To the editor:
I am sick of the political bickering that dominates current news. I read the editorial by John W. Whitehead entitled “Just say no to ‘hardening’ schools.” It is obvious Mr. Whitehead has a political agenda. He seems more angry at President Trump than concerned about our children. The very words he chose say far more about him and the shameless self promotion of his book than they say about either President Trump or protecting our children. I do not care what your politics are or what you think about Donald Trump. What counts are our children. It is sad that we can’t focus on them.
It is also obvious Whitehead is a writer. He must have written with a thesaurus in hand. He strings adjectives and inflammatory code words together like beads on a cheap bracelet. The result is a collection of buzz words designed to stir emotions and stifle serious thought, intimidating anyone who has a different idea.
Mr. Whitehead described our schools as prisons, likening students to inmates. He drew a verbal picture of hardened schools as maximum security prisons of windowless isolation cells. How does such inflammatory rhetoric contribute to a solution?
His words betray his political aims. He blames the schools, administrators and resource officers. His only solution is for parents to organize and demand schools train students to become freedom fighters.
It is heartbreaking to think that we must have heavy security in our schools. My grandchildren attend these schools. Whitehead seems to think the presences of resource officers leave students emotionally traumatized. Where did he study childhood development?
In 1977, I traveled to India. I was stranded in airports in New Delhi and Trivandrum. We were herded into waiting rooms by armed guards and forbidden to leave the room. Thankfully there was a restroom.
Coming home, we were delayed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. There were uniformed soldiers walking around in pairs, with real assault weapons. That was in the ’70s.
Later, in the ’90s while traveling in Israel, I saw school children on field trips. At Masada, a class of middle school students were accompanied by uniformed guards, armed with fully automatic weapons. In 1997, I discovered why. A class of eighth-grade girls were on a field trip to “Island of Peace.” Eight girls were shot and killed by a rogue Jordanian. King Hussein of Jordan offered his condolences and asked Israel to forgive his country. Our Palestinian guide blamed the girls. My wife and I had met those girls the night before. They were beautiful children laughing, giggling, excited about their field trip.
I saw another class at a museum in Jerusalem. The children paid no attention to the armed guards protecting them. They weren’t intimidated and weren’t huddling in fear. They ran and played like ordinary children. They occasionally gathered in circles as teachers taught them about historic artifacts. The teachers were free to teach.
We will never solve great problems by using our children as political pawns. We do not solve problems by hurling calumnies at one another in an adult game of king of the hill. And we cannot just ignore the problem of evil, assuming we would have a utopia if we just elected the right president.
Here are some questions we must discuss if we hope to solve real problems:
How should we deal with disruptive students in classrooms?
How do we address students who threaten or bully classmates or faculty?
How do we deal with the problem of drugs at our schools?
How do we discover disgruntled employees, disaffected students, or radicalized ideologies threatening violence? And how do we stop them before they act?
How do we assure they do not have access to lethal weapons, including firearms, pressure cookers and backpacks encasing bombs, rental trucks or knives? A second part of that question, is how do we bar dangerous people from guns while preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens?
Before we pass laws, let’s answer the question, “How will a new law solve a specific problem?” Passing “feel-good legislation” based on clichés can do more harm than good.
How will a new law actually make us more safe?
If we pass a new law, who will enforce it, and how?
How do we empower law enforcement to act in ways that prevent catastrophes and safeguard our cherished freedoms? No one wants to live in a police state, especially the police. But what do we expect from them? What should they expect from us?
How do we encourage and prepare parents to make children feel loved and secure at home?
How do we hold law enforcement accountable for interagency communication?
Are there occasional rotten police officers? Yes, and more than a few rotten politicians. Are there students who go off the deep end and shoot up schools? Unfortunately. Are there people who become radicalized to violence? Sadly. We know the problems, the question is how do we solve serious problems? I suggest we start by turning down the rhetoric and listen to one another. Then we can engage in positive and productive civil debate.
Dr. James Lankford