As both a former high school history teacher and a gun owner, I’d been trying to decide how the Parkland school tragedy last month might be transformed into a "teachable moment."
School is actually one of the best places to have a civil dialogue about difficult topics like guns and school violence, even with a class split between radically different positions. It would start with real textual analysis of what the Second Amendment meant to the founders and examine what it means in today's more complex world. And ideally, no one would be intimidated.
Through Socratic dialogue, we would consider how students would want to be protected. Possibilities might include armed teachers or armed guards patrolling the halls. Discussion might include reasons why the United States ranks near the world's top in a ranking of gun ownership and gun deaths – and why the Government refuses to treat gun violence as a public health problem when there are as many deaths each year from guns as from automobiles.
But then my retired-teacher speculation was overtaken by events.
On the one-month anniversary of Parkland, there were student walk outs around the country, including one in Burlington, where I live. Burlington High School senior Allie Brown describes how she and several others “first talked to [the] administration, and got their support.” Then they lined up speakers, found a sound system, and hung up signs. More than 400 students participated, and Allie says she’s proud of her school and fellow students for “coming out and demanding action.”
The massive “March for Our Lives” in Washington D.C. and 800 other cities came next - an event that reminded me strongly of the “March for Freedom and Jobs” in 1963.
Simran Padgett, another BHS student, participated in that march, which she describes as a “monumental event,” both powerful and moving, in which people were “crying, laughing and smiling.” She says she was amazed that students her age and younger are changing history in this country, and inspiring youth everywhere to stand up for issues they’re passionate about.
She quotes the words of Yolanda Renee King, who said, “We are going to be a great generation!”
Now, if only the rest of us can follow!