You might of read the alarming headlines in the Saturday paper, about a crazed 29 year old entering an elementary school in Beitou, going into the girl's bathroom and slashing a 8 year old's throat twice. (Is she still alive?) He was snickering as police protected him from crowds that wanted to tear him apart.
My daughter just came home from school and relayed her Life class lesson on just the mentioned recent slaying. Her Life class teacher recommended that students, "Go to the bathroom in groups" (good advice for females most of the time). Far be it for the school and adults to protect kids first, they have to do it for themselves. Z's classmate, my neighbor asked my daughter to accompany her to the bathroom today so she, "Wouldn't get murdered." Is that the best we can do? I told Z to tell her teacher on Thursday that instead of worrying children how to defend themselves against an armed intruder, the school take responsibility and have better security.
I remember coming to Taiwan in 2008 and being so shocked at the schools being so open. Keep in mind I am coming from a background of Columbine (I lived 5 minutes from Columbine and played lacrosse for them a combined girls team of my school and theirs.) My brother's middle school Deer Creek had an armed man enter, he shot 2 teens and then my other brothers' high school (Arapaho) had a former student with a gun enter, he shot a classmate and then himself. Last time I went home for a visit, there was the infamous Batman movie shooting in Aurora. So with this background in mind, I was just like, wow, these Taiwanese kids are sitting ducks. There was a policy fad in Taiwan a few years ago when schools started removing fencing. I think I understand their reasoning, to give a more feel, illusion of freedom (see Perception of School Fences), more openness with the community. Why not less homework and more community service and volunteerism?
Just because tragedies like this don't happen in Taiwan, doesn't mean that schools can't try and adopt 21st century safety policies. My niece who is my daughter's age, her elementary school has "lock-down drills." Its a sad necessity. I'm not even a safety freak by any means, I encourage my daughter to talk with strangers and I don't mind if she doesn't wear a helmet or pads when she roller blades.
When we lived in Tainan about the same time last year, my daughter who was in 2nd grade, was missing for the longest 10 minutes of my life. I suggested to the school they improve their child safety policy to plan for the event of a missing child or in the case of a stranger with a weapon. They smiled and gave me a T-shirt (see post The Predictable and Pleasant Adjournment).
I knew then that nothing would change until a tragedy such as the one in Beitou happened. I know not every knife wielding psycho can be apprehended before damage is done, but school security guards can be trained to stop any Joe off the street from walking on in and check their purpose, at the very minimum.
I'm sure the counter argument goes 'we don't want our schools turning into prisons', but let me tell you, they already are prisons in spirit. Think of Junior High with all their onslaughts of testing. I had no idea how stressful and boring their lives were until I taught at a junior high school- its borderline child abuse. Right now there are bars and fences but they are invisible, barring free time to play and create. Perhaps the focus on academic testing, robbing young people from time to socialize, exercise their EQ creates people who would act out violently. Also there is the cultural work ethic of sacrificing family time for the boss, depriving boys of male parental investment.
Put back sensible fencing, improve security, have drills, until society decides to ask bigger questions and ultimately progress. These open schools are just making it too easy for violent men (yes, they are always typically male) to waltz on in. I doubt that society (and male oriented societies) would want to look at this "trend" from a gender oriented lens, but they should. Perhaps young violent men are an inevitable evolutionary phenomena. Either way it still supports the argument to improve school security. I don't mean barbwire, East Berlin, DMZ typed barricades, just let's be pragmatic.
Thank God Taiwan doesn't have the gun obsessions America does! I am so grateful for that.
- Kathy (杜 言 艷)
- Yilan, Taiwan
- I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.