Civil Discourse?

A few things about me.  I get up at 4:30 a.m. every day to get ready for work.  I am an English teacher, and I am in my classroom by 6:00 every day.  I take my job home.  I am not a martyr or a hero.  I do it because I love it.  I live to help young people to become strong, articulate communicators.  My deepest hope is that they will love their country as much as I do and that they will respect the blessings of free speech and the right to vote and the obligation to show up and to speak up.  

I believe in the primacy of civil discourse because I believe in the democratic process because I deeply respect the struggle that made that process possible.  That struggle has taken the shape of war, civil disobedience, and ordinary decent tax-paying. My ancestors have fought in those wars, and they have signed up to serve.  That struggle has taken the shape of hard work.  My ancestors and my family believe heartily in hard work; we don’t miss a day.  That struggle has taken the shape of protest, and my ancestors and my family speak up when necessary.  We don’t sleep in because we define ourselves as Americans who pay attention.  We give our country everything we have, and we demand the respect we deserve.  

Every day the Pledge of Allegiance stops my heart.  Our anthem makes me cry, and I do so shamelessly because my family has earned the right to sing those words and to call them our own.  How I love this place I call home.

So when a deranged idiot shows up for work as a middle school science teacher with his legally registered, loaded pistol, and he happens to be my younger nephew’s science teacher--and all of this takes place in the very town where another deranged idiot robbed 26 people of their lives and their loved ones of the joy of being alive--I am sick at heart and desperate to understand.

Nobody needs a gun to teach.  Nobody needs a gun in a classroom full of Newtown kids.  Nobody is under any kind of threat from my nephew, who, with his classmates, deserves to know that school is a safe place in a world that grows crazier and less safe by the minute.

Nobody needs  gun to protect him- or herself from intruders because those freaks are anomalies.  They are not representative of anybody except, perhaps, the parents who failed their children and the community around them for  failing to see these anomalies for what they are.  (Mr. Lanza, all the playgrounds in the world cannot absolve you of your crime.)

Bottom line:  Nobody needs a gun.

Teachers who bring guns to school have abandoned the very project they have sworn to by accepting the honor of teaching young Americans that they might become the adults who take our love of freedom, safety, and peace into the future.  Unarmed civil discourse is our only hope.  Teachers who doubt that have no place in the classroom.

When the science teacher brought a gun to Newtown Middle School, he committed an act of treason as he made the statement that my nephew’s safety and security are of no consequence to him as he protects himself from God knows what he imagines.  

Should we take him out back and shoot him, or should we try to understand what makes a public school teacher with a plumb position in an excellent district that has been deeply scarred by a gun-toting idiot carry a gun to school?

I say we try to understand him, but not at the expense of my nephew and his classmates.  Let’s disarm this idiot and get him some serious help.  In the spirit of Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, and Adams, let’s demand a higher level of civil discourse.


  1. tough subject. I used to teach first grade when schools were considered safe but society was safer also. I can understand the armed teacher's viewpoint and wanting to protect his students, but it seems that should be a school guard's responsibility and not the teacher's. Our current society is out of hand to say the least...and our children and grandchildren are the recipients of a HUGE PROBLEM. They definitely need to have a voice and others who will listen and guide them...Good for you.

  2. Oh Sandy, you were the first person I thought of when I read about this awful thing. So frightening. I can't say it any better than you did so just ... yes. Thanks. I'm glad you wrote.


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  4. I don't know if I could stand by and abide. It should be illegal. Horrors.


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