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As a teacher of high school English, I have rather a unique perch from which to observe the passing trends of American interest and life. All manner of things come up in our discussions of literature: drugs, relationships, the nature of men and women, parenting, you name it. But only rarely does the interest of teenagers turn to firearms, and even more rarely to the Constitution, particularly the Second Amendment . . .

Adults who appreciate the Constitution, and particularly the vital role of the Second Amendment in securing the rest of the Constitution, tend to take for granted the role of upcoming generations in preserving the Constitution. We often take for granted that our children, kids in general, have the same concerns, the same vital understandings that we have.

They don’t.

In training new teachers, one of the first things I tell them is never to underestimate the intelligence of kids, but never to overestimate the amount of information they have. New teachers are continually amazed by the sheer numbers of word definitions, idioms, concepts, and understandings of human nature kids don’t know. Some are even surprised when teenagers behave like teenagers. I’m not; I just don’t let them behave like rude and stupid teenagers.

Despite having virtually unlimited information at their fingertips in ways we could not have imagined only ten years ago, most kids lack the information, the convictions, necessary to preserve liberty. In researching topics for a research paper, my students occasionally come across an article like this, published in the Wisconsin Gazette by one Tom Hastings, director of “PeaceVoice” who teaches in the “conflict resolution program” at Portland State University:

“What country fetishizes, lionizes, valorizes, idolizes, and sacralizes guns as much as does our United States? OK, possibly Mozambique — the only country with an AK47 on its flag, but really, it’s long past time to end this obsessive ‘My Precious’ attachment of Americans to instruments of death.

This morning of Dec. 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings — four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far, far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment…

The only logical path, given the clearly decided role of the Second Amendment, is to repeal it. American people are tired of mass shootings and police shootings and family feud shootings and sibling shootings and accidental toddler shootings and teen suicide by gun (highly popular). We are exhausted by the proliferation of death, of threats, of bloodshed, and by the NRA/gun industry moral garbage spewing forth every time someone challenges the ubiquity of guns.

Repeal the Stupid Second Amendment. Surround it, grab it, bring it in the back room, pull down the shades, and end it. OK, petition for it, get it on the ballot, and get it done by enough of the US populace, by enough people in enough states, to get it consigned to the dustbin of history.”

We’ve all seen hundreds of rants just like it. Uninformed, deceptive, propagandistic, dripping in condescension and hate, it’s nothing new for us, but for most teenagers, it may seem novel and insightful, and the inherent anger may be superficially attractive.

In some respects, my students may be somewhat unusual. I teach in North Texas, where most people find the right to keep and bear arms unremarkable. To them, firearms are tools, used for recreation, and simply fun. There is little or no controversy involved. Most people own guns, like them, that’s that.

In my annual media unit I bring up the case of Kitty Genovese, the young woman in New York City murdered by a knife-wielding attacker while many neighbors watched and did nothing to intervene. There is some evidence that this famous case had to do with police mistakes, but there is little doubt that no one came to her aid, and she died as a result.

Hearing of this case, my students, virtually one and all, say that in such a situation, the bad guy would be blown out of his socks as soon as they–or any of their neighbors–could lay sights on him. There is no boasting, no hyperbole, they would simply get a gun–a gun likely one of several in their home, in many cases, their gun–and shoot the man trying to kill an innocent woman.

But even in North Texas, not every teenager shares these sentiments. Some find arguments such as Hastings’ very persuasive. They just don’t know better. Most of their history teachers are not hostile to the Second Amendment, but some are. In any case, they’ll study it, briefly, normally once during their high school years, and probably won’t learn in any depth of its history and the absolutely necessary place it holds in our republican government. Few will be taught that its primary purpose is to allow citizens to overthrow a tyrannical government. Few will be taught that it has nothing to do with sports or hunting.

And imagine the indoctrination kids receive in states that don’t respect the rights of their citizens to self-defense. I can state without fear of being contradicted that in those states, history teachers and others routinely misrepresent the Constitution for partisan political purposes. To them, guns are evil, anyone wanting one is insane or criminally dangerous, there is no such thing as a right to self-defense, and the Second Amendment guarantees only the right of the government to have armed forces. One need little imagination to imagine what Mr. Hastings is teaching his classes on this subject.

Beyond these bare, basic issues, kids know virtually nothing of contemporary law relating to the possession, transportation and use of firearms. In the between classes conversation of my students, I’ve heard virtually every cliché and bit of media narrative one might imagine. In the Michael Brown case, kids wondered why the police didn’t just shoot him in the leg–that’s a very common misconception for kids and adults alike–and made clear their ideas of armed confrontations came entirely from video games, TV and the movies.

Because I teach English, I’m careful not to take class time on what are, in many ways, issues unrelated to my curriculum, but when I reasonably can, I add a bit of fact and reason, and direct kids to reliable sources.

What most people don’t know is that teachers are very limited in their time and influence. I’ll see a given student for less than five hours a week for about nine months of their life, and every minute of that time is carefully planned. All that I, or any teacher, can do is provide the best possible opportunity for learning my education, experience and resources–provided by the public–can manage. It’s up to each student and their parents to take advantage of that opportunity.

But all too often, for issues of such importance as the Constitution and the Second Amendment, parents must assume the majority of the responsibility for the education of their children. It has not always been thus, but it is now. Most schools provide at least a foundation of civics, but it is up to parents to ensure their children become Americans by choice, and not just by birth, and that they truly appreciate what that means.

Fortunately, we have some advantages. Those that want to restrict liberty must, of necessity, lie. They rewrite or ignore history, distort facts and statistics, and torture logic. Anyone that has been involved in the study of these issues has seen all of this and often.

Those that want to preserve, even expand, liberty need only tell the truth about our history. They need only direct kids to verifiable facts and the means to verify them. They need apply only simple logic, which can lead only to conclusions supportive of individual liberty and limited government by the people, of the people and for the people.

Teenagers usually have a broadly based sense of moral outrage, even if they can’t define the word “morality.” When someone is lying to them, it bothers them. People trying to fool them make them angry. Not only can we use that knowledge, we can help them deepen their understanding of human nature and politics by guiding them to the truth and encouraging them to research it for themselves.

And of course, nothing encourages kids in the shooting sports like having the opportunity to shoot under proper guidance and instruction.

The opponents of liberty know that indoctrination of the young is vital. They think and act for the long term, which is why they have worked so hard and long to make inroads in the schools and colleges across the land. But strong family ties and relationships with wise and impressive adults can counteract cynical, manipulative indoctrination with fact, logic, and love.

That’s something we dare not forget if we want individual liberty to thrive. That something we dare not forget if we want our children to know an America where freedom still reigns, an America they must defend, and if necessary, re-create.

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  1. The whole “38 witnesses did nothing” lie was perpetrated by the New York Times to sell newspapers. It did not happen. Nobody saw the attack in its entirety, two neighbors discerned that Kitty Genovese was stabbed, one of them yelled at the attacker to stop (which he did, and then he ran away) and at least one called the police.

    The cops never came. They were called but did not come to Ms. Genovese’s rescue. Winston Moseley, the attacker, returned ten minutes after he left Ms. Genovese bleeding on the street. By then, Kitty had crawled away to where she could not be seen. Moseley searched for her and eventually finished the job on Ms. Genovese.

    The true Genovese story is even more compelling than the Times well-publicized lie. The truth underscores an important point — we are our own first responders and the police cannot be relied upon.

    Without 2A, most of us are as vulnerable as Kitty Genovese. Teach that to the children.

  2. Hard to imagine preteens and teens having the conviction or desire to preserve liberty when their entire life until they are in their 20s is to take orders and commands from others and constantly living under oppressive situations and environments. Always remember our school system is based off the Prussian model of schooling adopted by the Nazis to create an obedient docile populace.

    Homeschool to preserve freedom.

    • I’m with you …home school. And a lot of kids like guns. Gang members and video game children.

    • Homeschool to produce kids that are poorly adjusted socially. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot wrong with public schools. But I was in public school from K-12 (class of ’12), and turned out to support liberty stronger than most anyone I know. Parents can still provide strong guidance to their children even when they are in public school. But I know that homeschooled kids tend to turn out to be very socially inept adults.

      • This is incorrect. Research shows hmneschooled kids are often socially better than schooled kids, particularly public schooled kids. Schooling is an incredibly unnatural and poor social environment. It flies in the face of human nature. You are an outlier, schools promote collectivist thought and action, the promote the opposite of freedom and respect.

      • Gotta call you on this, homeschooled kids tend to perform better and are often better socially adjusted than their public schools counterparts.

  3. “In the Michael Brown case, kids wondered why the police didn’t just shoot him in the leg”
    I witnessed the exact same thing during school. The problem is most students who don’t get it will carry the ignorance of self defense (I’ll just call the police if someone tries to hurt me!) into their adult lives, as my history teacher did.

  4. Being an English teacher, you should be able to have your students read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    You can ask them to write a short report noting the differences in language use and style, then and now.

    Since the 2nd Amendment and its two clauses have, in people’s minds, blurred its meaning, you can have them diagram the language in the Amendment and be prepared to join a discussion in class.
    You can do the same with any portion of the Constitution.
    Ideally, you could work with the American History teacher to parallel assignments thus killing two birds with one assignment, so to speak. You discuss the language portion of the assignment while the History teacher discusses the History of assignment. The Civics teacher could even be brought into the circle. The students would basically have one reading assignment to cover three requirements. I’ll bet they’d love it.
    Obviously, lesson plans would have to be revised.

    • Before school children can read the Constitution, they have to be able to read. Which is something that most of them cannot seem to master.

      We are producing a generation of functional illiterates. But that’s okay. They’re experts at playing video games and writing unintelligible blather on facebook and twitter.

    • Dick, I agree completely. My HS English, sentence diagramming, definitions of tense and voice and whatever is way past me now, I am not the one to argue it. But an assignment to explain why there is a second Amendment rather than just another item covered in the 1st, along with defining the differences between “Congress shall make no law” and “shall not be infringed”, including research into the Federalist papers and other sources to determine what the FF meant to do by the restrictions they placed on our new government, would in a couple weeks give them a grounding which would be difficult to promulgate these fanatics’ lies to. They would just, clearly, be lies.

  5. I start my 2nd amendment section with: who can tell me when the American talk of independence turned into a war for Independence? When Royal government troops marched out of Boston to Lexington and Concord and demanded the guns.

    I covered the Brown shooting. We walked through the time line. I had students claim he was shot in the back. We went through the autopsy report. Nope. We discussed deadly force. The leg shooting preference came up. I explained aim for center mass and shoot to stop the threat. The biggest complaint was Brown was unarmed. In one class I had a football player stand up. Easily 300 lbs. I asked him how fast could he cover 10-15 feet. Real fast. I asked what evens out the disparity of size? Unarmed does not mean not dangerous. There were still some students who refused to accept the facts. Most got it though.

  6. As A former seminary professor, I taught my students the importance of the 2nd Amendment in protecting the 1st Amendment, and my students, believe it or not, appreciated and understood it. However, I have a friend who is an extreme liberal who is also a professor, teaching future educators at a well known, highly regarded university. He just this week proposed that teaching cursive writing to students in elementary school is a waste of time, and lectured that handwriting is obsolete, preferring instead to recommend teaching typing skills and relegating penmanship to the ‘dustbin of history’. Is there any wonder why so many of our kids are so poorly able to comprehend even the simplest of issues?

    • Cursive is pointless and a waste of time, though handwriting in print is still very useful and valuable. Penmanship such as cursive should be a chosen skill, not one imparted on all kids.

      • Without cursive writing skills, kids won’t even be able to read the original Constitution to determine what was really written. Sure, they can read a type written copy, but to see, read and understand the original, I think that is important.

      • Nope. There’s a whole slew of research out there that shows the correlation between physical handwriting motor skills and general language competence. So long as our language is based on symbolic glyph systems, it will always be true that better handwriting skills go hand in hand with better reading, comprehension and verbal communication abilities. It’s been comprehensively proven that reliance on keyboards over pen & paper significantly diminishes language skills. Don’t believe me? Google the studies. Or just try and hold an intelligible conversation with a random member of the Millennial Twitteristas.

        • This has nothing to do with outdated cursive. As I said writing is important but not cursive. A waste of time and energy when they Can actively learn about constitUtion

        • @Albaniaaa. Wrong. Your ‘outdated’ cursive skills go hand in hand with countless other brain development factors in a way that non-cursive can’t touch. Go Google the research. Should be easy for you as you can use Google just by typing, no handwriting required.

      • I believe the entire point of cursive writing is that you can write much faster in cursive than print. That was an important skill before the invention of typewriters, word processors, and printers. Today, I don’t see much value in teaching a faster form of writing — unless it somehow stimulates the brain to be much better able to learn/comprehend subjects that may be totally unrelated. For example all of the physical play and sports (throwing and catching in particular) that was so pervasive through the 1980s is a really important aspect of brain development. I wonder if learning cursive writing may fall into that category.

        • Bingo. Well-developed handwriting skills have a huge correlation with language comprehension, verbal communication, creativity thinking, problem solving, general motor skills, etc. For anyone who isn’t a pro athlete, it’s the single most complex motor skill most of us will ever learn.

          Which probably means better firearm control too, though oddly enough I’m not aware of any studies on that subject.

    • Not being able to read and understand the original Bill of Rights may be the whole idea behind phasing out cursive.

  7. As much as the short game is calling us, we have to play for the long game as well. Educating — truly educating — the next generation is quite possibly the most critical tactical element of the long game.

  8. Dear Mike: Please keep up the good work. The 5 hours per week you spend with the students will have a profound affect on them. They will remember you and your life-lessons. The best teacher i ever had was my 8th grade English teacher. He was a Latin grammarian who also had a remarkable ability to engage us kids. Well, the smart kids, anyway. His teaching of Latin grammar concepts as applied to English enabled me to excel in other European languages, and the ninth grade teacher stated that she didn’t know what to teach us, as he had taught two years curriculum in one. It didn’t feel like two years – it really didn’t even feel like work because he kept us so fully engaged. I doubt he was a gun owner because we lived in a northeast suburb, but he never dissed the one kid in the class who was an avid hunter of small, cute, furry animals. In fact, he engaged us all by creating an assignment featuring that kid hunting a squirrel — the Great Giant Squirrel of the North Woods. He left our school system the next year to become department head in the adjacent town, because he was not PC and enjoyed pissing off the school administration.

  9. Thanks for the write up. Just a thought There is a book called Fear Less by Gavin De Becker c2002 ISBN:0-316-08596-0 in part about how the press intentionally uses language to provoke fear in their audiance. That might be right up an English teachers alley. you could then use the debate over guns as an example among others. FWIW.

  10. Let’s see. A plebicite? REALLY? Out of 160 million American voters 110 million OWN GUNS. Of the 50million minority probably less than 5-10% are committed anti-gun nitwits.

    Bring it.


  11. I was told liberals do not reproduce. But liberals do call conservatives “breeders” because they do reproduce. These children will learn not only shooting skills but many other things the government school would not teach them. If anyone thinks home schoolers are socially limited then you are ignorant of the home school networks.
    You tube, Skype, and the internet are the weapons the government school monopoly fears. Many in the government education industrial complex are very afraid.

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