Night commenter Zanshin—he is one of the participants whose commentary frequently greets me in the morning–delivered a fascinating exercise expanding on my post about students in crisis situations defaulting to texting and social media rather than actively considering survival and defense alternatives. He was responding to yeoman commentator Chris, a teacher, who appeared to take deep offense at my suggestion that the texts of the Stoneman High School students reflected an unhealthy obsession with electronic devices rather than a healthy acculturation in self-reliance and fortitude in the face of danger.
I’ll mention here what I have said in the relevant comment thread: I know the issue flagged by commenter (and also a teacher) Andrew Myette was not the one I wrote about based on the link he sent me, but my job is to get everyone thinking about values and ethics even when it hurts, and I knew this angle would be especially uncomfortable to explore.
Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations:
I can’t speak for Jack, but I sure can come up with,
a specific action the students could have taken that had a strong likelihood of being a better alternative than staying where they were.
Disclaimer 1. The text below is a possible scenario for a fictitious class involved in a school shooting. This is in no way intended to criticize schools, teachers, students and others who have been confronted with real school shootings.
One specific action could be … Oh, this is so good; this one is for you Chris … Haven’t you seen MacGyver? I believe he was part of (y)our generation. He would be so proud of this fictitious class who by relying on their unconventional problem-solving skills saved not only theirs but also other lives.
The teacher and about 5 of the strongest kids, may be members of the wrestling club, and yes, someone like Mack Beggs, who was born female and is transitioning to male while taking steroids, can also participate.
The entrance, the closed door is the one spot where one can get very close to the shooter if he/she tries to get in. That’s his/her vulnerable spot.
So, the other kids hide in the safest spot. But the ‘welcoming committee’ stands on both sides of the door. With all the weapons and shields they can garner. Sticks and stones, a sharpened pencil, a can with hot water, pepper spray may be, certainly some chairs and tables. [I am here assuming the door opens to the outside.] On one side of the door you stack a few tables with one of the smaller kids on top with the can of hot water or a bag with the content of the waste bucket or what-ever one can throw on him from above (and that will not endanger the attackers on the ground).
On the other side of the entrance one of the kids has a broom.
The doors open, as the shooter takes the first step across the threshold the kid on top of the stacked tables throws what he has over the shooter. The kid with the broom wipes the legs of the shooter under his body with a big sweep. They throw chairs and tables and what-have-you on him. The bully of the class jumps on the shooter with the baseball bat (If he gets shot, it is sad, very sad, but (a) the other children of the class had voted him/her to be the vanguard volunteer and (b) it is his/her chance to redeem him-/herself for all his/her past misdeeds.)
Well the rest would be (literally) history.
For added bonus points….
a. One of the kids could from the diagonal corner of the door (but never the corner where the other kids are hiding) distract the attention of the shooter by making as much noise as possible.
b. One kid could be appointed to document the whole action using the video camera on his smart phone; may be using something like Facebook Live or Periscope; Instead that, in line with Neil Postman’s “The Huxleyan Warning”, the school kids become an audience and their slaughtering a vaudeville act, they become producers of their own heroes movie; a revival of America’s values is a clear possibility.
Chris also wrote in a previous comment,
After all, you’ve had weeks to think about it, from the safety and comfort of your home, without the adrenaline, chaos and confusion that these kids faced. So tell me: what should their plan have been?
And he is right, the above scenario demands the utmost creativity, willingness to cooperate, and the willingness to sacrifice one’s life. In other words, as apple pie as American values are/used to be.
So some preparation beyond the official lock down drill is advisable.
As a teacher, one could prepare by:
a. thinking through scenarios like the one above but tailored to your own situation;
b. know your students from this perspective. Ask yourself questions like, who are strong? who can one trust with a difficult task? whom of the girls is transitioning and taking steroids? who is the bully of the class? which kids are specially gifted and need to be as much out of harms way as possible? et cetera;
c. make sure you have stuff in your CSB (class survival bag) fitting this and other scenarios. In any case, things that can be used as a weapon and are at the same time (legally) allowed to have with you;
(An example of such an item could be a CD disc. If you break it in two, you have two very sharp pointed weapons.)
d. discuss with your class the concept of OODA loop developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd;
e. Read together and discuss the 1989 novelA Prayer for Owen Meany by American writer John Irving.
Chris, in again another comment, referred to a comment of crella. She wrote, referring to people on the planes on 9/11 who wrote letters to their families,
Fight, flight, or Tweet
Before 9/11 the official stated policy was that it was very wrong for crew and passengers to fight with terrorists who hijacked their plane.
The assumptions underpinning this policy were that,
a. hijacking took time. Hijacked planes had to land somewhere, there would be some negotiations, a hijacking could take several days.
b. in many occurrences most passengers would survive. Sometimes there was a shoot out but also many times a release of all (/most) people aboard;
c. the hijackers were somewhat to reason with because they also wanted to get out alive;
d. the officials were best equipped to handle these situations.
After 9/11 it became crystal clear that these assumptions are obsolete.
That’s why in several situations passengers on planes, trains and automobiles took action. See for instance 15:17 to Paris Clint Eastwood’s latest movie where three Americans stopped a terrorist attack on a French train in 2015.
Well, the same is true for school shootings,
a. a school shooting is, depending on the kind of weapon and the amount of ammunition the shooter brought with him/her, over within 5-10 minutes?
b. most (real) school shootings don’t end very well; a very high casualty rate;
c. most of the shooters keep killing until killed;
d. one thing the Florida school shooting teaches us is that we can’t rely on officials like FBI and local police.
Therefore, as in hijackings by terrorists, teachers and students have to take matters in their own hands; and thereby ultimately risking their own lives.
So, in the above scenario there is certainly a risk that kids would die. But they would only act if the shooter tried to get into their class room, thereby elevating the situation to the Fight-stage (The current training by the Federal Government distinguishes three stages: Run, Hide, Fight).
In that case the option is 0-3 kids (probably including the class bully) die as heroes vs. all (25-30?) kids die as ignorant sheep — not even knowing who killed them because they were busy texting.
Disclaimer 2. I have quoted and paraphrased parts of comments by other commenters. By using their texts I do not imply that the original commenters agree with this comment.
Disclaimer 3. I have not properly referenced all the quotes I have used/paraphrased because it would take away of the flow of my comment and the quotes are easily traceable to the original comments. If you recognize my usage of a part of your comment and you want recognition for it, let me know and I will acknowledge the said so being the case.