      • Good point about how words such as “discriminating” can Go out of fashion due to changing times. The word “Crippled” was deemed unkind and was replaced by “handicapped.” That was Long time ago. In due course handicapped was ousted and “disabled“ was installed as the acceptable term. Then it was decided not to refer to any child as “disabled”

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are of course correct about the difference between legislative Law and constitutional law. In lower courts, decisions may hinge on case law as well. But when the question reaches the Supreme Court, I think the final issue is: does it pass constitutional muster. I personally can’t imagine that the drafters of the constitution intended “A well-regulated militia” to mean that the militia is “everyone.“ The words “well- regulated” Must have had some meaning to them. Exactly what that meeting is, I am not an expert and will leave it to the Supreme Court.

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      • I’ve seen that term morph over time, too, since I work in developmental disabilities.

        It’s odd to watch what happens. The change of wording is supposed to change people’s perceptions but most of the time it just changes the meaning of the word to fit their perceptions.

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  6. As a child n the late 50s/60s, I had no idea why we had to climb down the stairs to a dark school basement and hallway and put our hands over our heads. We all chattered nervously and then didn’t speak of it again when it was over. Just some silly adult-thing. Now, I watch my grandchildren go through drills to hide under their desks as the teacher locks the classroom door. My daughter is a middle school teacher – and you wouldn’t believe the drills she’s had to do with the town’s police officers. Sickening. Frightening. And unfortunately, the way our society here in the US seems to want to play it, due to the “freedom” we insist on for those who want to purchase and use assault rifles. Makes as much sense as pigs flying.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! My school didn’t have a basement. And I had half-forgotten all the places that were marked so long ago with those “civil defense shelter” signs. Seems like nearly every basement and anyplace with sturdy walls could be so designated. I think almost none of them were supplied with food or water. We imagined the danger would pass over our heads in a matter of hours or even minutes. Nuclear danger was real enough, although so far away and mostly misunderstood in those days. The nuclear danger is still with us and probably more real today and we mostly pretend to ignore it.

      Of course my intention in writing the post was to contrast childhood then and now. The experiences of your daughter who is a teacher and her students are so much more real and immediate and intense. Will all this traumatize teachers and children, or are they Learning coping mechanisms? Hopefully we will get through this somehow, as people have gotten through so many troubled times through the centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

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