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Backpacks and Bullets: The American Gun Violence Epidemic

No teacher deserves to go to work and wonder if they’ll go home alive; no parent should have to fear the repercussions of sending their child to get an education; no student should have to think about if today will be the day they put those carefully practiced “lockdown skills” to the test. Tests are meant to measure learning, not survival instincts, especially when they involve children as young as 5-years-old. A teacher, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “one whose occupation is to instruct.” They should be instructing the next generation of leaders, scholars, athletes, and activists… not wondering if today will be the day their school is terrorized by gun violence. 



Some of my best friends are education majors. They came to college with one goal: to get a job teaching children. They are kind-hearted, ambitious people who want to make a positive difference in kids’ lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world where educators cannot focus only on teaching, they must also focus on keeping their students safe in the event of an attack. Future teachers’ goals were never meant to involve fear. There’s talk of arming teachers, but “Gun Safety 101” isn’t a class in their college curriculum. Education majors can graduate without learning how to wield a weapon; instead, they’re armed with the skills needed to teach children how to create a better world. 


I’m terrified of the day I’ll see a school my friend works in on the national news, because I know it’s more likely to be the result of an attack than of a positive achievement. More than that, I’m worried because I know my friends are going to be the courageous kind of teachers who are willing to protect their students at all costs. We need to make a change before we’re all faced with the prospect of seeing our friends’ Facebook profile pictures plastered all over news websites; a day at work could turn them another tragic victim, another heroic teacher, or another brave survivor all too quickly… but when does it all stop? 

We raise our children in a culture full of violence. We glorify our military, and violent video games are available on the shelves of stores everywhere. Children are taught that aggression is prized in our society, and that must change or we’ll continue to live in a world where the next school shooting is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Education is a privilege we have in America, and our children cannot exercise their freedom to learn if they feel unsafe doing so. Studies in cognitive psychology have indicated that people perform best on exams when they are tested in an environment that matches the one they learned in—it’s our job to make sure we don’t normalize a learning environment where bullets are as commonplace as backpacks.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you have to fight for what you want. If we want to make a change, we need to demand it. As future parents, as future educators, as former-students, as friends, and as human-beings, I’m begging you to recognize that this country is experiencing a gun violence epidemic. I’m begging you to join the chorus of voices calling for change. 

Stand up & speak out. HCXO,


I'm Megan Miller, a senior Psychology/Sociology double major and Children's Studies minor. You can find me giving campus tours, kicked back in the Fred Rogers Center, or on a date with my homework at the local coffee shop. If there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I approach every day with one goal: make Michelle Obama proud.
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