Reading the coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting there was one story that stood out in my mind. CNNs interview with First-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig who recounts how she took all her student into the bathroom while they waited for police to arrive. She recounts, "[i]f they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, 'It's going to be OK.' I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall." (1)
Here, in the time when most appropriate to be afraid, when no one would blame her for fear, she focused on getting through and keeping herself and her students calm. To me, this is such a huge part of the true heroism. It is not just in what they did, it is in thinking at all times what is needed to help the students get through the situation.
I am sure part of why this, like so many other things teachers do every day, stands out to me is because I never got to experience it. I was home schooled K-12, and public schools were always the enemy, the bad place. Whatever the intent of the HSLDA (Home Schooling Legal Defense Association) and other homeschooling groups that we were connected with, the impression left was very clear. Public schools were something to be afraid of working to tear children away from God; Child Protective Services existed solely for the purpose of taking kids out of Christian families so they could be raised by the heathen government; and the government was constantly trying to take kids away from homeschooling families. Life, and especially the government or anyone from outside was to be feared, something that you needed to protect yourself from.
Leading up to the Senate vote on the U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (end of November beginning of December) I was struck by the angle of attack of HSLDA against the CRPD. This included statements that he CRPD was going to require the government to pay for abortions (whatever that has to do with homeschooling?) and that the U.N. was trying to take the right of homeschooling disabled children away. “The question is, who should make critical decisions regarding the care and raising of children who have disabilities? Their parents or United Nations social workers?” said J. Michael Smith, president of HSLDA. (2) It wasn’t about logic, it wasn’t about specific provisions of the Convention, it was about creating fear of the most out there thing they could claim about it. It was about making parents afraid enough that they would swamp the Senate with calls against it, and it worked. I know it worked, I know how much it worked on me, how much I believed their fear mongering.
Maybe it worked for someone else to. Maybe that is why just over a week later a disabled (3) home school graduate (4) walked into an elementary school and murdered twenty-six people. I don’t know, and we probably never will. But I do know that a culture of fear is part of the problem, and until we address our addiction to fear (and the fact that it is an acceptable, and one of our most popular, political tools) no amount of gun control or amount of guns will make any of us feel safe.
Wherever we go, whatever choices we make, we need to make them for reason and not just out of fear. Maybe if we can do that we can start working toward making sure this never happens again.