Life

Desperately seeking direction, or not

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Ever feel that way? Sometimes definitely maybe almost always?

So, it seems I have come to a crossroads and I am looking for some genuine feedback.

I haven’t had much of a “focus” on the blog and as a result, I think, growth has been slow. I haven’t been able to find a correlation between the posts that do well or and those that do not. One thing that hasn’t made sense to me is the writing I think is good and actually addresses something of substance, doesn’t seem to get a lot of interest; but, the posts that don’t really address anything of a serious nature seems to score higher with views and likes…which is perplexing.

So I am going to make an appeal, to you the readers (if you really exist), what do you want to see more of or less of? What direction do you think I should go? Should I find a place of focus, a niche, if you will? Or, should I keep doing what I have been doing?

This may take some work on your part, but I think it’s the only way to get a good picture of what you like/dislike (unless you have a fabulous memory). So, if you are so inclined, please take a gander at past posts and give me some feedback. I’d even be willing to do the same for you if you find yourself in a similar funk.

Accountability of Weight: Update #4

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This is the fourth update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to a much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

Not much has changed since the last update, including the weight loss. I have not gained and I have not lost any weight.

I am still not as active I should be. I know that at this point I am not going to get much more loss in the weight department unless I really cut back on the caloric intake OR unless I add more physical activity. Physical activity is hard to get motivated before, especially if it is outside of my normal routine at this point. Getting up early in the morning isn’t working, so it appears that I am going to have to make an adjustment somewhere to my evening schedule. The question is where/when will that have to take place?

Also, I haven’t been able to get out and go hiking since the last time I went.

Highlights:

  1. I haven’t gained anything and, despite feeling like I am eating too much at times, I haven’t gained any weight, which is a bit of a surprise. A good one surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.
  2. Despite not making a lot of progress on the weight loss, I have been really consistent on recording the calories I am consuming and have been able to record them in the app I use (LoseIt)consistently for over 100 days. *not a paid endorsement, I just use it and know it* 
  3. I am do a better job of drinking water when I am at work rather than when I am home, which is weird but true.

So, that wraps up this portion of the show. Let’s cut to the chase…

The Chase:

210.0  = official starting weight 2/15/18

    6.8  = pounds lost as of the morning of 6/10

203.2  = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Progress feels good and that encourages further progress. It may be an uphill climb most days, but the view at the top is usually worth it!

Baseball and the BFF

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Safeco Field, Home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle WA

Do you have one of those people in your life that yo just connect with? Someone who knows what you’re thinking without having to voice it? A friend that you can not see for an extended period of time, but when you’re together you pick up right where you left off as though you were never apart? I hope you do! Because IT.IS.AWESOME.

So, one way I like to celebrate is to take in some baseball. I don’t usually get a chance to actually go to a park during the weekend (usually it is on the radio while I work in the yard) so this was a nice change for once. AND, to top it all off, my best friend was there too! So, it was a weekend of record!

First, let me tell you about my best friend, since that is really who this is all about. We have been friends since we were 7 or 8, not really sure but it has been for a long time (considering we are both 46). We love sports, we love food, we love hanging out together and talking about stuff. He is one of those friends that you can tell anything to and not feel judged and he is one of those friends that you can not see for a long time but when you do it feels like you didn’t miss a beat and you pick up right where you left off. He moved across the state when we were in high school but we stayed in touch and now we meet a couple times a year for baseball games in Seattle. We make a weekend of it since travel is easier to do it all at once rather than many little trips. Anyway, he has been a constant in my life and I love him dearly. He is just like a brother, only better! LOL

The first game, Friday night was fun. The Mariners won a one run game and we saw James Paxton pitch (he threw a no hitter in Toronto not too long ago). We spent the evening getting caught back up and enjoying the evening. The second game was more epic than the first.

Game two, Saturday night, started with early entry into Safeco Field. We get tickets from

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(People you can see, L to R: Daniel Vogelbach, Nelson Cruz, Ichiro, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger

a season ticket holder who splits them out so it was one of those occasions where season ticket holders get to enter the park and hour before the regular gates open. That means there are very few people in the park and it gives the possibility of interacting with the team. So, down to the field we went. We watched the team go through their stretches and warm up. Nearly all the starts were there (except Robinson Cano since he got suspended for PEDs). But otherwise, we were real close to the action.

Then came batting practice. Now, one thing we always try to do is get there early enough to see batting practice and hope to catch a ball hit off the bat of someone. I could be anyone, we don’t care! Mostly because it is just something that doesn’t happen and when you are a baseball fan, it is just something that is fun to participate in. So, our regular seats are a the top of the wall in right field but we decided not to go there and instead try for the first base line, near the foul pole in right field…basically to get balls that guys hit foul but just barely. It really is a guessing game because when you watch there always seems to be a part of the park that the teams hit the ball the most and it always seems to be where we have chosen NOT to stand and watch. It is crazy how it seems to work that way.

IMG_4705Mariners legend, Ichiro (#51) was participating in the full pregame workout, so he was in right field chasing down fly balls, line drives, and foul balls. You know, shagging balls like all the other guys on the team during batting practice. On Saturday, he was running to catch a fly ball and it was straight at me as I stood in the stands above him. As he caught the ball I yelled his name, “ICHIRO!” and held up my open glove (yes, I still take it to the park). He looked up, running at full speed, but not at me. He was looking right at my best friend and I am thinking, He is gonna get this ball from Ichiro! Only, instead of flipping him the ball with an ever so slight underhand toss, he flipped it right to me. That sneaky fellow duped us both! I was so surprised, but it was really cool to have a team legend toss me a ball. (You’re probably thinking what a nerd…but it’s OK, I just love baseball and if you do too, then you understand). And, just for a moment, I was the envy of all the people around me. LOL

Anyway, game two got under way and the teams were battling it out. It was a good game that ended up going into extra innings. The Mariners ended up winning that one also, only in the 12th inning with a walk-off HR by Mike Zunino. It was an epic night!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention dinner! One of the great things about going to the ball park, at least at Safeco, is the ballpark food. You really can be a foodie and get good stuff there (despite the prices being stupidly high). So, of course there is the standard hot dog and a beer. I am not sure when I last had that ol’ favorite. So, I like to try new stuff. This time it was an ice cream sandwich, which we saw on Friday night as we were walking to our seats. We had to try it! So, we found the location in the stadium and built our own. (It is kind of the Coldstone-esque style where you tell them what you want and they build it for you.) So, for mine I had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookie, Toffee Coffee Chip ice cream, a chocolate brownie, and then everything dipped in Butterfinger and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup candy. Let me tell you, it was AWESOME, and it was only $8!! It was, however, more than I could eat so I didn’t finish it.

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All in all, it was a great couple of days. I love spending time with my best friend and it always go by too quickly. But, we always have a good time and we always look forward to the next time we are together.

Oh, one more thing…this weekend was Memorial Weekend, meaning we took time off from work to celebrate and remember the people who have fallen in the line of military service to protect the freedoms we all hold dearly (and probably take advantage of). I hope you took some time this weekend to pause and reflect on the lives that have been lost so that you (and many others around the world) might live free. They gave all and we owe them a debt of gratitude. God Bless America!

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Restored faith in humanity, for now.

I saw this video on another blog (though it can be easily found on YouTube) and thought I would share it. To some degree, I think we all need a little something like this video to restore some faith in humanity as the world seems to wobble off its axis on a regular basis.

Is there any redeeming value left in humanity? I often ponder this. Maybe it is my natural tendency towards cynicism and pessimism that bogs me down because the value gets harder and harder to find. I know its out there, and I know it will come back some day. At least I pray that it does.

Thankfully, the video below, “200 Wallet Honesty Test,” will help restore some of that faith in humanity again. Albeit, it is something small and maybe isn’t the best indicator that there are still lots of good people out there, but it is something and for that something I am thankful.

So, after watching it, does it restore a little faith in humanity for you too? I hope it does. Now, let’s band together and go out there and do something good for someone today!

Accountability of Weight: Update #3

This is the third update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to a much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

This is an uphill and downhill battle! Just when you start to think you are making progress, you get on the scale and you see you did exactly the opposite. AND, just when you think you aren’t making progress because you over-ate a couple of days during the week and are feeling bloated, you some how make progress. It’s a mystery on how this whole thing works, I tell ya!

Anyway, there really aren’t any lowlights for this update. Well, to be honest, there is still that pizza Friday thing in our household that is killing me, but I keep telling myself that everyone needs a cheat day, right? So, I will just use that as my lowlight this time around.

Highlights:

  1. Getting up earlier than normal sucks, but the payoff will be worth it, right? I normally get up at 5:30am to get ready for work. I have, since the last update, started getting up at 4:30am to get a walk in before the day starts. My reason for doing so is that there isn’t much I can do in the morning at that hour. However, if I wait to do it in the evening after work, I get distracted by the other things that need to be done…pay bills, mow the lawn, hang out with the kids & wife, etc…so, the morning seems to be the most logical time. Anyway, it sucks. But on a positive note, I do get more steps in for the day, get the heart rate up, and it has kick-started the metabolism to a degree and there has been some weight loss!
  2. I got my butt out on a trail this last weekend. I took the old saying, “Take a hike!” literally and busted out a hike that was just over a 1000′ gain and just over 4 miles. I ended the day with nearly 20k steps! Now that felt good! The intention here is that I can do this on a more regular basis and I intend too. I haven’t done any hiking or backpacking in a long time but it felt good to get out and just go. So, that is what I did!

So, that wraps up this portion of the show. Let’s cut to the chase…

The Chase:

210.0  = official starting weight 2/15/18

    6.8  = pounds lost as of the morning of 5/14

203.2 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Progress feels good and that encourages further progress. It may be an uphill climb most days, but the view at the top is usually worth it!

Randomness & pre-update

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Good morning all!

The sun is shining and the birds are chirping. Spring has sprung and the rain clouds (at least for now) have gone away. The Pacific Northwest is the best place on Earth this time of year! There is green everywhere, the mountains are snow-capped, and the sky is blue checked with white puffy clouds…and those April showers have brought the May flowers (ok, we have a Tulip festival here in town in April so there were flowers then too).

Two random things on my mind this morning…

First, I am considering the purchase of a new car. Like BRAND spanking new, which I have never had before. The current vehicle is a little commuter car with 230k miles on it. I bought it because I knew I would run the wheels off of it and I know there is still like in it, but having better gas mileage would be even a better things. Currently I get about 33mpg, but I have to fill up about every four days and that is a drain. So, I am looking at two hybrid cars that get 50+mpg. I am considering the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq and the 2018 Kia Niro.

  1. Anyone out there own these cars already? If so, what do you like or dislike?
  2. Are there other hybrid cars that others have that they would recommend or not? Why or why not?

Second, the other random thing on my mind this morning isn’t all that random. Let’s call it a “pre-update” to an update for the goal I set at my 46th birthday. Anyway, now that the weather has taken a turn for the drier and warmer, I have started rolling outta bed an hour earlier each day to begin the day with a walk. Let’s just say, 4:30am is a killer. I am motivated to get this done and I am starting to see a little more progress…anyway, I’ll talk more about that next week with the official update!

  1. What things, at least when it comes to exercise, motivate you to get out of bed?
  2. When do you like to do your workouts, morning or evening and why?

Well, that is it for today. Thanks for stopping in and pausing, if only for a moment, with me. Now, off you go! Go make the day a great one!

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An apple tree in the yard, full bloom!

I got nothin’…and maybe that’s somethin’.

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Well, I ain’t got nothin’. I got nothin’ to say this week because I haven’t really had my focus on blogging. Maybe it’s because I am having a hard time motivating myself to write. Maybe its because I have been focused on other things. Maybe its because I haven’t had the time I would like to write. Probably, it is all of those.

The last week, well maybe two, I have been working on getting the new Facebook account for @Stupidboard set up and running. I have placed my first “ads” out there and have been getting some interest, so that is exciting and I will continue to play around with that. I don’t know, its exciting but it has been taking time to feel my way around it.

I have also added two new links to the menu, up at the top of the blog. One is for the website I created for my classroom many years ago, Grenz History. It is the place my students would go to get their assignments, download handout outs, and generally just be my place to to centralize things – especially for students who were absent. It made things easier to keep track of and the students all knew that is where they needed to go. I am having a hard time letting go of it. I don’t have a classroom any longer, but I spend hundreds of hours putting it together and I think I could probably make it useful at some point again, but for now it just sits there. Take a look if you like.

The other new link at the top of the page, in the menu, is for my Teachers Pay Teachers store – Learn ’em Fast History. I no longer have a classroom, but after 15 years of teaching I have a lot of lessons and units and handouts and stuff I think could be useful to others. Now that I am not using it and have a little time, I am adding more and more things to the store. I started the store about four years ago, but there were only a few things out there and so there wasn’t a lot in the way of sales. Over the last year and a half, I have added more and more of my content (and will continue to add more) and sales have started to pick up. This month has been the best month in my store’s history, so that is kind of exciting too! If you are inclined to check it out, or recommend it to a teacher friend, I would be grateful.

So, there you have it! I an’t got nothin’. Or maybe I do…

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Accountability of Weight: Update #2

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This is the second update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

This loosing weight stuff is hard!

This month has not been filled with much success, if any. I have continued to watch and track what I eat, but this month has been filled with birthday parties, and parties at work, and my wife trying to cook new foods…all that to say that keeping my calories down under the projected daily goal has been difficult at best and impossible at worst. Each day was near or over the goal, not under like it should be. So, progress isn’t a word I would use to describe the last month.

Physical activity hasn’t ramped up over the last month either…which I am, each day, keenly aware. A change is coming in that arena.

Highlights:

I guess to be honest there isn’t much to highlight. With little success or progress, it is hard to highlight what is going on in this journey.

However, one good thing that came out of the last month is we took some of the tax return to an outdoor retailer and purchased hiking books for the kids and my wife. We also visited a store that sells lightweight waterproof rain shells (we live in the Pacific Northwest, it never stops raining here) and bought all three of them some new jackets as well. Why not me? Well, I used to do a bit of hiking and backpacking in my “pre-married with kids” days. So, we will be venturing into the hills more now that we are properly equipped. My wife is excited, the kids not so much (they are teens).

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

  4 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/16

206 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Though I have gained a small amount back from last month (1.2 lbs), I have found that getting into the habit of tracking my intake is getting easier.

But, let’s hope the next month is better than the last.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2)

This is a continuation of #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1). Please start there and read both posts before leaving a comment at the bottom.

#walkout vs. #walkup

As a history and government teacher (former, but it is still in me), I always encouraged my students to know and exercise their rights. I taught them so that they would be aware of current events and to actively advocate for themselves via their vote, and other means too. That was my job as a teacher. That is my job as a father. And, quite frankly, I wanted my students to be productive and active citizens of their country. That is really important when it comes to the survival of our country.

However, one thing we always talked about and discussed in class was that it was important to be informed before taking action. Allowing emotion and knee-jerk reactions to events could end up causing more confusion (or harm) and being active for the right reason is important. Therein lies the conflict between the two movements that we have seen come out of the most recent school shooting tragedy.

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#walkout – or March for Our Lives – is lending itself to the hysteria, and because it makes for “good” media it got all kinds of coverage. As such, the students who are most vocal are being used to perpetuate a narrative that is misleading and inaccurate. And, unfortunately, the students who are active in the movement are protesting the wrong thing or aren’t being active for the right reasons. As my daughter put it, after I asked her why she participated at her school, “Dad, we’re getting killed out here.” To her credit, she does go to a school in a district that experienced it’s own school shooting tragedy, so the community is a little raw when it comes to these things. But, as we have seen in the statistics (previous post), the data doesn’t support her statement. Her generalization was, at the very least, typical teen drama and over-exaggeration. I didn’t run her down or take her to task for participating though. She is one of the few teens I know who actually pays attention to the news and the world around her, even when she isn’t given a school assignment to do so. She does it on her own, and that is important. Instead, we had a discussion about what the root of school shootings really is, why it is important to be informed, and to keep being involved.

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#walkup – Students are, typically, quick to jump into action but often they ignore the root problem and go after the symptom. It is easy to blame others or point the finger at someone else rather than to deal with the problem you (or your friends) have created themselves. Having been in the classroom as a teacher for 15 years (let alone my own experiences as being a high school student), I can tell you that school shootings stem, in most cases, from students treating their fellow students poorly. When I say “fellow” students, I don’t just mean the students who are the same age. I mean all students who go to a school.

School shootings DON’T take place every day, let alone on a regular basis. What DOES take place every day, without fail, it that students are treating other students in ways they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves. That is a fact and it is at epidemic levels. Whether it gets reported or not – at school, outside of school, online, in social media – it happens. I saw it or heard it every day, to one degree or another. Teasing, laughing, joking, harassing, whispering about, pointing at, turning their backs, ignoring, physically bullying, etc., etc., etc. You name it; it has probably happened. I am sure you all can look back and remember a time when it happened, where it happened, and whether it was done to you or someone else. It doesn’t take much effort to look back in your own life and remember it.

School shootings DO happen because of this. The only people who can really stop it are the students themselves. As adults we can do everything we can and talk about it and discourage it and punish it, but the fact is that it won’t stop until there is a culture change and the students themselves have to make that happen. Look, one student or even a small group of students likely can’t (or more precisely won’t) do it. It puts a target on their backs and we all know students are vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, whether they like to admit it or not. And, not all students are the problem but may passively “support” the behavior because they don’t want to become a target themselves. There are lots of good kids out there, but those good kids tend to ignore the fact that it is taking place in their presence and most often do nothing to stop it.

Let’s not let the generalization get too far away from us. There are good kids. Lots of them! But we need those good kids to stop being bystanders (we talked a lot about this in my history classes in direct relationship to the Holocaust, but it applies in lots of places) and #walkup to step in when they see or hear it happening around them. Then we will see change. Students need to be the change and it can only really come from them. BUT, it has to be done in the right places and at the right times. #walkout or March for Our Lives isn’t the right thing to be protesting when the students themselves are the root of the problem, and the solution to the problem. They need to stop blaming the symptom on others and step up to own the cause.

Victim blaming?

I saw it going around social media. A counter argument to the #walkup movement. Apparently some believe that by asking the students to prevent school shootings by stopping or standing up to the behavior of their classmates is victim blaming. This counter argument is completely off base. First, let’s be sure we understand where the term comes from.

Victim blaming has most often been used to describe what happens to a victim as a result of rape or racism (there are other crimes too, but these are the main ones). There are those with the belief that the victim must have done something to deserve the outcome. The victim was the cause and therefore the crime was appropriate for that cause. Obviously, this is not a way to understand or treat victims. No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. So that is precisely where accusing those who participated in the #walkup movement of victim blaming goes off base. No one actually believes that students deserve to be the victims of school shootings or other crimes.

So, am I victim blaming? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Students are and will be the victims of crime in school. They certainly don’t deserve to be the victims of crime. Unfortunately, in a world that is self-focused and has a lack of empathy, our students aren’t immune to the cause nor the crime. I believe that many of the students/victims of school shootings are likely not even participants in the poor treatment of fellow students. They truly are victims in every sense of the word because the become a convenient target for someone bent on destruction.

The Final Word

Students, if you want to stop school shootings, cure the cause. Befriend the friendless. #walkup instead of standing by. Have empathy for your fellow students and and treat them as though you would want to be treated. Listen to each other. Value each other. Protect each other. Put down the phone (or mirror) and take a look around you. You are not that important to be so self-absorbed. You can make a difference, for yourself and for others. But, you have to choose to do so.

I firmly believe, and in my experience I have seen it, that if students do those things they will lessen the number crimes in their school, they will lessen the number of bullies in their school, and most likely also lessen the number of school shootings dramatically. It won’t stop it completely (because there are people who do bad things), but it would go a long way to making it happen.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1)

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March 14, 2018, will stand out as one of the more memorable student movements in recent history, though I think it will likely be remembered for the wrong reasons. I say wrong because the movement is a bit short sighted in that it is trying to deal with a symptom and not the problem.

When I taught American Government to my seniors (and my juniors, for that matter), I always made great effort to encourage them to be involved –  in their communities, in their state, in politics, in leisure, in things they cared about, and in things that were important to all Americans. So, by discussing this issue I am not discouraging the active participation we saw from our students. We WANT them to be involved and paying attention to what is going on around them. HOWEVER, we also want them to pay attention to the motivations and be good “consumers” of information so they can see through the rhetoric and knee-jerk reactions political parties and the media want them to have. Be informed. Think critically. Make wise choices.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is happening with the recent protest – the student National Walkout Day and the “March for Our Lives”. This movement, though claimed to be “student led” isn’t. It is hysteria driven. There are may reasons behind the hysteria, but I think it best to say that it essentially stems from a political party bent on limiting the select Constitutional rights of individuals and by a sensationalist, chaos fueled media.

Epidemic vs. tragedy

Some have said that school shootings are at an “epidemic” level, but Merriam-Webster  would disagree, even by a really liberal reading. One source that got almost no play or attention from the national media outlets after the shooting and before the protests, because it goes against the desired narrative, is from an expert on the subject of school shootings. James Alan Fox, a distinguished Biohazardprofessor from Northeastern University, has studied school shootings for decades and he says there are not more shootings, and schools are actually safer than they used to be (watch and read). The national media, celebrities, and those opposed to guns (the 2nd Amendment; in general; or specifically) don’t want to listen to reason or the facts. Instead, we are told that there are more school shootings and favorable statistics used by special interest groups are highlighted to blow the issue out of proportion for a very specific and targeted purpose.

In my experience, and I think I am a fairly typical American, I would have to say that schools shootings (whether there are people injured or killed) are a rather uncommon occurrence and not the experience of a vast majority of Americans. Let me explain.

I grew up in a fairly typical American community and spent my days getting a fairly typical American education. That means I have been in the American education system from kindergarten (pre-school really, but I won’t count that) through the 12th grade. I spent five years in college (that may be unlike most Americans) as I pursued a history degree and a teaching certificate. Finally, unlike most Americans, I also spent 15 years in an American classroom. So, in all how many days have I spent in a classroom? Well, 13×180=2340 days + 5×180=900 days + 15×180=2700 days, for a grand total of 5940 (+/-) days in an American classroom. I do believe that most American’s can’t claim to have that many days in a classroom, except for those teachers or professors who have taught longer than me.

The point of all that math (remember, history teacher, not math – I hate math) is to establish that I am not talking out of my ass here when I say that in my 33 years of being in an American classroom, I never once saw or heard of a gun in the school. Not once. I would venture a guess that most, like 99.9%, can say the same of their educational experience. Did I ever feel unsafe? Sure, but not because of a gun. Did I ever get threatened by a student? Yes, but not with a gun. So, are we really at epidemic proportions when it comes to guns at school, or even gun violence at school? Not even close. Again, if you look at the math – the number of students in the US and the number of schools in the US versus the number of people in the US, it is a rather small percentage of people who have experienced such a threat or event.

What it is, really, is a tragedy. Merriam-Webster, again, serves us well here. I am not trying to minimize the suffering of those wounded or killed in the events and I am not trying to lessen the impact the families of those students have felt either. Nor am I trying to say that students aren’t the victims of crime. But, what I am trying to do is put the matter into perspective. Hysteria tends to drive a tragedy into a rallying point for further hysteria, which ultimately leads to someone’s rights getting trampled or others becoming unintended victims. We aren’t at epidemic levels for school shootings and we shouldn’t let the hysteria of tragedy turn this into a rallying cry for something that really is only a symptom of the problem, not the catalyst.

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 This post continues with #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2). If you would like to comment, please continue to the next post, read ALL of it, then leave a comment.