The debate over arming school teachers relies more on speculation than fact: If I mistake a lacrosse stick for an AK-47 and take out our star player, am I facing Murder One or just Manslaughter? I’m a pacifist. Does this mean I can’t be a teacher? Do I qualify for danger pay?
I teach at an armed school. My colleagues and I carry a weapon in class. Our experience is real and instructive. Here are some facts:
Higher Attendance Rates: We know where our students live, and we’re not kidding when we say, See you in class tomorrow.
More Satisfying Cafeteria Food: We eat there too, we don’t like this broccoli and skim milk nonsense any better than the kids do, and we’ve made our views known. Fries and milk-shakes are back!
100% Homework Completion: James, I don’t see your algebra assignment on my desk. Could you see me after school, takes on a whole different meaning.
Improved Communication Skills: The word like has vanished from student-speak. The kids understand how much we hate it. (It doesn’t hurt that a teacher in Syracuse fired a warning shot into the ceiling after a student used the offending word 27 times in an oral book report.)
Neater Student Dress: The students know our concern that loose-fitting clothes like hoodies or baggy pants could hide unacceptable devices. They’ve adjusted quickly. No one wants a misunderstanding when it’s just a case of a kid fumbling for a pencil.
More Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences: Parents know we’re armed, but we don’t know whether they are. Interestingly, the tension, rather than creating a barrier, underlines how serious the failure to constructively resolve issues could be. It’s the Cold War on a human scale.
More Active Participation in Student Council: In most schools, Student Council is a joke. But our students respond positively when we identify potential officers (they’ve done the math — leaders are statistically much less likely to get shot than slackers).
A Physically Safer School Building: An unanticipated result of the structural work we did, bullet-proofing all walls (it’s one thing to shoot a student in your own class, and quite another to take down an innocent in the adjoining classroom). Our school is not only bullet-proof, but earthquake- and tornado-proof.
Improved Geometry Grades: Nothing stimulates student interest better than real-world examples. Notice how the angle of ricochet off the wall exactly equals the angle at which the bullet hit the wall.
Improved Biology Grades: This is another unanticipated result. Recess monitoring can be incredibly boring. Teachers welcome the chance for diversion, popping squirrels on our spacious grounds, and are happy to donate them to Ms. Specter. Dissection lessons with real-world specimens like these are much more interesting than pickled frogs.
Higher Graduation Rates: This is not just a result of better attendance, tighter discipline, and improved grades. Before we carried weapons, student deaths, mostly gang-related, had been the primary factor in our low graduation rate. Now, the rustlers know there’s a whole crew of Wyatt Earps in town, and they’re scared straight. It’s true that there have been some classroom deaths, almost all accidental, but the net survival rate is positive and justifies our policy.
Educating our children is never easy. Guns, alone, are not a magic solution. However, like spelling bees or Silas Marner, handled in moderation they can be part of a well-balanced education.