With gun violence, schools are not ‘the problem’

This has been a horrific month. On May 14, a white supremacist walked into a supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo and murdered 10 people. Then, on Monday, a shooter entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and massacred 19 young children and two teachers.

Both shooters were 18-year-olds who were able to legally buy AR-15 style semiautomatic rifles. They weren’t even close to being old enough to buy alcohol, but they could buy deadly weapons meant for use by the military, along with lots of ammunition, no questions asked.

It’s no wonder the United States is an outlier when it comes to gun violence. We have had over 2,000 school shootings since 1970, according to Sandy Hook Promise. And as horrifying as they are, school shootings are the tip of the iceberg. Guns are now the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens.

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Charter schools and ‘educational blackmail’

Are charter schools like polluting industries? That’s a provocative analogy, but two University of Connecticut researchers explore it in a recent paper. They contend that, while some charter schools may help students, the sector needs stronger regulation to prevent harm to students and school districts.

“I would argue that, even if there are benefits, that does not give you carte blanche to not regulate or mitigate the harms that occur,” Preston C. Green III, the paper’s lead author, told me.

The paper, “Beware of Educational Blackmail: How Can We Apply Lessons from Environmental Justice to Urban Charter School Growth?,” is pending publication in South Carolina Law Review and is online at the Social Science Research Network. Authors are Green, the university’s John and Maria Neag professor of urban education, and doctoral student Chelsea Connery.

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Indiana lags in education. Don’t blame history.

James Briggs of the Indianapolis Star convincingly connects Indiana’s economic malaise with its status as “one of the worst states in American for educational attainment” in an excellent column published this month.

But I think the column oversimplifies when it suggests Indiana’s current failings are embedded in the state’s history. “The story is always more complicated when we move to history,” the Indiana historian James Madison told me.

Caleb Mills advocated for public education in a series of influential essays in the 1800s. (Digital image © 2005 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. Source: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection).

I reached out to Madison to ask about the claim, attributed to the writer and consultant Aaron Renn, that Indiana “has always been poorly educated” due to “the cultural influences of large Quaker and southern-born populations at the time of Indiana’s founding.”

The Quakers? “I don’t know any basis for that statement,” said Madison, the Thomas and Kathryn Miller professor emeritus of history at Indiana University.Quite the contrary, Quakers tended to be more enthusiastic about education.”

Quakers also were pioneer Indiana’s most active abolitionists and operated some of the first schools open to African American children. “That’s indicative of the Quaker commitment to the general welfare,” Madison said.

Renn is right that much of Indiana’s early population was southern-born. All but nine of the 43 delegates to the state’s first constitutional convention previously lived in the South, Madison writes in “Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana.” And formal education was plain scarce in backwoods Indiana. Abraham Lincoln, who lived in the state from age 7 to 21, attended school for less than 12 months. In 1840, Indiana recorded the highest rate of illiteracy north of the Ohio River, Madison said.

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