by Don Saunders
If the Guns-on-Campus Bill passes it would inspire a modification of Victor Hugo’s famous aphorism: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” Instead, we might now observe: Those who open schools to guns imprison education.
The Florida Board of Governors, University Police Chiefs, University Presidents, the League of Women Voters, and the United Faculty of Florida support prohibiting firearms on college and university campuses, except by trained law enforcement and security officers.
If passed and signed by the governor, Florida House Bill HB 4005 and Senate Bill SB 176 would allow persons with concealed weapons’ permits to carry their guns on the campuses of the state colleges and universities.
This time of the year, university educators generally begin to assemble their summer and fall course materials, review textbooks, and craft their syllabi. One of the roles of an educator is to create an environment that fosters opportunities for learning, intellectual growth, research, and creativity. This year, many university educators are reconsidering their course requirements and classroom policies, and incorporating language related to the prospect of students carrying concealed weapons. This reconsideration is a result of House Bill HB 4005 and Senate Bill SB176, collectively known as the “Guns-on-Campus Bill.” Gone are the days when classroom policies were concerned with comparatively minor issues such as whether or not to allow food and beverages, cell phone use, or laptop activity in the classroom.
Guns and education are diametric opposites. Trying to make sense of this issue, I find myself repeating out loud: “Guns and Education” – but the words just do not go together. Guns do not lead to increased academic achievement. As an equation, you cannot add guns to education and get an improved outcome: Guns + Education ≠ Improved Achievement. This is not a policy conducive to education – higher or otherwise.
Or is just semantics? Take for example the present administration’s approach to global warming, climate change, and sustainability – allegedly prohibiting state workers from using those terms and substituting euphemisms in their place. Perhaps the Florida legislature could use a similar approach and replace the “Guns-on-Campus” concept with a euphemism, such as the “Academic Panoply” bill or the “University Militia” bill. By substituting a euphemism for Guns-on-Campus Bill, the legislature might be able to distract Floridians from what is really happening.
In the end, it is the educators who are on the front lines of this issue. More creative educators will be able to embrace this shift in classroom management. For instance, graded papers could be rewarded with colorful stickers, i.e., a BB gun sticker could represent a D, a sticker of a 22’ caliber rifle, a C, a B gets a 38’ or even a 44’ caliber revolver sticker, and think of the possibility of sticker options for an A.
Guns and Education: the words just do not go together. Will the checklist of items students take to school soon include a handgun, along with homework and textbooks? And will future school fashion accessories include varieties of bulletproof vests, military helmets, and holsters for concealed weapons. And what about the faculty? How many will feel obliged to arm themselves, wear bullet-proof vests, and modify their grading scale for protection? How many of our best professors will leave the state university system?
In a list of the Top 100 (check that, the Top 500) ways to improve the State of Florida, its higher education system, and student achievement, allowing guns on university campuses would not appear. Prohibiting references to climate change, global warming, and sustainability would not make the list either. Climate change is a reality, whether it is acceptable to use the term or not. Allowing guns on campus is not a reality – at least not yet. It is not too late to express opposition to the bill. Click here for more information.
Don Saunders is a member of the Board of Directors of Ecology Florida and an educator in Florida’s State University System.