A Modest Proposal

     David C. Berliner/ Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

In the recent book that I edited with Carl Hermanns (Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, Teachers College Press, 2021), 31 scholars wrote about how public education, with all its problems, is inextricably linked with and supportive of our democracy. But maybe it’s time to think of public education as not just a cornerstone of our democracy, but the architects of democracy, the builders of our democracy. This more active role appears to be called for since we have leaders who won’t do what most people want, namely, to give us some sensible gun laws.

So here is my proposal: Every school administrator and every teacher in the USA should refuse to come back to their schools in the fall, unless their states’ two senators have agreed on the framework for a strong national gun control bill and better funding and oversight of mental health programs for their state. Further, they will need to promise a vote on these issues before Christmas 2022.

No safety for teachers and pupils, no public schooling!

        It may as easy as that. The pandemic showed how important teachers are in the lives of the 50 million public school students they serve. As important, valued, and well-educated members of our democracy we need to express our values. We simply cannot nurture student academic and social growth in institutions where we and our students are attacked, and killed, because too many deranged people have access to guns. We need immediate legislation to control who can get weapons, and we need funding to build better programs of mental health. We need, as well, buy-back programs offering considerably more than the retail price of any weapon that is turned into law officers. They too deserve a society that supports many fewer weapons. If good people do not join the professions of law enforcement and teaching because they are worried about being shot, the democracy we build and they have sworn to protect will be in much greater danger than it is right now.

        So, its simple. No one goes back to school in any state unless those state senators agree to make childhood and teaching safe again. It’s time to actually Make America Great Again, which we can start doing by protecting our children and ourselves.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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