On August 1st of this year, Texas university schoolchildren will be allowed to carry concealed handguns in Texas public university classrooms. The dangers inherent in this are multifold--one pertinent factoid is that more people are shot in the US each year by toddlers than by terrorists--the point being that simply being in the presence of a gun dramatically increases the likelihood of being shot. There is also the point of whether teenagers, with their puberty-induced impulse control issues, should be able to make life-or-death decisions of any kind. There are issues surrounding the value of the concept at all--in other words, has any teenager with a gun ever made any dangerous public safety circumstance any better?
But setting all that aside for the moment, let's look at what we're in the process of doing to academia. Academia has long been recognized as the enabler of our modern civilization. The technology I'm using to create this input, the electricity I'm sending this with, the water I'm sustaining myself with as I do it, the Scotch I'll drink later in celebration--all of these things are products of a logical, experiment-based mode of thinking we call science.
Over time, we have stretched the vision of science into what became the social sciences. The social sciences became a framework and a forum where we could begin to understand our fellow humans that are not like our own race or tribe--their worldview, perspectives, constraints, visions, dreams--academia plunged into this field of study and enriched humanity immeasurably. The United Nations, Doctors without Borders, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Eurozone, the NATO and ASEAN treaty nations--these all represent some of the finest works of humanity. Emergencies and disasters worldwide are now more competently managed due to these organizations, and countless people are still enjoying their lives on earth due to their efforts.
For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction--and we're now in the process of backtracking. Hate groups, supremacy groups, corporate oligarchies, isolationism, intolerance--all are currently on the rise in our society. Everyday citizens are either being lied to or manipulated into supporting political positions that are not in their best interests or are outright dangerous to the future of our civilization. We have few weapons against the forces of hate and intolerance, and only one that really works--education. So let's examine what guns in Texas classrooms are going to do to education.
The issue can be summed up in one very telling set of instructions from the University of Houston to its faculty. They recommend:
- Be careful discussing sensitive topics
- Drop certain topics from your curriculum
- Not “go there” if you sense anger
- Limit student access off hours
- Go to appointment-only office hours
- Only meet “that student” in controlled circumstances
Is this as frightening to you as it is to me?
First, somewhere along the way, we have made the decision as a society that the right of a 21-year old to carry a concealed weapon in a classroom is more important than the professor's responsibility to engage in uncomfortable and sensitive discussion topics that tend to advance our society. How did that happen?
Second, somewhere along the way, we decided that the circumstance of a student shooting a professor is the professor's fault, and the professor's responsibility to prevent--to include the professor having to hide from students during the course of everyday responsibilities inherent in the profession. How did that happen?
Third, as this list of suggestions clearly states, professors should somehow anticipate and adapt to the circumstance that students can be expected to choose violence over discourse, in clear violation of the academic concepts and principles that have made our society great over the past few centuries. How did that happen?
Actions have consequences. Already, some professors are making the choice to work elsewhere than in Texas to avoid the perceived possibility of getting shot. Is this what we want our country to become? If we truly want to: 'Make America Great Again'--do we do that by allowing potential gun violence and intimidation to trump academic integrity? Why would we choose that?
Food for thought on your Tuesday. My personal assessment: Our society is about to go over a cliff--irretrievably--if we don't shut down the forces that are destroying the conventions and institutions that made America the greatest nation in the history of civilization. And I'd hate to see that happen. I really would.