Preventing war, preparing for war

Civil War Reenactment - School ChildrenOne of the benefits of education is that it can provide people with the tools, perspective and knowledge they can use to meet their needs without resorting to intimidation, theft or violence.

In school buildings and on college campuses, we learn about our history, how the world works and how to coexist with each others` diverse ideas, experiences and backgrounds so that we don't have to use threats, force and domination to maintain a life together.

Some are saying that the educational experience now needs to be conducted against the backdrop of a heavily armed security presence. Moving past just having metal detectors and "zero tolerance" policies, that our children should wear bullet-proof vests in classrooms and that educators should be trained to take down intruders with deadly force.

What would it say to our students about their futures and the relevance of their educations if every day they are reminded of a constant threat of imminent death through random acts of aggression? Why would anyone believe that education and seeking a shared understanding of the world might lead to peaceful coexistence if the very place where they're being educated is set up as a war zone?

More broadly, some are starting to wonder if every element of public life needs to be subjected to TSA-style screenings. If wandering through a shopping mall will need to start with a full body x-ray scan. If all strangers on a city street should be treated as potential assassins.

What does it say about our culture and our version of humanity if our daily interactions become focused on protecting ourselves from each other and from the violence that we're sure is around every corner?

In that model of living, there is only room for escalation, increased violence and additional isolation from each other. If someone's only reason for not shooting you in the face is that you have a bigger gun than they do or that your family might retaliate, then we have lost any kind of social contract that includes a shared understanding that it's not good or right to shoot each other in the face.

Albert Einstein said, "A country cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

So much of the response to recent horrific events in Connecticut are focused on perpetuating a model of living in which we are constantly at war with ourselves and with each other. We are being asked to focus on surviving instead of thriving.

What does it look like to respond to these events in a way that moves us toward a model of living that prevents war instead of preparing us for it? What does it look like to provide an educational experience for our children that pursues peace?

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