The world today is a crazy, fast-paced, almost surreal place sometimes. We’re constantly bombarded with news about the latest absurd scandal or bleak tragedy, and it can be a lot to handle. Though we see depressing, discouraging headlines on a daily basis, data trends clearly prove that we actually live in the safest, most peaceful time of all human history.
According to Max Roser, an economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford University, “We live in a much more peaceful and inclusive world than our ancestors of the past. The news is very much focused on singular events. All of these trends that I’m looking at are slow changes that happen over decades, or sometimes even centuries. These developments never have a ‘now’ moment that would make them interesting for news that is following current events.”
However, there is one category of mass violence that has seen a disturbing uptick in the past couple of decades: school shootings. As per a recent study by the _Journal of Child and Family Studies, _”more people have died or been injured in mass school shootings in the United States in the past 18 years than in the entire 20th century.”
But why the rapid increase? Well, it’s a complicated and multifaceted issue, but Psychology Today points out a few key factors, many indicative of the fast times of our modern age: weaponized social media, insufficient access to mental health services, increased media coverage, easier access to weapons, and predatory bullying.
According to this year’s PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 1 in 3 U.S. parents fears for their child’s safety while at school, which is the highest level of concern since Columbine.
But how can we protect children and teachers in the most efficient way possible in the event of a disaster? Well, there are mixed opinions on the matter. People on one side argue that the focus should be on prevention, chiefly by way of mental health screenings. The poll sourced in that article, produced by Langer Research Associates for ABC News, indicates that by a 2:1 margin, Americans blame mass shootings on issues with identifying the shooters’ underlying mental health issues, rather than poor weapon control laws. Yet the political and media buzzstorms love hyping up the controversy and arguments surrounding the weapon control debate.
“The conversation that’s happening at the policy and the political level may not jibe with what parents want to see happen in their schools to make sure their kids are safe,” says PDK CEO Joshua Starr. The talks he’s referring to represent the other school of thought regarding the shootings: intervention. While arming all teachers is a very extreme response that is unlikely to gain much traction anytime soon, there are other ways to physically protect children and teachers in the event of a shooting: crafting strong, robust, military-grade equipment and accessories for victims to protect themselves.
So this is what back-to-school shopping has come to pic.twitter.com/iVEEf0Tazg— September Downing (@SeptD) July 22, 2018
School shootings have become so prevalent that a campus in Oklahoma has installed bulletproof shelters for students and teachers in case they ever need it. https://t.co/XLEI2BReeG— KENS 5 (@KENS5) July 18, 2018
You know how sad it is to open up a kid’s backpack to grab his lunch and see a bulletproof shield? He’s in PRESCHOOL. A preschooler should not have to be carrying this around in his backpack. Seeing this broke my heart pic.twitter.com/gKfU9s9TNO— angel baby • (@infinitelesss) July 25, 2018
Though bulletproof school supplies are a stark, haunting specter, like something out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, the reality is that more and more parents will likely see it as a reasonable and tangible alternative to more extreme measures, like arming teachers. While increased mental health screenings for students might seem the preferred route, politicians and policymakers seem slow to make that a reality.
One must think of the impact of buying such school supplies for children; what kind of effect will it have on their mental health? Their worldview? Their innocence? We may live in the safest period in human history, but do the kids know that? What do you think?