Seems to Me . . . Teach them well

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By Stan Welch

Shortly before Christmas last year, another school shooting took place. The names Sandy Hook and Newtown, CT became synonymous with terror and tragedy. Since that time, the predictable uproar about gun control has been going on. As usual, it will accomplish nothing.

On the local level, a move is underway to increase security at our schools, through one method or another. The brief story of that movement so far appears elsewhere in this issue. Let me say that I in no way mean to downplay those efforts. I understand the emotional and parental source of the need to do something.

I am a father myself, and had a son in school during the Columbine era. I know full well the horror and the fear that every parent of a school aged child feels as they watch the evening news from a place like Newtown, or the Colorado theater; or the mall that was the scene of the latest massacre.

But as I attended the meeting held by Rep.Don Bowen Monday, I had the same thoughts I have had many times before. The real hope of those present, despite their certain knowledge that achieving that desire is impossible, is to make the world a safe place for their children. That is the wish all parents have for their children; and it cannot be attained, though it can be approached.

I do not mean to say that the world can be made fully safe. Of course it cannot. A sensible person accepts that. But a sensible person also realizes that whatever progress can be made towards greater personal safety comes from the individual, and not from the group.

Sheriff Skipper touched on this very lightly yesterday when he gently mocked a new product on the market – a bullet proof backpack. You know, the kind that all kids carry these days. Sheriff Skipper satirized the concept of sending a child to school with a bulletproof backpack, and a helmet and other protective gear, and put them on the bus, saying, “Now, go to school and learn something.”

The point is this. It is the responsibility of the parent to make their child safe; not by clothing them in Kevlar or armor, but by teaching them to be alert and aware. My father often told me that the cheapest thing to pay was attention. See trouble coming. If you are trying to avoid trouble, it certainly helps if you have a head start.

Every parent will choose a different approach, and I certainly don’t promote mine over any other. But I taught my son at the age of seven to fire a gun, and to handle one safely and respectfully. I taught him to be aware of his surroundings and to trust his instincts. I taught him to walk unafraid but carefully wherever he goes; and to never be too proud to walk around trouble if he saw it, and if he could. He understands that in the end, he and he alone, is responsible for his safety.

In brief, I tried to instill in him a sense of his own autonomy; a sense that he is not a helpless victim, but an actor on his own behalf. I wonder sometimes if we impart a sense of victimhood in our own children by trumpeting what helpless victims those other children were.

So to those parents who so fervently want the law and the schools and society to keep their children safe, I understand; and so do those institutions as well. It only makes sense to play the percentages and do all that you can.

But first, teach your children that when all else fails, they might well be called on to save themselves. Teach them the basic skills they will need. And most importantly, encourage them to trust those teachings, and themselves.

Seems to me, the first steps towards safety are the most important.