The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
14.2 (Spring 2014)
A Surefire Way to Ensure School Safety from Fire (of Any Kind)
I appreciate the candid and adult discussion I have read in this journal about the threats to our children’s safety in school buildings. Any sane parent has to be very weary of the unattached, childless “idealists” who want our police to enforce a utopia where guns haven’t yet been invented. They might as well be putting targets on our children’s backs. I hate it when one man’s dream costs another man’s life—or the lives of many boys and girls.
As it happens, there’s a simple architectural solution to this particular problem that involves no firearms on school premises: an outside door to every classroom. Many schools are single-story. Those that are not should be built with wrap-around balconies for the sake of the outside door. Now the would-be shooter would have no stock of hostages bottled up as soon as he got past the main entrance. Once the alarm was sounded, inside doors would be locked and all students would exit through their rooms’ outside doors, to disperse at once into the neighborhood. In fact, if the police were quick to respond or an administrator could lock up the main entrance remotely, the intruder might well find that he had trapped himself in a labyrinth without escape.
This architectural solution would apply equally well to fire of the more ancient kind. As a student and later as a teacher, I never understood why valuable time was wasted every month herding kids through crowded halls and out one or two exits in annoying drills. To me, the drills only dramatized how insanely vulnerable the whole structure was and how quickly the added element of panic would cause massive loss of life in a real fire. If classrooms all had an exit along an exterior wall, there would be no need for drilling and no possibility of deadly bottlenecks as hundreds of children queued up to march through a single opening, or maybe two.
Why would this idea seem impractical or inadvisable to anyone? I have asked that question of many supposed professionals and never received a sensible answer. Because the outside door would allow anyone at all to walk in off the streets? Then keep it locked, for use only in emergencies. But students would constantly be unlocking it and slipping away! Honestly, to hear some of these people talk, you wonder why the students don’t just tie and gag the teacher and kick the windows in. If schools have no more control over their charges than prisons without bars would have over inmates—or if schools need prison guards to keep the inmates in line—then we’re wasting our time trying to do any teaching at all.
The real answer is simple bureaucratic inertia. A really safe and effective answer to a really worrisome range of problems cannot be heard because that’s just not the way things have ever been done. This is where we are today in this nation: our children have to pay with their lives because the dull, lazy idiots entrusted with their care can’t be bothered to show any initiative—other than throwing up a sign that reads, “Gun-Free Zone,” which translates to a psychopath as, “Open Season on Children.”
And in a time when we are so often concerned about heating and cooling costs and the spread of flu-like diseases, an outer balcony or corridor could have further advantages. One: it could be used to ease traffic in the central corridor as classes change, creating an environment where coughing and sneezing would spread far fewer germs (and where crowding would produce fewer incidents involving pushing, punching, groping, etc.). Two: the outer corridor, if fitted abundantly with windows or glass surfaces, could be shuttered or unsealed during the winter as the sunlight passed from surface to surface, providing a natural heating system for everybody within. Three: during the summer, the corridor’s windows could be opened so as to generate a steady breeze that would run throughout the building, while awnings could also be projected over them to keep direct sunlight from generating heat inside.
I thought we were supposed to be eco-friendly. How about actually demonstrating to students a smart way to conserve energy rather than parroting to them a bunch of PC garbage about wind farms and solar panels? Or is it too much to expect that an institution of learning might actually display intelligence in solving problems? Apparently so, since teachers and administrators are themselves among those who lose their lives each year in school fires and shootings. ~ J.I.