It’s Elementary

By Guest Contributor

I could not focus as I clicked through the questions.  While I was supposed to select answers, it did not seem there could possibly be any.

Twenty beautiful elementary school students were brutally massacred on the day I sat for my examination to be certified to teach elementary school.

When I awoke on that morning of Dec. 14, I imagined my future classroom full of inquisitive and creative minds.  I envisioned students imagining a just world and acting to bring it about.

I imagined chairs, desks and books.  I did not imagine a pool of blood.  Yet, as the day progressed, I could not help from drowning in this thought.

Sure, I was still breathing.  But it seemed that any breath could be my last.  My heart pumped with urgency as I pondered that ultimate question: for what will our existence be remembered in the books of “herstory?”

What crossed my mind was grim — which is not surprising so long as we ensure death and destruction around the globe.

After the murders at Sandy Hook, the president of Middlebury College sent his condolences to the campus community.  Yet, concerning those who are less rich and white than those from the “ideal” Middlebury feeder community of Newtown, Conn., President Ronald D. Liebowitz has acted differently. In an all-campus email concerning the divestment, he urged us to consider “both [the] pro and con” of the consequences of divestment. In other words, he urged us to consider “both [the] pro and con” of funding murder.

Only a man with so many degrees could possibly make such an outlandish request.  This is why I am attracted to elementary school, why I am so dedicated to being an elementary educator.

Because, see, in elementary school we still have a heart.  In elementary school we still have a brain.  In elementary school we ask questions when things are wrong.  In elementary school we understand the importance of acting with urgency to right them.

It is no surprise that the dedicated and courageous people who educate our children are also capable of following such logic. When California teachers discovered that their pensions were invested in the very company that manufactured the weapons used at Sandy Hook, they stood up.

While Connecticut may be on the opposite coast of this country from California, the two were intimately intertwined on that horrific December mo(u)rning.

These teachers knew that regardless of the compassion they taught in their classroom, their money was teaching something else: that compassion does not matter, that murder is perfectly okay.

California teachers did not debate “both pro and con” of murdering children.  They acted firmly to denounce it by divesting the largest teacher pension fund in the country from firearms.

Throughout my certification exam I did not think there could possibly be any answers.  For hours I clicked the mouse, each click triggering a lethal shot in my mind — shots leading to deaths that had no answer.

Yet, as I clicked to submit my test, a score sheet spit out of the printer.  I had passed.

This is not where this story ends.  I am literally choking up right now, with tears flowing down my face.  They are not tears of joy.

I am crying because Middlebury did not pass.  Middlebury has failed.  We as a community fund murder and in our hesitation to act, we teach that supporting murder is okay.  We actively contribute towards shaping and upholding a violent culture — the catalyst for Sandy Hook.

California teachers have taught us that there are answers.  Learning not to cry is most certainly not one of them.  Because once one forgets how to cry, one learns how to believe there could possibly be a pro to murdering children.

I love elementary school because students there still know how to cry.

It is time for us to act so courageously.  It is time for us to exhibit the compassion we espouse.  It is time for us to cry for all of those who have been killed.  It is time for us to stop killing children.  Mr. President, there is no pro to murder.  Divest now from death and destruction.

Written by JAY SAPER ’13 of East Lansing, Mich.