Thursday, April 19, 2007

To take up arms against a sea of troubles

and by opposing, end them. To die: To sleep.

I have noticed the numerous blogs by VT students lamenting the fact that they weren’t allowed to carry guns on campus so they might have "defended" themselves against the gunman. This sort of sophomoric nonsense is barely worthy of comment – except insofar as it evinces a mentality that is present in the classroom whether it comes with guns or not. The initial response after 9/11 was not to allow passengers to carry guns on airplanes but rather to put in federal air marshalls. Obviously we don’t need nor want a marshall in every classroom. But more importantly, we don’t need vigilante students pumped up on testosterone and a need for self esteem and self worth to assess security needs.

But this is why debate needs be continued in the academic setting. Students need to learn debating skills. Those debating skills, by the way, are not aimed at generating a head full of hot air but rather at developing the ability to stand up for yourself and protect your rights. This is the job of teachers and professors.

In one interesting blog,,/ a reader, Jim Hume, notes that the VT shooter used a pistol which had to be reloaded several times. In the time that the shooter was reloading, students and professors could have attacked him. They could have thrown chairs or hot coffee, books, backpacks. They didn’t. They huddled and waited. Hume blames this inaction on the nanny state and years of "immersion in a non confrontational, liberal pansy ass societal and school environment."

I agree with the sentiment. In an experiment recently in my employment law class, I encouraged students to debate with me about answers on multiple choice questions. If I was moved by a good argument, I told them, they would get the points. A few took me up and did well. But at the end of it all, the loudest chorus was of those who had not debated but now cried that it was unfair that some students with the same answer got a mark, while they did not.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!

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