Gunfight: Store Owner Fights Back
It was the Monday morning after Easter Sunday. I had the local TV news on to catch the weather report. I was rolling around on the living room floor doing stretches before heading out for my before-school cardio when I heard the news. “In our top story, Store Owner Fights Back. Yesterday, a gunfight erupted when three men attempted to rob a furniture store at gunpoint. The owner pulled his own gun, and foiled the attempted armed robbery, killing the gunman and wounding another.”
Wow! I thought, ‘What kind of fools decide to rob a furniture store? And on Easter Sunday!’ Unfortunately, I found out. The fools were from my school!
Now don’t judge my kids too harshly. Some of them were really great kids who just had to make up credits. I’m still in touch with some of them who are now adults and I consider them my adopted children.
But, some of my kids were fools on their way to the penitentiary or the cemetery. This is one of their stories.
Assembly to help the grief-stricken
Of course, many of our students already knew of the incident. A gunfight is always an inexhaustible topic for enthusiastic gossip and this was no exception (see also: How I Got Gangsta Street Credit Without Getting Shot and The Gun in My Classroom and Gangstas Have Cars). But we were required to act in loco parentis (in the place of the parent) so we held a whole-school assembly to counsel the grief stricken and quell all the loose talk and gossip.
There were a few kids who were grief stricken. The sudden, violent death of someone you know can have that effect. But mostly it was loose talk and strange attitudes that needed our guidance (or scorn). For example, there was a faction among the students who wanted to erect a memorial monument to their slain classmate. We adults quickly put an end to that suggestion, saying there was NO WAY we were going to memorialize a kid who was killed while committing a violent felony.
An all-school assembly can quickly descend into a rather chaotic affair so we elected to take our students back to our homerooms and attempt thoughtful discussion, and (hopefully) give sage adult advice about law and order. What happened in our classrooms stunned us.
“Jacked-up” in Ms. Jones Room!
Ms. Jones taught English. Imagine a sweet, kindly Maya Angelou, grandmotherly sort of woman and you’ll have an accurate picture of Ms. Jones. She really cared for the kids. She really tried to show them the error of their ways. She let the kids express themselves – we all did – that’s part of good teaching or good parenting. It brought her to tears to recount, that while talking among themselves, the kids said, “Man! Why did those fools try to rob a furniture store? They should have just jacked-up some old lady!”
“Gone in blastin’” in Ms. Curtis’ Room!
It wasn’t any better in Ms. Curtis’ room. I’ve written about Ms. Curtis before (see Teachers Are Older Than Dirt and What Happened to David). She was our other English teacher. She and I shared a two classroom bungalow. In her class the kids solved the problem of the gunfight by saying, “Man, they should have gone in blastin’. That way, nobody would have got hurt.”
Ms. Curtis tried to point out the speciousness of their logic. “What do you mean ‘nobody would have gotten hurt’? What about the store owner?” The kids (or at least those who spoke up) didn’t see the store owner as one of them therefore he was ‘nobody’ and fair game to be shot.
“They had to…” in Mr. D’s Room!
I’ve written before that I’m an openminded kind of guy and I have the patience of 10,000 holy men. But this… skewed thinking and violent drivel quickly moved me from kindly forbearance to verbal wrath and smiting. So, I started with an insult and a question and had this exchange:
Mr. D: “I don’t get it. What kind of idiot robs a furniture store?”
Student: “They had to. They needed the money.”
D: “What did they need the money for?”
S: “To buy gas.”
D: “To buy gas? What for?”
S: “The car they were driving ran out of gas.”
D: “What about a J – O – B to get money?”
S: “They are too young to get a job.”
D: “If they’re too young to get a job, then they’re too young to drive a car legally.”
S: “That’s just it. The car they were driving was stolen.”
D: “The car was stolen?!? Why did’t they just ditch the car and call home when they ran out of gas?”
S: “They didn’t want to get in trouble.”
D: “So they figured that they’d get into less trouble robbing a guy at gunpoint than they would calling home?”
S: “Well, if that guy would have just given them the money, nobody would have got hurt.”
What do you say to thinking like that? Harsher laws and tougher penalties won’t help because the basic thinking of these criminals is flawed. Everything they did was against the law and they did it anyway. I said it before in Gangstas Have Cars, we need to spend as much time and energy understanding and teaching about the incentives to join a gang or commit a crime as we do on understanding and teaching about how to get into college. The study and understanding of these gangsta incentives has to go beyond just, “They needed money cuz they had none” or, “They’re all just crazy savages.”
If we are to create a more safe, sane and equitable society, we need to understand why the students who spoke up thought their reasons were sound. We also need to understand why more students weren’t outraged at this thinking and/or why they didn’t speak up.
Watch this space to learn more…