As I write the first of my 2013 columns, my inclination is to put on my rose-colored glasses and look with optimism toward the year ahead. While I feel that I am truly a glass-half-full kind of gal, I am also a realist and not a fan of people who stick their heads in the sand and pretend things are OK when they are not. Teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff and still reeling in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it will take more than the turn of a calendar page to a new year to fix what is ailing our country.
The day following the shooting at Sandy Hook, I sat at Indiana University’s Winter Commencement in Bloomington and watched as my oldest child received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Of course, I was very proud of her and relieved that I got to put a huge check mark on my proverbial parent checklist. Get the kids through college: one down, two to go. But sitting here, I couldn’t help but think about the profession she was entering and how it once was considered one of the safest there was. Today, not so much. Teaching doesn’t make the “most dangerous professions” list, but the random, senseless nature of school shootings has changed the way many people think about educators. It is no longer the job it used to be.
While the national reaction to the shooting has not surprised me – we should be overwhelmed, enraged and appalled by this senseless crime – I am curious as to why this particular shooting seems to have been our tipping point. Is it the fact that small children were murdered at Sandy Hook? Probably. In his address to the nation, President Barack Obama paraphrased a quote by Elizabeth Stone, “… the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to forever decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” This event seems to have captured our national heart and had an impact on its rhythm. That little school in Connecticut appeared to be one of the most All-American places on the map. If it could happen there, could it happen at our children’s or grandchildren’s schools? Apparently, today, there is little we can do to stop it.
It is too early to gauge whether substantive change will occur that will better protect our schools and other public places, but the conversation has started. If anything positive can come from such a horrendous act, maybe this could be it.
My hope for 2013 is that the experts and policy-makers in the areas of mental health, public safety, gun control and other pertinent areas will put down their own agendas and come together to look for workable solutions and effect realistic change. With all due respect to those who advocate for putting armed security at the entrances of every school in America as the answer, a quick count of the number of schools in our country multiplied by the number of entrances in each tells me that may not be the most realistic approach. And as anyone familiar with a typical school day can attest, students often venture outside for educational purposes or to change classes. Stopping the bad guys at the schoolhouse doors is clearly a priority, but it is not enough. We need to address the root problems, not only the symptoms.
In 2013, we will continue to report on the issues that initiate conversation in our state and, hopefully, those conversations will lead to positive results.
Happy New Year, IL readers!•