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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

what our students in prague are asking us about virginia tech

The Virginia Tech shootings are in the news just as much in Prague as in the US. Our students have questions. Sometimes they ask us. And we try to answer. These are some of the things I wish I had said. Remember to pray for teachers for when students ask questions like these.

"Are you scared to teach in the United States?"

I once told an interview committee that the Columbine high school shootings in 1998 were one reason why I want to be a teacher. That made me look nice and heroic to the committe, but I did mean it. I can't do everything and what I do do is flawed at best, but who is going to be there to listen to people if it isn't you and me?

"So, have you decided to stay in the Czech Republic now?"

Well, no. But thanks for the offer.

"Why are American schools so dangerous?"

Actually, statistically, there aren't many places safer to be than public schools in the US. We hear about shootings like this on the news and it sounds like it happens everywhere, all the time, but there are so many places where it hasn't happened. Of course: it shouldn't happen even once and each time is a tragedy.

"Why do Americans always shoot each other?"

That really isn't fair and it's not true. Yes, there are way too many deaths from guns in America than there should be (and there should be zero). And there are more deaths and injuries from guns than in the Czech Republic. But many, if not most Americans who have guns try to use them only in safe and responsible ways.

"Why do Americans insist on having guns and then the wrong people use them for bad reasons?"

It's a combination of history and politics, people with good intentions and people with bad intentions. In 1789 Americans didn't want to leave one tyranny and then become part of another. They had just fought a war for that reason, and they didn't want to lose what they had fought for so easily. I think that part of the having guns debate is rooted in the early history of my country, and sometimes when people insist on this "right" there are consequences that nobody wants. As Americans, we need to think about whether calling this a "right" is more important that being open to ways of controlling who can get guns.

Is it easy to get guns in America?"

Well, no, not really. Each state has different rules for this and in some states it's more difficult than in others, but most states do criminal backgrounds checks and make you wait for a few days or weeks before you can have the gun you want to buy. It isn't like in the Czech Republic, though, where you must have psychological testing every two years for as long as you own a gun. Of course, even good systems fail sometimes---this shooter shouldn't have been able to buy these guns according to the law.


Anonymous Danka said...

Well, Che says it would be good for me to go and teach German or Czech in the USA but I have to admit that I am pretty scared to do that. Well I have a family in Oregon but still I am scared. It is dangerous to be a teacher. Here in the Czech rep. an older teacher was killed by a mad student two or three years ago.....

9:23 AM  

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