There we were, surrounded by 4- and 5-year-olds, waiting for the “Count to 100” get moving video to load on the big screen in front of the class, when one of the Pre-K teachers said in a whisper the children couldn’t hear, “They’ve had another school shooting. This one’s in Texas. Only eight are dead – so far.”
We – that’s me (the aide) and the other teacher – didn’t reply, but joined in with the step-to-the-left and pump-our-arms movement of the chant by then playing for the education and delight of our 26 young charges.
What is there to say?
Saturday morning I read the list of the 10 victims’ names, and the paragraph or so about each, on MSN’s link on the Internet. My broken and already heavy heart hurt a little more with each name and description. But if the uniquely U.S. tradition of mass shootings have taught me anything, there’s nothing we as a state or nation are ready and willing to do to stop the killings.
We have a process in place. Big news frenzy. Vow, each one of us, to pray for the victims and their families. Argue about gun laws or the lack of. Let the shock fade and continue on with life as we know it, each side thinking the other is clueless. Oh and hoping against hope that the next tragedy will be no closer to us than the last.
See, that’s why I hadn’t said anything. It’s because I’m thinking such bitter, frustrated, thoughts.
My friend, Facebook-bantering bud and fellow Sanderson High School alumnus, Rick Marquez, posed the question on social media, “Ok. Let’s say all guns are outlawed and we still have school shootings? Then what?”
One of the commenters replied, “We need to outlaw killing.”
Can’t deny the truth or logic of those posts, I suppose. The mass killings at the Boston Marathon, Oklahoma federal building and 9/11 were all gun-free incidents. Obviously stricter gun laws aren’t the full or only solution.
During lunch-time/conference period chats among personnel at our school after the school shooting in Florida, we rolled eyes and shook our heads over the idea that teachers should perhaps be armed. For one thing, we work in a district where teachers aren’t allowed access to the thermostats in their classrooms. Doubtful we’d be trusted with guns. I, for one, have trouble remembering to bring my ice water and cell phone to school. I’d never remember to bring an appropriate weapon.
OK, try to follow along. In San Angelo, earlier this month, the school district called for a bond election. There was record low voter turnout, and the bond, which would have raised property taxes about $6 per $100 valuation, failed by two votes. Leading up to the election, there was heavy campaigning against the bond, fueled by lots of false information and big dollars of Empower Texas affiliates.
That bond would have installed state-of-the-art security doors, gates, fences and alarms on every San Angelo public school campus. Public safety is too expensive, two too many voters believed.
I’m trying to process all these random thoughts. I suppose it’s a ludicrous idea to have, and enforce, effective gun laws. Is it possible, I wonder, to talk about things civilly? Leave the whole gun ownership and laws off the table? Let’s don’t talk about guns, but instead discuss people, problems, a better society, and an improved culture.
I’ve shared in other columns my growing passion and support for public education, and on that path, several months ago I joined a group on Facebook, founded by educators (on their own time), “Texans for Public Education (texans4publiced @texans4e).” The group organized to block vote for public education friendly legislators and against those who are not, particularly those like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who are controlled financially by Empower Texas and affiliated groups.
There is a grand theory, shared by TfPE founders that a solution to the issues or problems presently being skirted around and diverted from, lies in a public education system with effective curriculums that address life after high school – college and career; safe – not falling apart – facilities; up-to-date textbooks and an environment that allows all children to grow and explore.
The success and failure of the system, and of any or every student should not be tied to a ridiculous and expensive test.
Let the discussion begin with how to create a better environment for our children.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at email@example.com.