Arne Duncan, former education secretary under Obama, has called for parents to boycott schools until gun laws are put in place to “protect” students. It might seem like a good idea to some. In reality, it is another example of what’s wrong with the entire picture.
The real problem with this idea of a “solution” is how it makes obvious that people, particularly those with power to influence, don’t understand education, their own privilege, nor the underlying complexity of issues related to gun violence.
It’s not a solution at all. It’s a flagrant dismissal, a sweeping gesture that allows the perspective that this is how we solve the problem, that somehow it is a simple issue to solve if parents would just step to the plate.
It enrages me. In my opinion, it should enrage you as well.
Let me show you why.
It’s a glaring classist statement.
Education has its own myriad of disparities. From opportunity and achievement gaps to poor funding models and back-handed support of teachers, education is riddled with its own issues. Calling for parents to boycott school ignores these disparities. It is spoken from implicit bias, from a place of blind privilege.
To think that somehow all parents could suddenly manage their lives and the lives of their children by pulling them out of school is ridiculous! For too many families, public education is the child care that allows parents to work. If those students stay home, parents and guardians have to choose between not going to work or leaving them home alone.
They can’t afford the astronomical costs of childcare, particularly if there are multiple children in the home under the age of 12 years. Even then, 12-year-olds left unattended for 6, 8, or 10 hours? What could possibly go wrong?
What Arne is calling for is an economical hardship on families, many of whom are already struggling to survive. To think that all parents and guardians can suddenly absorb the reality of not sending students to school is a statement that could only be made out of the implicit bias of privilege.
Additionally, now those parents who can’t, don’t, or won’t are set up as the scapegoats of why this simple solution isn’t working. Great. Blame the victim.
Oh, which leads us to another problem.
We’ve handled school violence wrong from the beginning.
I remember back to the shooting at Columbine, the atrocity that brought school violence into the spot light of white suburbia. (Prior to that, it had only been an issue in inner city, poor schools; the shadows that could be ignored and where it was virtually expected.)
When it happened, it was immediately normalized.
The questions that were asked (like, How could such normal looking kids do this?), the steps that were taken (like metal detectors in schools) all pointed at the students and said, “Any one of you could be capable of this” instead of “Oh my goodness, what an abnormal tragedy. We (the adults) need to protect our students from such things.”
There were no new laws that required mental health counselors in every school; no requirements for staff to learn how to best eliminate bullying and targeting; no highly supported research that sought to identify and correlate problem to solution. Nothing.
All the reactions focused on what had happened. Few asked the questions of how to best ensure it was an isolated incident.
School violence isn’t going to be solved by changing gun laws.
The issue is far too complex for it to simply be solved by boycotting schools and changing laws. The individuals who find themselves considering shooting up schools as a viable answer to any problem aren’t interested in doing things legally. Additionally, illegal weapons are bought, sold, lost, found, and traded as easily as any other contraband including slaves, drugs, exotic animal parts, and porn. One more series of laws and the time and money required for them to be implemented and enforced is a poor choice of investment.
School violence won’t be solved until people come together to begin to explore and understand the core issues that cause it, and that’s no easy feat. It’s a tangled mess of mental health, disparities, rising social norms, sinking social norms, economics, politics, and oppression – to name a few.
My bottom line opinion is that it is arrogant of anyone to say that boycotting schools is a viable option to make change in school shootings. It’s ludicrous to consider gun laws as the answer that will lead to peace in schools and society.
It’s time to invest in real solutions. That requires real people doing real work with real money; daring to make an investment to get to the core and begin piecing together solutions.
Who will that be? Arne Duncan? You?
I look forward to hearing from you!
Leah Kyaio, CEO
Extraordinary Trainings of
With Respect, LLC