Algebra Teachers and Sheriff’s Deputies


Aftershocks from the Parkland, Florida, school shootings earlier this month continue to echo across the country. Surviving students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have shown themselves to be informed, articulate, and unwavering in their desire to tell their stories and to plead with those old enough to vote to do something, to take some action to make sure such tragedies stop.

Others speaking up have not been as informed nor as articulate. Among them have been President Trump, Governor McMaster, our South Carolina state legislature, and, not coincidentally, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre. All have expanded the trope that “the only solution to bad guys with guns, is to have more good guys with guns” with the suggestion that we arm teachers in our schools, including in this case South Carolina schools.

I’m a teacher, and I’m also a military veteran with small arms combat experience. I know the difference. I’d like to pose a question to Edgefield Advertiser readers. Which do you think would be more difficult: to train Sheriff’s Deputies to become expert Algebra teachers, or to train Algebra teachers to become weapons experts capable of defending children in an emergency? Neither is an easy skill to learn. In neither case can one devote an afternoon, or a week or even a month, and become an expert. Teaching is hard, and it takes years to master not only the subject matter but also the skill, the art, of reaching students. Not only that, but developing expertise requires repeated practice with actual students. That is even more true about becoming an expert in hand-carried weapons. Learning how to hold the weapon, to aim, to pull the trigger, and to hit a stationary target at a gun range is by far the easy part. Just as in becoming an adept teacher, it takes years to master the skill, the art, involved in developing expertise in defending others. And it takes repeated, continuing practice to maintain such a skill. Any sheriff’s deputy will tell you that it isn’t easy. It belies their skill and experience to think that any algebra teacher can do what they do, given just a small amount of training.

Our education professionals in the state and nation wouldn’t countenance asking a sheriff’s deputy to take over an algebra class with just a small amount of training. The risk to the students’ education is too great. At worst, it could waste a year of their mathematical development. Why in the world would anybody take an even bigger risk, asking an algebra teacher to take over the job of defending others, of mastering a lethal weapon professionally in a life-threatening crisis, with just a small amount of training? Which risks our children more: deputies pretending to be algebra teachers, or algebra teachers pretending to be sheriff’s deputies?

It’s telling that those students from Parkland don’t advocate either one. Instead, they advocate banning semi-automatic rifle ownership other than by sheriff’s deputies and by the military. Our politicians should listen to our children on this subject – and to their teachers. They, not the politicians, are the ones most at risk.