The events of Friday, August 13, at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque horrify all of us. Here is a report by the NY post. Our prayers go out to the family of the deceased; to lose a child in such a senseless way must be an indescribable, living nightmare.
Ever since the Columbine shooting in Littleton, Colorado, there has been debate about how to prevent school shootings. As wonderful as it would be, we can never eradicate evil actions. The violence perpetrated on children by children justifiably looms large collectively and prompts calls to prevent such atrocities. What causes young people to commit violence against peers? I used to joke with colleagues how the public school system resembles jail. For many students, this is an apt comparison.
Just like so many others, I used to feel trapped in middle and high school. Many nights I would lie awake, fearing what might happen in the upcoming, inescapable school day. I might be socially harassed, physically assaulted, or personally embarrassed once again. Some kids deal with harassment splendidly. Some do not. While improving the current public school system is everyone’s concern, some kids are simply not well-served in the type of environment that public schools provide. Regimented schedules are necessary for control as there can only be one adult for many children. In recess and other times, this “Lord of the Flies” environment is amplified. From these artificial social environments, terribly detrimental interactions can arise. In my immediate family alone we have seen bullying, physical assault, and even pistols being used in school grounds to intimidate and terrorize. While this would normally be reported to the police, children and teenagers very often do not. A child can’t imagine that leaving this social environment is an option because sometimes, the option does not exist. Another word for option is choice.
School choice is seldom considered by teacher’s unions and local governments alike to improve the lives of their students. While we cannot know (thus help) every troubled child, we can give hope to every student in the form of real options. Many kids thrive in regimented public classrooms and climb the social ladder “cool kids” impose on their grade. Those who do not, should have the option to leave. All should have the option to learn in the environment best suited for them personally. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are the best way to achieve this. ESAs are programs where a percentage of state funds (not federal or local) are directly given to families that qualify in order to spend on their child’s education. What hope this could bring to thousands of children in families of modest means!
Some schools resemble jails where children are placed in inescapable social situations. Having options is what differentiates freedom from incarceration.