[This article was originally published on May 26, 2018 at Mises.org. Thomas Eckert is a writer at Being Libertarian.]
Thomas Eckert – July 17, 2018
It’s been three short months since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead , and America has suffered from yet another school shooting. This time in Santa Fe, Texas, where 10 people were gunned down on Friday [May 18, 2018]. As we’ve come to expect, it’s trending on every social media platform and news outlet, as people gear up with the latest arguments and narratives and wait – although, not always – for the facts to emerge. Rather than partake in the mud-slinging, I believe it’s time to re-evaluate our solutions and look to government for the answer, by invoking that old saying, “less is more.” And in this case, less public schools.
No matter how you slice it, it’s impossible to examine what we know about school shootings with any objective measure and not conclude that public schools may be a large contributing factor. The only problem is that new solutions seem to be unwelcome in – what feels like – a never-ending conversation.
Both sides stick to their entrenched talking points. For the left, it’s to blame the guns, oftentimes pushing for assault weapon bans in response to shootings. Except that this most recent shooting was carried out with a shotgun and a revolver, and statistically, assault weapons account for only 14% of mass shootings overall. While for the right, it’s the claim that we simply need to introduce more guns, often citing that “the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Unfortunately, as we saw in Parkland, even with an armed police officer on scene, the shooter was neither deterred nor neutralized by a “good guy” being present.
That’s not to mention the problems that arise from both sides trying to push their plans on a national level, seeming to overlook the maze of bureaucracy standing in the way of actually implementing any of these policies — assuming they would even be effective.
There is one idea, however, that sticks out as both effective statistically as well as being pragmatic in its implementation: abolishing public schools.
When examining school shootings between 2000-2018, we find that 94% took place at a public school . Now, let’s think about how insane that is for a moment. Had 94% of those shootings been done with an AR-15, or 94% of shooters been neutralized by an armed teacher on the premises, there’s no question that the right and left would both consider it a slam dunk for their talking points. Yet, this goes largely unnoticed by those claiming to care about solutions.
And that’s not all. Unlike the hackneyed ideas thrown around in mainstream circles, abolishing public schools is good for everyone, regardless of politics. It doesn’t require confiscating private property from uninvolved third-parties or turning vast swaths of law-abiding citizens into felons overnight; it doesn’t require more tax dollars levied against property owners, regardless of whether they have schoolchildren; it doesn’t involve forcing people to be around guns against their will; and most of all, it doesn’t require a sweeping federal overhaul to be implemented, thereby forcing a one-size-fits-all solution onto 300+ million people. Anyone concerned for their community can get involved locally to abolish their city’s public school. The only thing the feds at the Department of Education need to do is not impede the process.
It’s time to recognize that public schools in America are failing our students in more than just test scores . And while reality may show us that students are more safe in schools today than in the past (students were seven times less likely to be involved in a shooting in 2011 than in 1991), the outcry for solutions to school violence can still be answered if we hold public schools accountable. Right now, public programs that fall short of their goal aren’t reprimanded for their failures. Instead, they lobby for more funding, blaming the failure on a lack of resources. Which, when it comes to the history [of] public school funding in America, should be an embarrassing idea to even humor.
Private institutions, however, risk suffering massive funding losses for failing to keep their students safe, as parents withdraw their children for better schools who prove to be more efficient. Take our earlier statistic of 94%, for example. Imagine that 94% of violent crime in the country occurred within Wal-Mart. Not only would people never set foot in a Wal-Mart again, but we can easily predict a public outcry for the feds to come in and examine, if not outright shut down, every Wal-Mart in America. But with public schools, people are chastised for even mentioning they may be the cause.
But, let’s assume people care enough to set aside their double standard, what would a public-school abolition mean ? It means a transition from a top-down system of mandated regulations from unaccountable bureaucrats to a bottom-up approach to solving security-related issues in schools; with a multitude of schools testing their ideas, the viability of which is determined on their rate of success.
We’re often told that “ Enough is enough ” when it comes to school shootings, and I agree. Enough with the blatant partisan talking points; enough with making excuses for outdated education systems to protect the interests of unions and lobbyists at the expense of children’s lives; and enough with using the poor as a scapegoat for the necessity of public schools when they suffer the most from their underperformance. If we want to get serious about stopping future school shootings, we need to seriously discuss the future of public schooling in America.