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The thing is, our kids are hurting

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Houston-Galveston participates in active-shooter exercise.
Houston-Galveston participates in active-shooter exercise.
(Image by Coast Guard News from flickr)
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By Bob Gaydos

"America, where I start my day with prayer, meditation and an active-shooter drill."

I'm not generally a meme guy on Facebook, but I posted that brief observation the other morning. The thing is, it wasn't just some unsolicited comment on life in general. It was actually true for that day.

Being a creature of habit, prayer and meditation have been part of my routine for some time. On this day, instead of offering the news as a follow-up, YouTube presented a video on the "Three things to do if confronted with an active-shooter situation."

Talk about a cold splash of reality first thing in the morning. The thing is, the advice was pretty good. The other thing is, I had to admit it was actually stuff to remember the next time I went to the supermarket:

  1. How to hide (behind something solid enough to stop bullets; 2. How to run (not in a straight line and not with the crowd); 3. How to fight (aggressively, like your life depends on it, because it does.)

How did we get here?

Growing up in the early '50s in Bayonne, N.J., we didn't worry about active-shooter drills. We had nuclear war drills. Go down to the gymnasium, gather around the walls, get down on the ground facing the wall all rolled up in a ball on the gym floor. Just in case the Russians decide to drop an atom bomb on us. Other kids in other schools did the same under their desks.

But we didn't really think we'd need this lesson anytime soon, like maybe the next day. After all, it had only happened twice and both times someplace else called Japan. We had no real sense of what we were hiding from, nor did anyone at the time realize that what we were "learning" was a waste of time.

Today's kids don't have that gift of naà vete'. TV news routinely reports on active shooting incidents in schools and elsewhere in the United States. Social media is full of it. Kids today take notes during active-shooter lessons. They know, like some of the kids in Uvalde, Texas, how to quietly call 911 on their cell phones when they're hiding in the back of the room trying not to talk too loudly, lest the shooter hear them.

The thing is, this is not what school is supposed to be about. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things school should be about, but, in much of the country, isn't.

School should be about honest history and geography and how the two are related. It should be about learning to read as much as possible and to think for yourself and how to separate fact from fiction. It should be about how to manage your own finances and do simple household repairs. It should be about basic health and nutrition and learning to live in and contribute to a multicultural society.

Yes, it should be about math and language and science and art and music, too. Cooking even. Not fighting for your life.

The source of greatest anxiety for me in eighth grade was worrying about stepping on my partner's toes during Mrs. Spiegel's class in ballroom dancing. I survived.

The thing is, we're laying a world of trauma on our kids today. I fear it's going to take a lot more than prayer and meditation to fix that.

rjgaydos|AT|gmail.comEmail address

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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