Will it someday be my fault??

I live in Connecticut.  I don’t live near Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It is a 30 minute drive, but one that I take at least once a year because my daughter’s team competes against Newtown.  And for four months each winter I watch the Newtown girls each Saturday compete against my girls. I have lost many students post graduation, and one during the year, I have lost a baby son…but none of that makes me feel qualified to write a post about the tragedy.   Please pardon the rambling nature of my thoughts at this time…

My students just completed a project…really just one of those filler projects in between the “big” events listed individually in the curriculum.  We took a look at the first ten years of the United State’s history and examined ten problems the USA faced.  The kids then tried to figure out what was the root cause of each of the problems, and then created a college course catalog with classes that would teach the skills necessary to curb those problems.  When they were done most course dealt with compromise, cooperation, and being able to see a problem through another person’s perspective.  They could have just said “build a bigger navy” or “kill the indians,” but most kids realized that their first knee-jerk reaction was not going to solve the problem.

Every year I am less able to make a difference in my kids lives because of bureaucratic and administrative mandates.  Kids getting graded and made to feel stupid, classes that are built around competition and not community, assignments which are made to filter kids into levels instead of promote learning, class sizes that do not allow me to talk to each student each day…week.  The emphasis on data, watching parents dictate to teachers what to do so that their child never struggles, and filling every non-teaching moment with tasks that do not let me do what is needed for those in the greatest need.  I am seeing an increase in students and parents feeling as though everything should be given to them in such baby steps so that they can achieve the almighty “A.”  I am seeing such an increase in broken souls, combined with having no ability to deal with challenges.

I am finding it harder to blame someone far from me for these problems…Duncan, Gates, Pearson, Obama, my legislators, superintendents and principals…    I sat at an open house and listened to many parents support all the programs to raise test scores.  I looked up on the board and saw the daily schedule with classes designed to increase scores, or support the skills needed to raise the scores.  Of course on the board there was no social studies.  I listened to the parents at the meeting, I have read the emails from parents to me, and by giving in to the demands we are ever increasingly creating a generation of kids who cannot function or think on their own.  No one wants their kid to struggle, working harder to succeed is out of the question, but doing more work that is easily done seems to be the answer.  Failing students, failing teachers, and Connecticut just released it’s list of failing schools using a bureaucratic scoring system so complex that apparently only great corporate minds will be able to rescue us from.

So I wonder what the underlying problem is.  I understand that there will always be extreme cases of violence that can’t be avoided, but I hope we don’t settle for knee-jerk reactions.  More security, more police patrols, more lock down drills, banning guns.  I know, there is so much more to this…poverty, family, neighborhoods.  But there is so much more that schools can be doing instead focusing all of our energy on getting kids to pass the next generation of Common Corpse State Standards tests. I wonder how we will deal with the mindset that lets us to foster a system that creates such broken souls and then ignore them.  I wonder if after this tragedy we will again call on politicians to make a the difference for us.

Come on!!  Schools have got to be able to change something after this tragedy other than their lock down procedures!!!

Will people demand change?

We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court, no matter what we learned in junior high school about how we have three branches of government, and we have checks and balances, and what a lovely system. No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.
Howard Zinn

Driving home Friday I wondered if am part of a society that allows things like this to happen, wondered if I am a part of the process which might someday create another monster?

Will it someday be my fault?

Every year I look at a kid and I think…”I just can’t find the time to save you.”  And many times I have thought what if that kid comes back and shoots up the school…will it be my fault?

Will it?

Or will I be apart of the social movement that will begin to restore hope to all those broken souls.

I felt connected to the tragedy not  because of my previous experiences or geographic location, but because I feel connected to all the teachers in that kid’s life who are probably sitting home right now wondering if they could have done something more…

MLK Quote


  1. Mehhhh. Zinn is both right and wrong. No, our system doesn’t fix injustices. But it has facilitated those sorts of changes more than many others that have come before it.

  2. We don’t need any more martyrs in education (or anywhere else for that matter.) Being human means we aren’t perfect, we make mistakes, we sometimes take the easy way out. That doesn’t make us culpable for other’s choices, good or bad.

    Why do people do bad things? We do bad things because we can, we have free will. Sometimes we choose to do something bad because we want to share our pain, sometimes we just feel devilish. If we allow people the free will to choose what they do we must also allow them to accept the responsibility for those choices. As a Christian I believe God gave us free will to choose both good and bad, is it really His fault that we choose bad? Is it anyone else’s fault that someone commits these atrocious acts of violence? I don’t think so and I believe that is scripturally correct as well.

    Would I feel bad if one of my former students did something like this? Absolutely. Would I feel like I could have done more? Without a doubt. Would I feel responsible? No, I wouldn’t.

    1. Will…thinking maybe less like is it my fault for missing the kid, or my fault for working within system that does?

      I guess an extreme example…you’re a guard at a concentration camp–your choice. You are really nice, give the prisoners extra food, extra care, and help many escape. Are you still at fault when someone dies?

      1. Way too extreme an example. I would also suggest that there are school systems that treat students far worse than ours. Just because we stifle creativity and treat many students poorly, all schools are not like that and even those schools are often still much better than schools in most of the rest of the world.

        My point is we can’t take responsibility for another person’s choices. In spite of any circumstances that can influence others short of mental illness, that person makes the choice to pick up a gun and pull the trigger.

  3. Not appropriate (or factually correct), to connect Sandy Hook to the school system. Extreme mental illness existed 500 years ago, 200 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and 10 years ago. Lanza wasn’t a “broken soul.” He had a loving mother and caring community and received the best medical care and counseling available. The only way to stop Lanza would have been to pre-emptively lock him up and throw away the key. Would you want that?

    1. I really haven’t followed all the details…

      But I am wondering, does a loving mother buy her her son with extreme mental illness an assault rifle?

      I have met way, way, way too many loving parents who are responsible for exactly the type of kid that society deems “troubled” or “broken.”

  4. I am a teacher. It is my job to prepare kids to become citizens and community members. Corporations and testing companies, media slugs with their eyes on public dollars, and our elected leaders who have turned into the drooling Igors for the secluded vampires are perverting the purpose of schools and using tests/tests/tests as their weapon. The data will be twisted and gamed the same way it is on Wall St, to create monopoly money for the game players while most of us will be isolated to the purple properties…light blue if we’re lucky. Help end the madness, or at least help me try. I started this petition on “We the People” after my wife told me about the site. You do have to register, but it’s a legit White House site, and enough signs gets a response.


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