Connecticut shooting about gun reform, not education reform

I’ve remained silent watching the news about the funerals for the victims—especially the children—of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  I watched two parents on CNN last night talk about the loss of their daughter.  The little girl wanted a pony and, for Christmas, the parents bought little cowboy boots the little girl never saw, never wore.  I watched without writing a word.   All I could think was, “If my daughter died like that, I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”  Perhaps, however, for those parents, telling the world about their daughter’s happy wishes is how their little girl will live on.

On Twitter, I passed along the articles, the commentaries forcing the conversation for gun reform.  For me, shootings are a close memory.  About ten years ago, I was shot at driving home near my old house on 26th Street.

From a separate incident, my brother has the scar in his shoulder from a bullet.  Next to that scar is a tattoo with the name of his friend who died from another bullet that night.

Many times in my old neighborhood around 26th Street, I awoke from gunshots on Saturdays at 3:00 a.m.  Even near my new home a little more south and a little more west in Chicago, occasionally, I hear a gun.

I thought I would remain silent about the Connecticut shooting until I saw how people were insensitively twisting the tragedy away from the horror of so many innocent deaths, the bravery of  teachers and staff who died saving children, the trauma a town—a country—will suffer
because one unstable man had access to unnecessary firearms.  Instead, I saw one blog post encouraging everyone to hug a teacher because “we would all take a bullet for your kids.”

Although sentimental, I really don’t want students or parents hugging me, praising me for something I have not and—I pray—will never have to do.  What’s a teacher supposed to respond after that hug?

“You’re welcome?”

The logic, or lack thereof, that pushed me to write something about the Sandy Hook shooting is that Diane Ravitch, a renowned educational expert and President Bush's former assistant Secretary of Education, turned a post meant to celebrate teacher heroes into one reminding us those teachers “belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that ‘reformers’ (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores.”

Ravitch inserted an attack against Connecticut’s Governor Malloy for saying “that teachers get tenure just for showing up.”

Ravitch finished by saying that “Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.”

So Ravitch’s logic here is this:

A heavily armed gunman forces himself into a school


The principal and a psychologist are killed trying to stop that heavily armed gunman


Brave teachers are killed protecting their students


Twenty innocent children are killed


Newton, Connecticut doesn’t need another charter school


The real issue is the need for legislation to ban assault weapons like ones with the “Rambo effect” used by the gunman last Friday.  Our country also needs to increase mental health services in schools, in cities—that’s what this education expert should have promoted with her power.

Instead, we see Ravitch—someone with a national platform—using this tragic opportunity to fight against the anti-union, pro-charter movement she personally disagrees with.  This is beyond politicizing the event.  This is just illogical.  It’s a teachable moment for all of us in education.

The tragedy of the Connecticut families and other families who’ve faced massacres do not compare to the gun violence I faced first hand.  But my experiences with gun violence are strong enough to say that the conversation after the Connecticut massacre needs to be about preventing others, not about hugging people who are associated with this tragedy by profession.

Good teachers and good administrators wage strong fights to create safe learning environments every day.  Cheering against education reformers who want to set up a charter school—instead of the National Rifle Association and legislators who promote unnecessary gun ownership—will not protect our schools from future tragedies.

We need to make the Connecticut shooting the last teachable moment for gun reform.

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