Saturday, June 4, 2016

Unacceptable New Normal

While organizing on Temple's campus last semester, the FBI issued a blanket warning for a possible shooter somewhere in the Philadelphia area.

The very next day, while driving to one of my Adjunct jobs, this story came on the radio, where an actual shooting occurred at the Community College of Philadelphia.

As nothing happened the day before, my fears reemerged as I though the previous day's threat could still be in effect.

After my initial shock and political indignation over America's irrational gun-boner, I attempted to rationalize away my fear with the fact that I work an hour outside of the city, and the likelihood of my small school in South Jersey falling under the warning was slim to none.

But as I prepped for my students' arrival I found myself planning a defense from a shooter, fretting over the fact that my door doesn't lock, the largest barricade large enough is too far across the room, and the window openings may be too slim to escape through (and may lead to more danger).

My response to both events can be found over at the Drinking Liberally Blog.

And today, I am reassessing my grading policies because now if a student disagrees with a grade I may get shot.

I have given my fair share of bad grades over my short teaching career. And those students most certainly deserved them. I was once called "tough but fair" by one student (an awesome one at that) so I feel confident in my grading.

I take a lot of time developing grading standards that are transparent and fair. My rubrics are clear, and my students are asked if thy agree to my standards at the beginning of each semester. I've found that as long as I can show a clear system to them, they don't argue. The understanding is that if assignment X has predetermined value of Y, then they know exactly what to expect when they slack.

Even attendance has an assigned value.

But even with all that, I've been challenged by students who clearly cheated, even after I presented them with evidence of their infraction.

So now do I inflate my grades to avoid dying? Do I reward cheating so as not to be murdered?

The fact that I have to ask these absurd sounding questions (as well as set up my classroom like a doomsday prepper) is more than problematic, it's deeply troubling.

Now I understand that I do not teach a high-pressure subject, and it seems the UCLA shooter was in a high-pressure career track, under a great deal of pressure to succeed, and whatever grade he received made him crack. And whatever that grade was, I have a feeling it would have been perfectly acceptable to some of my students.

But I have also been told that, due to a failing a student, that I have ruined careers. And I'm certain I've ended Academic careers with one grade. So I am again left to contemplate certain death for giving an F.

What is worse is how facts about gun control are ignored like Global Warming or Vaccinations (that's right anti-vaxers, you're as bad as Lamar Smith!).

The evidence is clear,  more gun regulations means fewer shootings, lax rules means more shootings. Just look to Hawaii and Alaska for proof. To over-simplify, the more guns the more shootings. You don't need to be a scientist to understand this, but sometimes it helps to ask one.

I easily found that source from one the most reliable fact-checking organization out there, Factcheck.org. They were founded right here in Philly at an academic institution, the University of Pennsylvania, and importantly are not beholden to profit.

 They say the same, that more guns do not equal fewer shootings.

And if you are not into "science" or "facts" and respond more to heart-tugging issue based arguments to make this point clearer, here you go.

As an Academic I tend to avoid sources that reinforce my bias, as the Medium.com article does. But the article makes good points and includes personal stories of teachers including one that would rather leave their job than accept Campus Carry laws.

And don't you dare tell me that I should carry. There's even more evidence that suggests, unless I am a highly trained member of  law-enforcement, with hours and hours of constant firearms training, as well as exposure to high-stress live-shooter simulations, I am as useless with a gun as my Dad is with Twitter.

It's time for evidence-based, reasonable gun laws, universal background checks (supported by most Americans), fewer guns on the streets, and zero in the classroom. I will likely be giving out a few more bad grades in the future and I'd like to live through them.