Like most people in this country, I have spent the past few days thinking an awful lot about the Newtown school shooting- it’s impossible not to, given how it is constantly on the news and on the internet. First and foremost, I think about how I cannot even begin to understand how awful and horrendous and life-changing this is for the families of the victims. I think about how I have a brother who is also 6 years old and in first grade. And I also think about what happened through the lens of education, which is the purpose for my post.
In GST 201, (and a little bit this semester in our education thesis group) we talked a lot about the flaws of the current education system. We criticized the idea of education being locked up- the underlying belief that learning occurs in a specific building, at a specific time of the day, and only certain people are allowed to be there. But after an atrocious massacre of six and seven year olds happens in an elementary school, how can we possibly criticize this? How can we blame them for literally locking schools up and keeping people out? School security all across the country already has and will continue to be strengthened, increasing the disconnection between the school and the larger society. Through my “education” lens, I see this as something that will push us further away from the kind of education we have been discussing- based in experience, equality, integration, and creativity- but something that now seems so necessary after what happened at Sandy Hook.
I think this also shows how no one or nothing- schools in particular- can be separated or disconnected from society as a whole. As hard as we try to shelter students, to “lock them up” during the hours of the school day, to keep other people out, they, and therefore education, are still clearly part of the bigger picture. This happened in a “safe” suburban town, in an ELEMENTARY school, a place where children are required by law to go, that had safety measures in place, and yet innocent, vulnerable children came face to face with the evil that exists in our world. This obviously doesn’t happen in most elementary schools, but it DID happen, and now so many children know that it CAN happen. How successful can education be (regardless of how much we may disagree with their definition of education), if there is an aspect of fear involved? How can we ever hope to change the way we think about and practice “education” when we live in a world that is capable of such horror?