I was lying on the floor in the hallway scrolling through my phone waiting for my youngest child to fall asleep when I saw that there had been another school shooting, this time in a high school in Michigan.
I kept scrolling, and it took me several minutes to realize that not only had yet another school community been ripped apart by gun violence, but that such a fact barely registered itself to me as newsworthy, let alone shocking.
I, perhaps like many others, have become numb to the news headline of students murdering other students, of hallways becoming shooting galleries, and the never-ending scenes of students running, families weeping, and candles burning during nighttime vigils.
While ashamed of this callousness, I also know that there is a reason for it.
In the 22 years since Columbine, 278,000 students have experienced gun violence at school and the school names themselves have become etched in our collective memories; Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, and now Oxford High School.
When one pauses to think, it is astounding that in the 22 years since Columbine, there has been little to no progress on this issue, outside of having our children practice huddling in the corners of their classrooms during lockdown drills.
It is even more astounding considering what people have been, so to speak, up in arms about recently; the supposed threat to children from whatever folks think Critical Race Theory happens to be.
Our collective value systems are revealed not by what we collectively say, but by what we collectively tolerate. We collectively cannot seem to tolerate sending our children off to learn the full story of the nation’s history, but tolerate sending them to asbestos-laden and lead-filled buildings from the last century. [pullquote]We collectively cannot seem to tolerate sending our kids to schools in masks, but tolerate sending our kids to schools knowing there is a chance they will be murdered in their classrooms.[/pullquote]
This isn’t hyperbole; not when it’s been more than 20 years since Columbine and the same thing keeps happening over and over and over.
[pullquote]Anyone who is outspokenly indignant about mask-wearing, so-called critical race theory, or gender fluidity yet silent about school shootings doesn’t actually give a damn about children[/pullquote] — they care only for their agenda.
Bullets don’t care who you are, what you look like, what you believe, what you read, or what you teach. If we cannot unite about anything else, surely we can come together to end school shootings in this country.
No family should have to fearfully say goodbye to their child on their way to school, but it’s what we all do.
Shame on us.
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating classes. Wright was a national finalist for the 2018 U.S. Department of Education's School Ambassador Fellowship, and he was named Philadelphia's Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2013. During his more than 10 years in Philadelphia classrooms, Wright created a relationship between Philadelphia's Mastery Schools and the University of Vermont that led to the granting of near-full-ride college scholarships for underrepresented students. And he participated in the fight for equitable education funding by testifying before Philadelphia's Board of Education and in the Pennsylvania State Capitol rotunda. Wright has been recruited by Facebook and Edutopia to speak on digital education. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he organized demonstrations to close the digital divide. His writing has been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Chalkbeat, Education Leadership, and numerous education blogs. Wright lives in Collingswood, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. Read more about Wright's work and pick up a copy of his new book, " Dismantling A Broken System; Actions to Close the Equity, Justice, and Opportunity Gaps in American Education"—now available for pre-order!
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