It wasn't that long ago that we were encouraging young people to use their creative impulses to decorate rocks, add inspiring and welcoming words to them, and hide them for others to find. Create, hide, find, hide again, share again. Spread a positive message. Bring joy through the unexpected discovery of something beautiful.
And now comes the suggestion to turn those rocks into weapons.
How low have we sunk in this country that adults charged with protecting children are willing to look anywhere rather than at the true solutions to a problem and, instead, give their vulnerable charges a bucket of rocks? This is not a solution, it is an abdication.
Rocks (and sticks) figure prominently in many childhood stories. Rocks are everywhere, they are free; one can use them in many different ways. Sticks and stones may break your bones, or build a house for pigs. A stone may make a soup for an entire village or end up in Charlie Brown’s Halloween bag.
As a child I found a series of Charles Schulz comic strips about rocks to be deeply compelling. As Linus explains to Charlie Brown: These rocks are a release for my pent up emotions. When I feel all tied up inside I just stand here and throw rocks into that vacant lot. One by one he throws the rocks, giving each one a purpose. “This one is for _________!” And he goes on through his list. Although throwing rocks into an empty lot won’t particularly solve any of Linus’ problems, it is a way to deal with big feelings he is experiencing without hurting himself or anyone else. Not so the big bucket of rocks in a school classroom. Once we tell children to take up arms against their assailants we are laying a responsibility on them from which they can never be freed. “If only I had thrown the rock better, Billy wouldn’t have died.” “I didn’t mean to hit Suzie in the eye. I was trying to help.” “I was afraid to throw a rock and now Mrs. Brown is dead.” The only thing that could possibly be worse than living in a world where adults allow the proliferation of weapons would be this: a world where, on top of this, adult give children culpability. I am so grateful for people all around the country and the world who are willing to go work to forge real solutions to gun violence. I am moved by the young adults and children who are speaking out. But, as a parent and a teacher, my heart aches that they are compelled to do so. In a world filled with ideas, solutions, and possibilities, we must settle for more than a bucket of rocks.