Letters to the editor on bravery of teachers, arming teachers, helping mentally ill, fiscal cliff, childhood hunger, Nativity scenes

12/23/2012 12:00 AM

12/21/2012 5:12 PM

Cherish bravery of teachers

The horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School force us to stop and reflect upon that evil impulse that permeates our world.

In an instant, Newtown, Conn., was transformed into a battlefield. The killer murdered 20 young children and six adults. Their lives were torn apart by a beast. Americans should be shocked that the killer’s Bushmaster rifle, which costs about $1,000, and two other guns were his arsenal of weapons. It is believed that his mother taught him to shoot.

This is not the message of religion that we should embrace. In a place where people don’t behave like people, our sages teach: “Strive to be human.”

Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s principal, lunged to halt the gunman, according to reports, sacrificing her own life. Her courage and bravery remind us of the best qualities of humanity. Victoria Soto, a teacher who was believed to have hidden her first-grade students in a closet, also lost her life, but taught to the last moment.

The senseless insanity of the murderer of innocent children, teachers and staff can’t be the only version of the tragedy we remember. May we cherish the bravery of the teachers whose love for their students and heroic acts saved lives. They exemplify the teaching found in the Talmud, “Save a life, save a world.”



Arm teachers

Preventing mass murder in schools is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Common sense should tell us that graphic violence in movies and interactive video games is not helpful, especially for youngsters with mental health issues. Banning guns might seem to be a solution, but making them illegal would not preclude their ownership by people with evil intent, just as making drugs illegal hasn’t prevented their rampant use.

Perhaps a better way to protect our children would be to have armed security within the schools. Hiring more security guards would be costly and create some very boring work for the guards. Instead, why not develop protective skills for volunteers from teachers and other staff within the school? Those with the interest, skills and mental aptitude could receive regular training in the use of firearms.

These individuals would go about their regular duties during the school day but, in those rare cases when called upon, could provide resistance to deranged individuals with ill intent. When combined with a good security system to prevent unauthorized entry, these “protectors” would go a long way to preventing another school tragedy.



No armed force

I spent more than 40 years in education and witnessed more and more responsibility placed on the teachers and schools, with less and less resources and respect for public education. Many of life’s skills that the schools have taken over include driver education, economic education, teaching human growth and development, and providing breakfast and lunch, transportation, books and materials, and student health and evaluation services.

Why has this happened? I believe it is because if you want something done that is meaningful for society, you assign it to public education, which will get it done. We know that educators are a dedicated group of people, and they have been successful with these responsibilities.

Having said that, why do we allow politicians to refuse to adequately fund public education? Why are we more concerned with a tax cut proposed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce than providing adequately for public education? How can we be so shortsighted?

With all the responsibilities placed on public education and its success in performing these assignments, I find the idea that teachers should be armed completely ridiculous. Rather than pushing for an armed teaching force, we should push for more concern and resources for teachers and their students.



Help mentally ill

Children and parents in Kansas face a daunting task to get help for mental illness. The care provided often starts by blaming the parents, insisting that they need counseling themselves. This creates a family crisis on top of dealing with the child’s mental illness. Parents are left with tremendous guilt and a sense of helplessness.

Counseling may be needed, but not as a total measure to deal with the child’s real mental illness. It takes years for a diagnosis that makes it possible to even get help through Kansas mental health organizations. Even when the diagnosis is finally made, real help rarely comes forward. Children locally who need residential psychiatric care are at the mercy of Comcare, Sedgwick County’s gateway to mental health service.

The heartbreak of mental illness is enough without the difficulties of getting treatment. Did the mother of the Connecticut shooter seek help and find herself turned away? She likely would have been in Kansas, as her son’s reported condition is on the low scale of mental health services in the nation.

Kansas needs to wake up and provide help to these children and families before tragedy occurs.



Invest in people

I was heartened to read “Safety-net programs important” (Dec. 16 Letters to the Editor). As we edge toward the fiscal cliff, we are inundated with rhetoric, opinions, misinformation, skewed takes on the facts, political motivation and agendas. This issue is so complex and ongoing, and I cannot get a handle on much of it and do not clearly see black and white here as many seem to.

As a senior citizen, I do not classify Social Security and Medicare as entitlements; I invested in them for many years. Choices made now will have a great impact on our society in years to come. It is time to invest in our greatest natural resource, our people.

The letter writer gave a face to the problem of support for those in need, having seen both sides, and can see himself reflected in their faces. It does not matter what your social or health status is. Every coin has two sides and can land either way for us.



Kids going hungry

I want to express my appreciation to The Eagle for the article about the Partners for Wichita reception (“Meeting focuses on childhood hunger,” Dec. 18 Local & State). It is too little known that 1 in 4 of our children goes hungry or is in danger of going hungry every day. The Eagle’s help in getting the word out is so very important. As more people become aware of the lifelong impact of childhood malnutrition, commitment will grow to finding remedies for what should never be in this land of plenty.



Few Nativity scenes

A church friend asked this question: How many church Nativity scenes are displayed in Derby? I later found only one on North Rock Road with the Christmas display.

Whether simple or elaborate, this former Christmas staple of every church lawn seems to have been relegated to some dank shed for a plethora of reasons, including theft and vandalism, lack of volunteers, deterioration of the display, or complacency based on questionable fears of offending others. Whatever the reason, try to find Nativity scenes in Wichita.

In the midst of increased holiday commercialization, should not the display of the Nativity scene cause some to remember the reason for Christmas? Our nation is reeling from a horrific tragedy in Connecticut. For the families of the children and adults whose lives were extinguished, this Christmas will never be forgotten. Nativity scenes on church lawns might signal a sense of hope in the midst of unconscionable insanity.

Perhaps it is time to resurrect those Nativity scenes. It may be time to simply say there are still people who believe in the hope of the world displayed as the Prince of Peace in a manger.



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