Teachers often look at questions from standardized tests to help them understand how the questions are written and the types of answers the students are supposed to pick. Invariably, a discussion will break out between teachers about why another answer, not the one chosen by the test writer, would be a better answer to the question. Teachers then provide comments and statements that back up their thoughts and, eventually, at least one additional answer, and sometimes more, are accepted by the group as a possible right answer to the question. The reason this happens is that teachers are well educated, they have been to college where they are thought to think and question everything they learn. Unfortunately, this love of knowledge is not being passed onto our public school students. We want them to see everything in Black and White, Right and Wrong. In the current education system in this country, with all of the emphasis on standardized tests, students are no longer taught to see the grey shades of an argument. They are taught that there is only one RIGHT answer to any question. Unfortunately, this unilateral thinking is not only destroying our schools, it is destroying our democracy.
We have a congress that not only doesn’t understand how a democracy works (not least because we no longer teach Civics–but that’s a discussion for another post), but that doesn’t understand that there is always another side to every argument or the necessity of meeting somewhere in the middle where the majority of people stand. This also runs over into our everyday life. Fox News has created a toxic one-sided news program that drives those who don’t agree with them to the extreme on the other side of the political spectrum to try to counteract the misinformation that emanates from Fox programs. Thus we have people who become so angry at the other side that compromise seems like defeat.
The latest incident of this polar effect is the battle for commonsense gun laws. Those who don’t own guns don’t want anyone else to own guns. Those who do own guns think that registering them is starting society down the slippery slope to a fascist society such as the one Germany experienced in the early 20th Century. If both sides would come together and talk, we would all agree on commonsense gun laws. Nobody wants convicted criminals or people with restraining orders to have access to weapons. Everybody agrees that we need to do more to prevent those with serious mental health problems from getting access to guns they can use to kill themselves or others.
A conversation between the two extremes could probably come to a comprise on how and where to use automatic weapons, which, if you are not in a war zone, should only be at a shooting range. Hunting with an automatic weapon not only defines a lack of skill on the part of the hunter, it also ruins the meat for consumption.
A cogent discussion about gun control from both factions could also possibly eliminate the argument for secrecy of gun ownership (for fear the government will come and confiscate all our weapons) with the logical argument that should a group of anarchists choose to move against the United States government, even with their enormous stash of weapons, they would quickly be eliminated by the strongest military force in the world. The people who would suffer would be the innocents caught in the middle.
The final discussion might be about licensing and training. Before we allow people to drive a car, they are required to take lessons to learn how to safely operate a motor vehicle so they don’t kill someone while driving. They are then required to pass a number of tests and qualify for a license. There is no reason why someone who wants to operate a dangerous weapon, such as a gun, should not be required to adhere to these same restraints to keep them from accidently killing someone. In line with this thinking, what parent could possibly be against purchasing a weapon that will only shoot if it is activated by the parent’s hand. The number of children in this country who accidently discharge a firearm and cause death or damage should be zero. Although all guns and ammunition should be in a locked case that only a trained and licensed shooter can access, the additional protection of this new ability to protect our children should frighten no one.
The argument that, if we pass commonsense gun laws, no one but criminals will have guns is specious at best. Licensed and trained gun owners will still have guns for hunting and sport, but nefarious individuals will no longer have access to illegal gun purchases by straw buyers or at gun shows that don’t require background checks. If you can’t wait a few minutes for a background check, or even a few days, the question should be why you need a gun on such short notice? Someone with a legitimate reason for owning a gun, for hunting or target practice, will be researching and trying out multiple weapons days or even weeks before they make a purchase. This is plenty of time to do a background check on the individual that can be completed before the gun purchase is even made.
In conclusion, an education system that does not teach our children that every argument is NOT black and white, one that teaches them to see nuance and to listen to arguments for another point of view will help us move away from our current course of action. A course that is bad not only for creating a more perfect society, but for stopping a civilized society from disintegrating into anarchy.