The media on the Sandy Hook tragedy won’t stop, but adults continue to do more speaking than listening. What are the kids doing?
1. Kids are asking questions.
Yes, everyone is sad. You could have heard a pin drop during our moment of silence at precisely 9:30 on Friday morning, one week after the tragedy in Newtown. But more than anything else, my students have been thoughtful, even wise beyond their years. They asked me:
- What was wrong with the shooter, and is it treatable?
- Do you think that all those video games where people pretend to shoot other people could be the cause?
- What security measures were missing at Sandy Hook? What other precautions could schools take to prevent this sort of thing?
I wish I had all of the answers. We discussed mental illness, parenting, gun control, security, and health care. We asked more questions. Everyone keeps coming back to guns. Should we have less of them? Or more?
2. Kids are problem solving.
In class, student after student raised a hand to suggest solutions. Some students might feel safer if our school had an armed security officer. An official from the NRA (National Rifle Association) was quoted in the New York Times yesterday saying that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I’ve heard students in my classes suggesting similar things, debating whether or not a school receptionist could be trusted and where the gun would be locked up.
Other students would feel safer if they never saw a gun anywhere near school property. They want to keep guns out of schools by improving gun control laws.
3. Kids are choosing action.
The most common actions being taken are those of support. Students are making cards, raising money, wearing green and white in honor of Sandy Hook’s school colors, and making origami cranes. We got folding right away when we got connected with a teacher in CT who is organizing a memorial to display 26,000 cranes, one thousand for each of the victims. If you are reading this post and want to help make origami cranes, please get in touch.
Students are also beginning to take action to change policy. My Global Leadership Club filmed the following message to President Obama:
4. Kids are observing.
As we move into a new year (2013!) soon, the young people of America are noticing. Something isn’t right in our country. In many ways, the United States leads others nations, but we also have some big problems to solve.
As a Social Studies teacher, I can’t help but encourage all of us to look to our neighbors around the world as we work towards change in the United States. Other countries like Australia, Finland, and Scotland have experienced similar tragedies to Sandy Hook, and as a result, they’ve tightened their gun laws and found successful results.
In the United States, our Constitution says that all citizens have the “right to bear arms” but each state gets to set the exact requirements. Many industrialized countries make it much harder for regular citizens to get guns, and some foreigners look at the U.S. with puzzlement. Here are some examples of requirements for citizens to get a gun license in other countries (from the Huffington Post):
- Need a background check (Russia)
- Need to pass a psychological exam (Germany)
- Need to pass a shooting range class (Japan)
- Must take a safety course and be certified by a firearms officer before getting a gun license (Canada)
- Must be age 25 to even apply for a gun license (Brazil)
- Can only use for sport, but not for self-defense (United Kingdom)
- Must renew the gun license every 2 years (Mexico)
- If caught selling weapons illegally, penalties range from 3 years in jail to the death penalty (China)
Is there anything we can learn from the models that other nations have created?
5. Kids are moving on.
Believe it or not, students are probably better than the adults in their lives at moving on. Everybody takes different amounts of time to heal, and that’s ok. This week at school was filled with projects and giggles and all the typical middle school drama one might expect. We had our share of Santa hats and joyful squeals as excitement for winter vacation and Christmas filled the air.
Adults – let’s follow the model of our kids: Ask questions. Problem solve. Choose action. Observe others. And move on. I can only believe that the world will be a better and safer place if we can do these things.
Note: And it’s vacation week! Time to relax. The next post will be on a much happier topic, and will likely come soon! Happy holidays to those who are celebrating.