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Islam and the West ( 18 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Class apart: It’s Wild, Wild West out there


By Shafquat Ali 

18 August 2008 (18 Sha`ban 1429)  

 

MANY of us send our children to the US to study, with dreams that they come back with topnotch degrees. And the good news is: Most of them do.

 

The bad news, however, is that that’s not the only thing that they return with. They often come back with values that we find difficult to accept, views that we consider hard to swallow and a culture that we deem, at best, alien.

 

And, partly at least, it is our own doing. Hard as we may try to shirk responsibility, we cannot deny it is something we should have been prepared for long before seeing our kids off at the airport.

 

When we send them to the West we tend to forget we are transporting our little ones from a sheltered environment to a culture that is known to expose more than it hides; to a society where mores and taboos are all but nonexistent.

 

More to the point, we send our kids to schools where teenage pregnancy is commonplace, drug and alcohol menace is rife and deadly shootings in the campus make headlines every now and then.

 

As in-campus crime and violence spirals in the US, it is hardly surprising that a tiny Texas school district has decided to allow teachers and staff members to carry concealed firearms to protect themselves when classes begin this month.

 

David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District, said that the small community of Harrold in north Texas is a 30-minute drive from the Wilbarger County Sheriff’s Office, leaving students and teachers without protection.

 

“When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that’s when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can’t defend themselves? That’s like saying ‘sic ‘em’ to a dog,” Thweatt said, arguing his case, in a story posted Friday on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s website. “The naysayers think (a shooting) won’t happen here. If something were to happen here, I’d much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them.”

 

Thweatt certainly makes a strong case. And if Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school security expert who advises districts nationwide, is to be believed, Harrold is set to be the first US district to let teachers bring guns into the classroom.

 

THE US Congress once barred guns at schools nationwide, but the Supreme Court struck the law down, although state and local communities could adopt their own laws. By all accounts, recent shootings in the US have prompted a volley of calls for school officials to allow students and teachers to carry legally concealed weapons into classrooms.

 

In February this year alone, there were five cases of school shootings. The last three in quick succession — on Feb. 11, 12 and 14 — resulting in seven deaths. However, the incident at the Virginia Tech University that claimed 33 lives, including a suspected gunman, in April last year, remains the deadliest shooting rampage in US history.

 

A visibly shocked President George Bush then remarked: “Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community.”

 

Apparently, the impact of that incident is felt even today in schools across the US. And though it is not clear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall because Thweatt did not disclose that information, one thing is clear: Going to school is never going to be the same. Particularly, if other educational institutions decide to quickly follow Harrold Independent School’s lead.

 

However, it’s one thing for a Texas-born lad to walk into his classroom knowing that his teacher is armed with a gun just in case but quite another for our kids, who have not gone much beyond handling a butter knife, to get admitted to schools where crime and violence have reached such dizzying proportions that teachers have to carry guns — not roses!

 Shafquat Ali is associate editor at Arab News. shafquat.ali@arabnews.com

 

Source: Arab News

 

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/class-apart--it’s-wild,-wild-west-out-there/d/581


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