Daniel Akst, in the Albany Times Union of January 4, 2013, has an op-ed column entitled "Our kids deserve a fair shot" (see here) in which he claims to see the need for requiring school students to carry guns and learn all about them. I would like to think this article was meant for a satire magazine, but there is nothing in the article nor near it to indicate that it is anything but serious.
He writes " Just as the answer to offensive speech is more speech, the answer to a firearm is another firearm — or a couple dozen, which is about how many should be in the average classroom."
Can you imagine? He claims that this would also stop bullying, because "even the smallest, most socially awkward child can put a bullet between the eyes of his or her tormentor if properly armed."
Is this guy nuts or what? Shootings of 20 or more in a school over a year would be the norm unless the entire school's resources went into everything from flak jackets to bullet proof vests to armored lockers (after all, a student who left his gun at home should not find it too easy to steal someone else's).
Akst's article was in the LA Times on Dec.28, one week ago, yet I do not recall hearing or reading anything about it in the intervening week. That surprises me, as news of a truly wacky nature generally travels pretty fast. Maybe the New Year's festivities got in the way..
I did a bit more exploring regarding Mr. Akst, and I discovered that back on July 29, 2012, in Newsday (a Long Island publication) he wrote " Children get hold of a weapon. It's awful." Alas! A bit of evidence for the satire theory!! You can find that article here. In the article he was commenting that guns are a leading tool of suicides and that eliminating guns will help alleviate the suicide rate.
A bit more exploring uncovered Mr. Akst's authorship of a book entitled Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess. I have not read this book, but in a bit of googling I did uncover the comment "Suicide prevention is probably one of the best arguments for gun control - and a good example of how people sometimes need to be protected from themselves."
By then I was almost convinced that the article I read this morning was indeed a farce. I am convinced that the author intended it as such, but I am not convinced that all readers will take it as such. There are people who will use this article as evidence of another NRA supporter and feel good as a result. I have heard people say, in all seriousness, that if people in schools were armed there would not be as many school shootings. I find it scary, but I find it more scary for a newspaper to feed them "evidence".
A major problem in communication is when creators of a message presume to know how recipients of the message will receive it. After 30+ years in a classroom, I know that what is intended to be heard and what is actually understood by the listener can be worlds apart. That, right there, is the number one reason why constant student-to-teacher feedback is needed and why lecture classes succeed only sporadically.
I would respect the Albany Times Union much more had they had a side-bar comment giving some information about Mr. Akst and alluding to the tongue-in-cheek nature of his column. Immediately below Mr. Akst's column is another column entitled "Hydrofracking panel will put children first". Is that one for real or just for "fun"?