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By Mr_B_

As a public school teacher I try to remain wholly unbiased in my instruction. Not only is this a position that I have taken professionally, but also on a personal level. I feel it is my duty to remain as impartial as possible when discussing contentious issues. Given the current political climate, one of the more controversial matters to discuss is firearms laws and regulations. My favorite course to teach is Contemporary World Issues. The curriculum in this class lends itself to being incredibly topical . . .

Since school started in August there have been countless news stories concerning firearms leading to many class discussions and debates. The students in my class are very diverse in both background and personality – the best thing a teacher could ask for in a current events course. Here is a breakdown of the eight students in my class:

Student A: 17-year-old female. Very bright and an incredibly good writer. She is well-spoken and knows how to keep a discussion going without belittling those she disagrees with. Motivated by her desire to learn new things. Pacifist due to religious beliefs.

Student B: 16-year-old female. Quite lazy and inattentive, but has a hidden gift for eloquence in her writing. She is very willful and not open to changing her opinion, when she has one.

Student C: 15-year-old male. Squirrely kid. Likes WWII history. Both parents served in the military from mid 90s to present. Conservative in almost all social issues and still learning to express his political mind. He gets his opinions from mom and dad who get theirs from Fox News.

Student D: 16-year-old female. Foreign exchange student from Austria. Speaks very good English (and German of course). Reads CNN online. Well read. Has a hard time understanding some idiosyncrasies of rural America.

Student E: 18-year-old male. Has an outstanding mind for science, particularly physics. Very rational in his opinions. Likes sports and fitness. High achieving in academics and seems to enjoy school.

Student F: 17-year-old male. Redneck. Very Redneck. Works with cattle and drives a ridiculous pickup to school. Wears cowboy boots every day. On more than one occasion he has implied that Obama should die. Very lazy in school. Does the bare minimum, even if he is interested in the topic.

Student G: 18-year-old male. Loves football and the 49ers. Soft spoken, but will speak up if he feels like he can contribute something unique. Hard to read at times, but very kind and polite.

Student H: 18-year-old male. Foreign exchange student from Italy. Speaks decent English, but can read and write it very well. Well versed in world history. Very liberal in his principles, but ironically got placed with a host family that is analogous to Student F.

This smorgasbord of individuals, with their assorted opinions and ideals, brought about an amazing dialogue when it came to the topic of firearms. The small class size also facilitated the intimate and personal nature that every teacher desires for his or her class.

Oh, I almost forgot to introduce myself. I am a 23-year-old male. I grew up farming with my family on the upper great plains of the United States. I am a lifelong firearm owner and enthusiast. I love hunting and target shooting. I have had my concealed carry permit for 4+ years and wish I could carry in the classroom. I dislike Obama for his disregard for the U.S. Constitution, not for being “a secret Muslim born in Kenya.”

Can you see where remaining impartial with these students could be a challenge?

After several small gun-related discussions in class at the beginning of the year I decided to just teach a whole unit, which I aptly titled “A History of Firearms in United States.” We would start at the American Revolution and work our way to present day. When planning the lessons for this unit I forced myself to keep opinions at bay and focus on facts; the cold, hard, usually-boring-to-most-people-especially-teenagers facts.

What surprised me was the positive response from my students; they were on board from the start, even the chronically lazy ones. If you are a teacher, or have ever been in a classroom with apathetic teenagers, you can understand my amazement at this. After the first lesson, which covered the technology behind 18th century muskets and their use in battle during the American Revolution, Student A said, “It’s so weird to learn about guns this way in school. Usually teachers just lecture about loving or hating them.” The rest of the students described similar experiences that other teachers had put them through in previous classes.

Hearing this really upset me as an educator. The purposeful indoctrination of young minds, no matter how well-intentioned, can be extremely dangerous. It is my responsibility as a teacher to guide students along the path towards learning, critical thinking, and problem solving, not goad them down the route that I deem the best. I see this too often in the debate over gun control, and both sides are guilty of it. The amount of propaganda and misinformation that is spread to the ignorant masses is hazardous to the intellectual conversations that need to take place. We must focus on the truth in order to educate. I kept this sentiment in mind as we progressed through this study of firearms.

In the next lesson we discussed the drafting of the Bill of Rights. I wrote the Second Amendment on the board in its entirety – all 27 glorious words. I read it aloud to the class and then asked them several questions: Why did the Framers use these particular words? Did they only mean a state-sponsored militia? Does this apply to all firearms or just muskets? I then sat back and observed as their minds churned and a lively debate arose in my classroom.

Sides were quickly chosen. Students F said that everyone should have guns, not just the military; people need them to defend themselves. Students B and C concurred and brought up examples of firearms being used throughout history to protect the weak and disenfranchised. Students A, D, and H retorted saying that technology from the late 1700s was nowhere near what it is today and that the Founding Fathers would not want machine guns in everyone’s possession. Students E and G floated around the middle of the aisle and asked questions to keep the debate going. From here they branched off to varying topics, all the while keeping it moderately polite. It was a joy to watch them actively engaged in civil discourse.

The subsequent lessons covered the following: Hunting, advancements in firearm technology, short biographies of Browning and Stoner, National Firearms Act of 1934, Gun Control Act of 1968, school shootings, NICS, and current firearm legislation in the United States. Throughout the unit they had various projects and essays to complete, which they enjoyed. Even Students B and F turned most of their assignments in on time.

One of the more lighthearted moments during all of this occurred when Student H asked, “How many firearms can a person own in the United States?” I simply replied that there is no limit; if someone wanted 16, 100 or even 500 they could own them as long as they had the money to support such an expensive hobby. In a thick Italian accent he scoffed, “Why the hell would you need 100 guns? In Italy you can only have 5.” Student F piped in sarcastically, “Because this is ‘Mericuh, that’s why! We don’t put limits on freedom.” We all laughed for a moment, but both Students D and H still could not believe the pervasiveness of firearms in America.

While their opinions differed sharply when it came to background checks, magazine capacity laws, and automatic weapons, one of the issues that everyone in the class did agree on was the absurdity of short-barreled rifle and short-barreled shotgun regulations. They concluded (through their own rational thought, I might add) that the laws were instituted with fear in mind instead of logic. I smiled to myself and dreamed of the day when a particular teacher’s salary might be high enough for him own several SBRs.

I ended the unit with a constructed response (3 typed pages) to the following question: “Given all that you have learned, what is the best solution for stopping violent crime in the United States?” The responses to this question were as wide-ranging as my students’ personalities, but what pleased me the most after all we discussed was that their arguments were supported by factual evidence.

The pro-gun students pointed out that mass shootings almost always take place in areas that do not allow people to conceal carry. The gun control advocates brought up studies that show that a majority of Americans are in favor of more rigorous background checks. Yet the one thing that every student used in their essay – something I, and probably most Americans, agree with – was the need for increased funding and support for people suffering from mental health problems.

They all earned passing grades. (Although Students B and F turned their papers in late and only received an 80%). In the end they learned something new and I enjoyed teaching the material. There was a spark of excitement in their attitudes towards each lesson. They actually strove to remove some ignorance from their lives and did not fight me every step of the way, as certain students are liable to do.

There was something special in excluding my biases from these lessons. I was able to examine the facts behind the numerous aspects of this enormous debate and relay that to my students. I realized that while many of the roots of my opinions concerning firearms are comprised of emotion, those roots are entwined in a rich soil of dates, statistics, court cases, and a thought-provoking history that is worth digging up and running one’s fingers through in order to uncover the truth.

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    • LOL. Sad but true.

      The world needs more teachers who impart the skills of logic and critical thinking to their students. Unfortunately, it seems like they’re the ones least likely to survive such a politically correct (i.e. hostile) environment.

      • Teachers just cannot win – attacked on one side from the Democrats with that political correctness you mentioned and attacked by Republican because logic and reason do not go with thier agenda as set by the religious rightwing of the Republican base.

        It takes a special person to be a teacher in this day and age. My hat is off to them.

  1. Ah, an acutal “teacher”, you are better than some of the other HS teachers i’ve seen. A lot of the work I’ve seen my neices and nephews given is “busy” work that is only somewhat related to actual learning. I mean, how much can one learn from a coloring book and crossword puzzles…and yes this is HS.

    • Coloring books are pretty obviously a bit juvenile for high schools By that age you should be learning drafting or the “fine arts.” But I think using crossword puzzles is a great idea! I attribute part of my vast vocabulary and my “rooting out of information” skills to doing crossword puzzles. It’s educational and fun simultaneously! My Mom and Dad got me “stealth educational” toys – toys that were fun, but so well-conceived that I didn’t even know at the time that they were “educational.” For example, I remember as a toddler sitting on the kitchen floor playing with a stealth education toy which I called a “number weigher.” It was a simple plastic balance scale, with a stock of plastic numerals with proportional weights. IOW, the ‘1’ weighed one unit, the ‘2’ two units, and so on up to the ‘9’, which weighed in at nine units. That was all there were, and obviously there was no zero. ;-D So I learned basic arithmetic at the age of about 3½ or 4. I’m not getting a dead-tree newspaper these days, and I really miss the Sunday NY Times puzzle.

      Mr_B_, keep up the good work!

    • No, crossword puzzles were not nearly as bad as the damn word searches. Its Where’s Waldo without the slapstick humor. 0 educational value, and they take forever.

  2. Mr B impresses me as a teacher who would do well with almost any student teaching almost any topic.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I teach at the collegiate level, specifically national security affairs with more of a international focus than a domestic one. Even so I have my students discuss current events as a part of the daily curriculum and we have spent a good amount of time on domestic issues like firearms and crime. It has been fascinating listening to these college seniors work through (or not) issues like this. I love prodding them with the kinds of questions you presented to your class.

    I also have made sure to make it clear what my biases are as we discuss these topics so they know where I am coming from as I present information and can account for that bias as they listen to me and form an opinion on what I present. I would encourage you to do the same, if possible, and be open with your students about how you view the world and then encourage them to challenge that understanding. Since I am not seeking tenure or even longevity in this current job I do have that freedom and understand if you are seeking to sustain this as a career that might not be an option.

  4. Might be a winner here. I can see why they added a prize and extended the deadline. The first few entries were “meh,” but now the quality is picking up. I’m discouraged as to my own chances now 🙂

    Kudos to you for doing what an educator is supposed to do. Though I am disheartened to think of a current events class only having 8 students, two of them foreign…kind of speaks to the apathy/ignorance of the American student population.

    I’d be interested in pressing the Italian on why 5 makes sense as the limit. I’ve got four guns already, and I don’t even have the spectrum of weapons close to covered. One snubbie revolver, one automatic pistol, one pump 12ga shotgun, one over/under 20ga shotgun. In his Italian world, I’ve only got room for one more. I hate to think about having to fill the gaping hole in my collection (no rifle!) with just one firearm. Right now I’m looking to get a smaller caliber semi-auto and a larger caliber bolt action, but finances dictate patience.

    • Don’t look for sense in gun control laws. Here or in Europe. I believe in Italy military calibers are illegal – such as 9 mm.

  5. Pretty good, but about your “Redneck” student — Is he stupid? Is he boinking his 14 year old cousin? Does he have horsesh1t on his boots? Or did you just forget those parts of the stereotype?

    • Considering how many rednecks I know who are proud of being a redneck and will rather publicly advertise it, I’m not sure if it is always as pejorative a term as you think.

      • It depends a lot upon your intention, who you are saying it of, who you are saying it to, and who you are saying it about.

        It was used pejoratively, in my opinion.

      • One of the most popular songs on the radio when I was in college in the South–may still be for all I know–was a song that began: “And it’s up against the wall redneck mothers, mothers who have taught your sons so well. he’s 34 and drinkin’ in some honkey tonk,, just kickin’ hippies’; asses and raisin’ hell.” Rednecks are proud to be rednecks. And then there was that Randy Newman (very un P.C.) song about rednecks….NSFW

        • A hippie (really a redneck hippie) song, written by the great Ray Wylie Hubbard, and made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker.

        • I’m sure most of you have heard of Jeff Foxworthy. He does a 30 minute standup on “you might be a Redneck if…” But we also already know the professional offense-takers are sick in the head.

        • Foxworthy’s routine illustrates the different between comedic intent, and erroneous speech.

          But it’s instructive to imagine how “you might be a n*gger if….” might not be a wise decision. No one has done, “you might be a Arab if…” yet, either.

          INCORRECT THOUGHT ALERT: I once envisioned a fat, while comedienne, who was (supposedly) married to an Arab man, whose name was TOOTIE AL-HAQ. Like Phyllis Diller, whe would do comedy routines about her husband. It would never work in such a society as ours. Too bad, I think. Too many things are held politically incorrect, and society suffers for it.

        • I once worked in the repair dept. of a local Radio Shack. My boss used to say, “the white n!ggers are the worst.” To him, the word wasn’t about skin color at all, but behavior and attitude.

        • I understand the thinking; and, being a child of the Southland, that the n-word has many layers of meaning. The problem is, many people, not being a beneficiary of the Southland Experience, all the great things, all the bad things, all the shaming things, do not grasp the nuances of the Southern Lingo.

          I have an accent that comes and goes, sometimes on purpose, sometimes without benefit of volition. But I can appreciate that Yankees and ‘Fornians cannot possibly be expected to grasp said nuances.

          And I try to avoid saying some things, lest I be badly misunderstood. There are only 3-4 people I can think of at the moment that I can speak in such nuances around. My daughter is one. But I don’t think I’ve said the word in many years.

          But it’s just possible I might meet someone, of any color, acting in a really riling fashion, who I might have to use it against one day.

          I hope not.

    • Is it impossible that his student actually was as he described? I know plenty of rednecks that fit what he put forward pretty well, doesn’t mean it’s fake. Sometimes people do fit the stereotype, it’s when you apply the stereotype to an entire group that you are doing the wrong thing.

      • It’s possible, sure. But our impressions of others are always colored by our personal belief systems. In that light, no evaluations of others can be 100% accurate.

        It’s very hard to walk a mile in someone else’ shoes.

        • Very true William. And when you take it in combination with some of the other stereotypes like the kids parents who get their opinions from Fox News you get a different feeling from the piece. But the redneck stereotype alone is not so bad as long as everything he said was true including the quote about Obama. Right on about the walking in another’s shoes.

  6. Really interesting read. The kids are lucky to have you. I don’t remember how my teachers approached the topic of gun ownership. Of course, back then it wasn’t the hot potato it is now. Plus, I don’t remember a lot about my schooling for various reasons.

  7. THIS. Right here.

    “…while many of the roots of my opinions concerning firearms are comprised of emotion, those roots are entwined in a rich soil of dates, statistics, court cases, and a thought-provoking history that is worth digging up and running one’s fingers through in order to uncover the truth.”

    The world needs more people who think like this. Good writing and good teaching, Mr. B.

    Give this man his pistol.

  8. When I was in high school we had a rifle range in the school basement and after school shooting club , supported by the DCM and NRA… Today that is gone , so also in most history … Glad we still have a few like this man….but he will be weeded out in time…. this is a bad time for male teachers too………

  9. Curious why a teacher couldn’t afford a SBR? They really aren’t any more expensive than a normal rifle. With the right amount of patience and bargain hunting, parts can be found for less than “retail”. The only fixed and unavoidable cost is the $200 tax stamp. That being said, the reality is, it’s entirely affordable.

    However, all in all, this is probably my favorite submission thus far.

  10. I can’t decide whether you’re describing educational paradise or learning nirvana. Bravo – exceptionally well done! Carry on.

  11. I’m calling BS and fail.

    A public school class with 8 students? A multi week project on firearms? Where is this idyllic public shool with funding to support “very diverse” 8 student classes and no Zero Tolerance policy?

    Unbiased my foot. Redneck, really? Drives a ridiculous pickup and wears cowboy boots? Has “implied that Obama should die”? Then there’s the “squirrely” conservative kid with military parents who not only watch Fox News but “get their opinions” from it.

    Just another example of the state of ‘modern’ education. Let the students ‘teach’ themselves and validate diametrically opposed conclusions with a passing grade. How progressive.

    To top it off the exercise culminates in a non-sequitor. Given all that they’ve ‘learned’ “…what’s the best solution for stopping violent crime in the United States?” Huh? I thought the class was “A History of Firearms in the United States”?

    Next, the history of the crowbar and the best solution to burglary in the United States.

    • I gotta admit, my BS meter is flashing a bit too. Seems “too perfect” for reality. The first thing that set it off was the 8 kid class. My wife teaches high school math and has 28-35 kids in each of her 5 classes.

      Also, the idea of covering a topic like this with enough time to complete multiple projects and essays seems extremely unlikely.

      Bravo if it actually happened the way you called it, but I’m not really buying it.

      • I’m guessing it’s in a more rural part of the country, given some of the key indicators in the writing. Next, it’s not uncommon in rural settings to have low numbers of students in a class. Heck, in one school in Kansas that I was slated to attend, there were 35 in the entire graduating class. I ended up back east, in my previous school district, with 800+ in my graduating class. I’m guessing your wife teaches in a suburban or urban area. Simply because the environments are different, doesn’t mean the piece is BS. I’d propose that it’s possible that instead of focusing on all the students, a few were selected for the purposes of the article. I can only surmise this because, it’s more likely and quite possibly, an easier read. It could also be that only a select few were used, since the rest were too plain or too similar to those “core” mentioned in the article, or perhaps those were the most vocal or maybe even the best known to the author teacher.

        From being a student, as well as teaching, I can tell you that specialized elective courses get a bit more leeway in what they can teach or cover in terms of curriculum.

  12. Great article. I appreciate your raising such issues with your class.

    By the way, Student B? In my opinion, she has the most potential of them all, and is the most likely to become a truly extraordinary person, and maybe a widely-respected one.

  13. I second the motion for b.s. and fail. Kept your biases in check in the class full of kids first encountering the subject in school? You can’t even keep biases in check in here before well educated adults who’ve lived these ideas and done serious thinking about them for decades.

    Take the characterizations of the “pro-gun” kids: redneck and lazy, inattentive and intransigent, squirrely and conservative by parroting Fox-watching parents who allegedly cannot think for themselves (how would you know?) Redneck is a nasty racial and cultural slur. I notice nothing similar was used to describe the Italian or the pacifist who support further infringement.

    The issues are rights and freedoms, so the position is pro-freedom, not “pro-gun.” The counter position is anti-freedom, not “pro-gun control.” Your biased labels couch the issues in terms of an inanimate object and obscure the inherent moral clarity involved.

    Let’s look at those anti-freedom kids. They’re characterized as bright and polite, well spoken and well read, well versed and expressive. Funny how watching Fox News means one regurgitates conservatism, but reading CNN renders one well read. Funny how conservatism is merely “politics”, but liberalism is principled. Funny how the status of spree shooting sited as legally gun free zones shares credibility status as fact with the view that most Americans support expanded background checks. Most Americans cannot articulate what current background checks entail, let alone what nebulous proposals for expansion might look like. So that counterpoint hardly qualifies as a fact, for being incapable of any universal definition or identification.

    I will give you one credit: at 23 and being a concealed carrier for 4+ years, you drove me to go look up minimum license ages. I expected it was 21 everywhere, except 18+ for military. Apparently it can be 18 across the board in a few states, including ones in the area where you grew up. So that’s an informational take-away. The rest, though, reveals a bias on your part that you have not begun to notice, let alone to

    Give this guy an FN, and it’ll either end up in a gun “buy back” bin, or be used as a prop in a MAIG commercial bemoaning easy access to guns and titled “Close the Internet Essay Contest Loophole!”

  14. The students who brought up the questionable factoid that most Americans support background checks were not answering the question posed to them. Unless they actually included some substantive content explaining how to reduce (stopping is unrealistic) violent crime in America they shouldn’t have gotten a passing grade on that question.

    • Agreed. It’s possible to still have open discourse while also correcting stupid claims. At the very least, the teacher should have asked why the student believed that the emotional opinion of a majority should be grounds to trample the rights of others when the Constitution was specifically designed to prevent that.

  15. I really wish we had a lesson like this a few years ago when I was in school. I live in Indiana, and when I bought my first firearm, I didn’t know that there was no gun registration here. I just assumed there was.

  16. This was a really good read to me. This man deserves the FNS-40 for the following reasons:

    1) This was a really good read.

    2) He teaches a history of firearms … In class? … In a school??

    3). Even if his post was liberal progressive garbage (which it is not) He should be given a pistol because he is an educator. After he experienced the joys of firearm sports and shooting he may dig a little deeper and find the truth about its purpose and the freedom that follows it. Then… He may take this with him to the classroom. Every educator should be given a gun.

  17. I have been very lucky. I was a secondary science teacher, a commercial charter pilot when I was not teaching, and after retirement a certified state real estate appraiser. I had been around guns from day one on a family farm. As my experiences grew I was able to acquire a number of firearms including tax stamp NFA automatic firearms. I am writing this to say that do not hesitate to invest in FINE firearms and keep them in pristine condition. They are among the best financial investments one can make. If your wife or partener starts giving you any problem with your spending on firearms I suggest you do what I do. I tell her look around this house and property and pick one item she purchased that can be resold for as much as or many times more than she paid for it? I am still waiting for an answer. I have never had any further question on my firearm purchases.


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