Arming teachers with firearms is not the solution to the uptick in gun violence and mass shootings. The answer may be much simpler; we need to begin addressing the root of the problem.
We can say one thing with certainty about education in America: teaching is not a high-paying job. Those who stick with education do so because they want to make a difference in the lives of their students. They want to make the world a better place.
How many teachers and students will be shot accidentally by arming gun novices? Or worse, how many angry students will impulsively steal a teacher’s gun in the heat of the moment?
Many parents and teachers have witnessed teenage meltdowns. Teenagers can resort to violent behavior when upset, causing physical harm to one another and/or threatening worse. If a gun were readily available to them, on the very person who is trying to break up the fight, it’s not far-fetched to think the number of casualties from gun violence might rise. It's like placing a plate of food in front of a screaming toddler--the food is bound to make a mess.
Arming teachers presumes that they would be emotionally capable of pulling the trigger and tactically proficient enough to shoot the culprit without causing additional casualties. Are we really going to put yet another burden on today's teachers?
So how do we prevent school shootings if not by giving teachers firearms? Arming teachers does nothing to prevent future shootings. Instead we ought to focus on addressing the root of the problem to prevent gun violence in the first place.
The underlying issue here is an inability to deal with emotions. Society is quick to blame mental illness for violent acts, but that simultaneously overly simplifies the issues surrounding mass shootings and stigmatizes mental illness.
The truth of the matter is that only 3% of violent crimes are committed by people with serious mental illness, and an even smaller percentage involves firearm violence.
So why are people so quick to blame mental illness? It’s much easier to shove the blame onto a category of people who have historically been sidelined than to deal with the fundamental issue.
People, and especially young people, need a healthy outlet for their frustration and anger. We aren’t claiming that yoga and meditation are panaceas for today’s issues, but both could give individuals the strength they need to deal with overwhelming emotions.
We need to be teaching children the art of peace--peaceful thoughts, peaceful actions, peaceful words. Peace is attained through quiet--thus the term "peace and quiet"--and our society, and our children, are bombarded with constant noise. There is always something coming at them.
Research has shown that meditation, which is simply sitting peacefully and quietly each day, improves the ability to regulate emotions and to introspect. Meditation can also increase positive emotion and decrease depression, anxiety, and stress.
If the individuals responsible for the violent acts over the years had possessed these coping mechanisms, perhaps the shootings would never have occurred. If the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida had been able to control his emotions and possessed the ability to look within himself, perhaps 17 people would still be alive today.
If nothing else, yoga and meditation won’t ever cause anyone harm. There’s no risk of a teacher shooting herself in the leg or an angry, impulsive teen grabbing for a teacher’s firearm. The only risk yoga poses is sore muscles. Meditation provides only benefits.
We believe that if school districts added yoga and meditation to the curriculum instead of arming teachers, we would create future generations who look first for a harmonius solution instead of a violent one. Teachers, in turn, would be able to teach meditation classes rather than be forced to carry firearms.
Let’s give our children the tools to handle an oftentimes chaotic world and their own poignant emotions. Instead of addressing violence with more violence, let’s focus instead on peace. We want to teach our children the ability to find tranquility in stressful situations.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Only through discussion and action can we change our world for the better.
Photos by Mary Wyar Photography.