The Shooting in Uvalde

Guns have always scared me. I’ll be up front about that.

My uncle was a police officer and he brought his gun to our house when he visited once. My aunt demanded he take it off. He put it on the floor of our living room, leaning up against the wall, and I went around the long way that whole day. I’d heard stories about guns going off spontaneously and, well, yeah.

Even with that, though, I don’t believe in taking guns from everyone everywhere. I mean, subsistence hunting is a thing. There’s wildlife population management hunting, where the natural predators aren’t able to keep up with prey populations and so the government allows hunting of the prey population to bring the numbers down. This makes the overall population of the prey healthier. I can see where that’s a good thing, too.

There’s target and skeet shooting, which are, like, actual sports. That’s a good thing, too, I guess.

But this proliferation of guns has got to stop. Even if the founders intended to let anyone buy any weapons they wanted whenever they wanted, they didn’t have anything like the kinds of guns we have now. They probably couldn’t even conceive of that kind of firepower.

It’s like that meme where someone asks the founders how congress will scale up, like what about when there’s 40 million people in California and the founder says, “How many people in where?” Found it!

I doubt that any of them could see just how huge and powerful and **dangerous** their little original 13 colonies would grow to be.

Having a rifleshotgun (rifles hadn’t been invented yet — that’s how far back we’re going here!) was probably just a fact of life for a lot of people (researching that in another window right now)* and the founders wanted, depending on which version of history you subscribe to, to either allow people to defend themselves from the English government or from slave uprisings. And it’s not impossible that they wanted both. And so, the “well regulated militia.”

But this is just a nightmare. I’ve heard the word “unfathomable” used by two different talking heads between yesterday and today, and I’m just listening from the other room. Oh. My. God. Do you even listen to yourself? Columbine was unfathomable. By Sandy Hook, it was just business as usual.

I just realized yesterday that one of my dreams of what to do with all of these guns was probably inspired by The Wheel of Time. Among the Aiel, when a Maiden of the Spear becomes a Wise One, her spears are melted down and made into things that aren’t weapons — toys, tools, etc.

And that’s what I want to see. Every gun used in a crime, however obtained, should be melted down and turned into something useful — rebar, maybe. Even if the criminal is never caught or is found not guilty, the gun is forfeit.

And even though the standard talk is that shooters in these situations aren’t mentally ill, maybe we should come up with a new mental illness, or an Axis II disorder (that’s where things like narcissism fit in). Or maybe it fits on Axis IV with psychosocial influences.

Mass shooters tend to have four things in common: Childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, examples that validate that grievance, and access to firearms. It seems that if we beefed up mental health care in this country, maybe, just maybe, we’d catch some of these people before they go off.

As someone with a degree in education, I hesitate to put this on teachers. My educational psychology teacher gave us an introduction to something called “affective education,” which is where the students are educated on emotions, what they are, how to identify what you’re feeling, how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way, and so on.

I certainly wouldn’t stick that on the classroom teacher unless we can relieve them of some of this testing bullshit, but having the school counselor run a mandatory affective education program might be something we could do.

I wonder if we could extend the school day to coincide with the traditional 9-5 work day and the classroom teacher could have an hour of grading/planning time during the day when a counselor would do the affective education thing. Would that help these traumatized people learn to deal more effectively with their trauma and grievances and prevent mass shootings?

Hmm. . . .

*“Approximately 50-79% of itemized male inventories contained guns in all eight databases we discuss here . . . Guns are found in 6-38% of the female estates in each of the first four databases.”

On Education (Part 2)

I went to a San Antonio Rampage hockey game once and they gave an award to a teacher and described her as helping to educate the workers of tomorrow. But we aren’t just educating workers in our schools. We’re educating citizens. With the exception of some international students whose family will leave the country before the kids can achieve citizenship, every child in those classrooms are future voters.

In my previous post, I defended general education requirements on the college level by saying that they can help broaden the horizons of kids. The friend who posted the meme said that high school should be the place for learning broader subjects and college should be for specialization.

The issue with this is that underage residents of the United States are too much at the mercy of the adults in their lives.

The way our schools are funded is through local property taxes. This means that the more expensive the homes are in the area near the school, the more money those schools get, and thus the better quality of equipment, the better extracurricular activities are available, the more courses can be held in each subject matter, and the more the teachers and administrators get paid.

So now we have at least two different educational system, educational systems for the kids from wealthy areas and educational systems for kids from poorer areas. Now, let’s add to that the stresses on the kids in the poorer areas.

People who are poor, at least in the United States, generally have no, or little, savings cushion. Because of their low income they often are charged more for, say, a car loan than a wealthier person. Frequently they end up in high-crime areas as well.

Poor parents are generally working harder, more stressful jobs and thus are not present for their kids in the way that wealthy parents can be and, additionally, even when the wealthy parents can’t be there, they’ll have an easier time finding people to take care of their kids (nannies, babysitters, etc.). Wealthier families can also afford more activities for their kids, some, if not most, of which will also include personal attention from an adult.

It is stressful to be poor. I’m not an economist. I don’t even play one on TV. One of the studies I read back in the day (I cannot find it right now), says that “bad” stress is the result of how much control you have over your life.

These harder, more stressful jobs are harder because have that bad, less-control-over-your-life stress. I mean, jobs that pay well can be stressful, too, but they also can be, say, done from home, or the stress takes the form of sitting in meetings rather than working, or the workers can keep their own schedules. If something comes up that keeps them from coming in until noon, they can stay later to get their work done. Or if they know that they’ll need to be somewhere in the afternoon, they can come in earlier.

Do you think that the licensed practical nurse who comes in to take your temperature when you’re in the hospital can do that? Or the person who brings your groceries out to your car at the supermarket? Or the person who empties the garbage cans in your local park?

And this stress communicates itself to the kids, both psychologically and physically. PTSD can be transmitted epigenetically. I cannot help but think that this may also account for at least part of generational poverty.

Then there’s child hunger in the United States. For a non-zero number of kids in the United States, the “free school meals” are the only food they’ll have on that day. And even the poor kids who get three meals frequently get at least one meal of fast food because their folks are too tired from cutting hair or driving school buses, or cleaning floors all day to cook. So they stop for McDonald’s or KFC or whatever instead.

I wonder how many words I’m up to now, because I hesitate to get into the scourge on our land that is known as achievement testing. For my lifetime at least, achievement testing has been the law of the land. As a result, teaching to the test has always been a problem. Teachers are so busy trying to make sure that their students pass their achievement tests that really allowing kids to flourish, both academically and psychologically, gets lost in the shuffle.

Where is the space for deep dives into the “why” when the state is breathing down your back regarding your achievement tests? Or, worse, the college boards?

You know who can get that? The kids in advanced placement classes (those are college-level courses given in high school), but I don’t want only kids who qualify for AP classes to know this information. I want every kid to know it.

But that would require us to completely restructure how education works in our country. We’d need to get rid of separate education systems for the rich and the poor. We’d need to strengthen our social safety net so that everyone can have a financial buffer. We’d need to make sure that every child gets at least three healthy meals a day so that no child is stuffing themselves with empty calories just in an effort to keep going. We’d need to accept that the jobs that became known as “essential workers” are just that — essential — and give those workers their due in both pay and respect. We’d need to retrain our police officers to accept that when they say “Protect” on the side of their police cars, it means everyone regardless of how much money they have or where they live.*

Do you think that’ll happen anytime soon in the US? For all of the “COVID was a big wake up call to how important grocery store stockers were” we heard, it sure seems that this is all talk and no action. And that’s just one of the things that would have to happen before American students could get the quality of education that they deserve.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time: I got distracted by the Giveaways at Goodreads. Okay. Now back to 2019. Oop. 2020. This is when I joined the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club, and today’s book is the first book we read for the club, Follow Me to Ground, by Sue Rainsford. Follow Me to Ground is . . . odd. Fascinating, wonderfully written, but odd. Apparently it’s magical realism, but it wasn’t that realistic from my perspective. It felt more like some kind of post-apocalyptic setting to me. Ada is not human. She was created by her “father” when he put branches and sticks into the “Ground” that is outside their house. The Ground is, like, quicksand, and Ada and her father stick the local villagers, whom they refer to as “Cures” in that ground when they are ill, and their illness will be healed when they emerge from the ground. All has apparently been fine in their lives until Ada falls in love with a “Cure” named Samson.

This is definitely not a book I would have chosen for myself, but I’m glad I read it.

*Oh, I have a whole thing about the police. Maybe I’ll go into it later.

On Education (Part 1?)

A while ago, one of my friends posted this meme about how college in the United States is too expensive to waste time with general education requirements. And I do agree that tuition and fees in the United States are highway robbery. Too many students taking out too much in loans and then not being able to find jobs that will help them make those payments is a sin. And it’s not the 18-year-olds who are being told by adults that this is a good way to do things who are the sinners.

My bachelor’s degree is in education, and, as a result, I have thoughts about this meme.

First of all, eighteen is very, very young. Yeah, an eighteen-year-old is legally an adult for most purposes, but in many ways, an eighteen-year-old is kind of a child, really. I mean there are some who are going to school and working full-time and all, but less than half of all teenagers even have jobs, much less are helping to financially support their families.

So many eighteen-year-olds haven’t seen anything of life. People change careers so often, and I suspect that at least some of that may be because we are expected to choose a direction for our life when we’re between the ages of 16 and 20 (16 for those who go through high school career programs and 20 for those who start out undeclared in college and make a decision going into their junior years in the current system). If we took out those two years of general education requirements, we’d be expecting everyone to choose a path when they’re between 16 and 18. Eeek!

Most high schools have way less in the way of educational programs and facilities and such than most colleges and universities. Having those two years can help a kid fine tune their decisions even when they know which direction they want to go. And for those who don’t know, it’ll open up a whole new world of options, including fields they may not have even known existed.

I’m going to end with a small anecdote about my own life. I was a C student in math for most of my life. Part of it was probably that my mom didn’t emphasize math and my preschool didn’t stress number or math skills. Part of it was definitely that I was nearsighted from a very young age and it’s very hard to do well in math when you can’t see the board. Since math is one of those things where one skill balances on top of another, getting off to that bad a start meant that I just kept doing badly. I took a placement test for math in junior college and I needed remedial algebra and so I did it. I retook the same math class I got a C in my freshman year of high school, only this time it made sense. I got an A. I retook the intermediate algebra class that I took my junior year, and this made sense as well and I got another A. So I took college algebra and wouldn’t you know? I got an A there, as well. If my college experience had only been glorified trade school, I would probably still have no confidence in my ability to do math. And that would have kept me from going for the pharmacy technician job. So general education courses really did broaden my horizons.

Where did I leave off on my Gratuitous Amazon Link? Holes? Yeah, why not? I really enjoyed Holes. I heard great things about it, but somehow just never got around to it. And I’m really sorry that it took me so long to get around to it.