Yesterday, March 14th, Stephen Hawkings died. It was Pi day (π day) and Albert Einstein’s birthday. The coincidence was that Hawkings was born on the same calendar date that Galileo Galilei died. But you would only understand all of that and who those individuals were if you had studied science, mathematics, and history in school. Yes, to some extent, to know the birthdates of famous people is essentially trivial pursuit but it comes with an understanding of what they did and the impact of their work on the future of mankind.
But all of that was overshadowed by the National Walkout. Now, don’t misunderstand what I am about to say. First, I participated in the National Walkout, in solidarity with all those students who also walked out.
But there were some who criticized the students and supporters for walking out of school, participating in the protest, or in some manner shape or form, supporting the efforts of the protestors. Those individuals were wrong!
Making an argument that it would have been better to reach out to the disadvantaged and isolated students as a solution to the gun/violence problem in this country comes no where close to solve the problem.
Yes, in some cases, the acts of violence perpetrated against the students in Florida, New Mexico, Connecticut, Colorado, and all the other places might have been prevented if other students had tried to make friends with the shooters. But that alone is not going to prevent the next shooting. But the shooting in the nightclub in Florida last year or the shooting in Las Vegas this year were not done by a “loners” or students ostracized by his classmates
What the shooting in Florida pointed out that the system is broken; despite all the warning signs, nothing was done to help the shooter. Nothing is in place to help those who cry for help is an act of senseless violence. Nothing is in place to stop an individual who hears the words of a minister or a politician or a media pundit telling them that other individuals are less worthy and need to be removed.
There are some who say the solution is more guns, arming the teachers and placing more weapons of destruction into the mix. I am sorry, but I do not and cannot even comprehend such logic. If my task is to protect my students, I want to arm them with the greatest weapon of all, a free and thinking mind. I want them to develop solutions that solve the problems, not merely push them aside for another day.
Yesterday was a celebration of life. It should have been a celebration of the life of Stephen Hawkings and what the future holds. That is the celebration that I, as a chemist and an educator would have preferred. The National Walkout was a celebration of life, a celebration that I as a father and grandfather would proclaim.
It was the celebration that people, mostly students but some adults, realize that the future cannot be reached by the present path. And the students have told the adults, so safely ensconced in their political ivory towers, that they had been lead, come along, or get out of the way.
An ancient philosopher once pointed out that a journey of a thousand steps begins with one step. We have taken that first step with a celebration of life. Let us continue on to tomorrow.