Elise Patkotak: Teachers have enough to bear without firearms

By ELISE PATKOTAKJanuary 22, 2013 

So let me see if I have this straight. Over the past couple of years there has been a sustained hue and cry from fiscal conservatives and Tea Party aficionados about how teachers are overpaid, their jobs are overprotected, their benefits are over the top and their performance doesn't warrant any of the above. Yet we would now like this same group of apparently very dysfunctional people to not only be teachers, social workers, nutritionists, counselors, tutors and recess monitors, but also sharpshooters so as to kill - or reasonably maim - anyone showing up in their school with the intent of murder and mayhem.

Whew. Given how cushy their jobs have been so far, I'm glad to see we are only asking them to reasonably accommodate the need to protect the children they are teaching from being slaughtered.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the majority of teachers did not go into the profession with the intent of becoming sharpshooters. In fact, many teachers - like many in the general population - would be hard pressed to take a life with a gun. To do this while in a classroom full of frightened and probably screaming children during what I can only guess would be a scene of chaos is a near impossibility for anyone not trained in combat arms.

Add to that the fact that the shooters in most recent school tragedies have come dressed for war in body armor that no handgun and most rifle bullets would not be able to pierce, and one has to wonder who these people are who think that arming teachers is a reasonable solution to school shootings. I suppose we could provide all teachers with full body armor and assault rifles. And we could make the ability to shoot to kill a person advancing on them with a semi-automatic a prerequisite to entering the profession. But I have to guess that when we've reached that point, the actual skills needed to be a successful educator would have fallen by the wayside. The skills needed for Special Forces would take the forefront.

Don't we have to ask how much we can actually expect a teacher to do? And shouldn't education be the first thing listed? We expect that teachers will convince our children to eat the healthy snacks they won't touch at home.We expect them to notice the subtle bruising on a child that might warrant social services intervention. We want them to get all our kids into Ivy League schools but not if it means giving homework we have to force them to do. We want teachers to spend their summers getting the credits needed to stay current with their certification and be able to handle the newest material in their field. And in their spare time we want them available when we call to discuss our child's progress while they fill out enough government forms to sink a ship.

Truth be told, I think most of us wouldn't last one semester as a teacher outside of perhaps a college setting. I don't think I'd last a week before I'd run screaming into the night at the thought of all the expectations society and families had placed on me. Yet somehow, somewhere, there are apparently people who see absolutely nothing ludicrous about adding to this smorgasbord of expectations and responsibilities the skills needed to take on a fully armed gunman intent on committing an unspeakable act of horror.

Any discussion of gun control traditionally breaks down into people on either extreme screaming across the divide and ensuring that no reasonable discussion can ever be held. It's hard for the middle to be heard. But in the middle is probably the answer. People in the middle are aware of the 2nd Amendment but also believe reasonable regulations will not gut it. But reasonableness has never been a part of the discussion of gun control in America. And that's sad because it precludes any rational solutions being actually put on the table and examined.

Arming teachers is not the answer unless we recruit all our teachers from retired military or police. Arming teachers while trying to break their unions, deny their benefits and calling them names is simply ludicrous. Do you really want to hand them a loaded gun after doing that?

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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