It’s been five months since Sandy Hook happened, and the psychology of school has changed because of it. The students keep it in the back of their minds, or at the front of their minds, depending on the day and the hour. I never thought I’d have a student turn to me and say, “Mister, keep the door locked just in case there’s a shooting.” In the last several months, I have had that experience numerous times.
Things are just different. Take this door and this cabinet (both in my classroom):
A cabinet’s a cabinet and a door’s a door, right? Look again, though, and the cabinet’s a hiding place (though an admittedly poor, ridiculously small hiding place). Look again and the door’s a barrier (though an obviously ineffective one, what with the lock on the outside and an uncovered window smack dab in the center of it).
And then there are the hallways and the stairways and the exits. Escape routes.
Those initial discussions over what would need to happen if there were a lockdown or an evacuation had us trace everything in our heads: who goes where, who stays where, what happens when, and any number of realistic and ridiculous “what ifs." What if there’s a breach? What if Mr. Records had a magic, handy-dandy, $300 bullet-proof whiteboard? What if there’s someone stuck out in the hall? What if it’s lunchtime? What if Mr. Records had a rifle in the filing cabinet and could shoot an intruder on sight, in between taking attendance and dismissing everyone for nutrition?
Ad absurdum situations have become “Let’s seriously think about that. It’s not so weird.”
A “preparedness” drill where fake armed gunmen spontaneously burst into a meeting of teachers and start opening fire with blanks? Not so weird. Bulletproof school supplies? Not so weird. Teachers with guns? Not so weird.
It happens, after all, and has for a long time. Columbine is retro, just like Wayne LaPierre’s list of references. Virginia Tech is last decade. And then there are all the others, the dozens and dozens along the way, whose names no one remembers because the body count wasn’t high enough.
And the arguments are old, too. “From my cold dead hands” is not a conditional anymore. It’s been 18 years since every liberal’s fantasy president Andrew Shepherd announced his serious intention to “get the guns” in the ridiculous 1995 Aaron Sorkin wet-dream The American President. And the solutions are old, too — shoulder-pads old, Newt-Gingrich-on-his-second-wife old, conservatism-as-a-viable-option-for-the-rational-average-American old.
So, yeah, this has all been around for a while. And now, in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, it’s expected — usual, even. Usual for us to talk about “when” it’ll happen again, rather than “if.” Usual for the weakest, most meager, most half-assed, most uncontroversial “gun control” measures to fail in Congress because of the disapproval of a small, well-funded, galvanized minority. Usual for people to seriously and openly talk about their 2nd Amendment right to violently overthrow the government. Usual for my kids to remind me to the lock the classroom door so deranged shooters can’t take us out while we're going over essay-writing rules. Half tongue-in-cheek, half-serious.
So yeah, that’s education in America for you: blast-proof white boards, simulated slaughter drills, and "lock the door or we die."