The first week of school was the usual rush of packing lunches, filling out forms and placing ourselves firmly back into the familiar arms of the school routine. Amid all of that hustle and bustle, I was most disturbed by the lockdown drill that Rose and Emma practiced in their second grade room.
My elementary school was located in a small, Midwestern town. We had our fair share of drills. For fire drills we shuffled out onto the dewy grass and stood there talking and laughing, caught up in our own elementary-age drama while the teachers did head counts and then shouted the all clear to go back inside. For tornado drills, we crouched in the main hallway, backs against the wall, arms protecting our heads, whispering jokes to each other. We were participants in these drills, but we were distracted participants. Because even in second grade, we realized the odds of a fire or tornado sweeping through the school were remote.
Fast forward to Rose and Emma's generation. They're almost eight and they've never known a time when they could walk to the airplane gate to greet someone or kiss them goodbye. They're post-9/11 babies, born and being raised amid terrorist threats and heightened security. They're growing up in a world where school and public shootings are more common then we'd like to acknowledge. Remember Columbine? How about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo where 12 people were killed and 50 wounded during a movie? And let's not forget Tucson last year when U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others were shot at a grocery store meet-and-greet. The gruesome list of shootings goes on and on.
So why should it surprise me that my children now do a "lockdown" drill at school? The idea is to teach the children how to react if a gunmen enters the building. During the first week, their teacher locked their classroom door and the whole class huddled together in a corner. Their principal pretended to be the "bad guy" and jiggled the doorknob trying to trick them to come out. Rose and Emma proudly told me that Ms. Sierra's trick didn't work. And then the drill was over and their studies resumed.
I'm sure the intent of the school district is to keep the children safe. But I wonder if the drill is so much about safety as it is teaching them fear? I'd rather the school didn't teach Rose and Emma to dread the unknown, to fear a mad man with a gun and a twisted vendetta. Plenty of fear already exists in the world that adults must grapple with daily, I don't think the schools need to start teaching it to our children. All the eye-opening horror and the grisly side of humanity will come as soon as they learn to flip on the news. And if a mad man should appear, do I really want them to respond by huddling in a corner behind the flimsy lock of a school door?