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Paranoid or Preventative?

It’s a typical day in classrooms across America. Students turn in last night’s homework, take their seats, open their notebooks, and settle in for a lesson in handwriting. Or calculating the diameter of a circle. Or avoiding being shot by a madman.

Schools from elementary to high school are now putting students through “lockdown drills” to rehearse what to do if someone starts shooting up the campus. Some have been practicing like this since Columbine; others only began after the Sandy Hook school massacre in December.

The drills usually begin with a loudspeaker announcement from the principal, after which teachers lock and/or barricade their classroom doors, close any blinds, and instruct their students to huddle in a corner and remain absolutely silent for 10, 15, or even 30 minutes. Sometimes staff members bang threateningly on classroom doors or fire blanks in the hall to add realism. One school had students lay down “dead” with fake blood.

“I cried the first time my son came home and told me about these,” says a friend of mine. “They told him, ‘If you’re in the bathroom or hall when the classroom doors are locked, find somewhere else to hide because the teachers won’t let you in.’ He was 9.”

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Home School

I teach writing to college students. I school them in story structure and tone, coach them in voice and diction.

My students teach me things, too. I’ve learned, for example, how ridiculous the phrase “Professor Starshine” sounds. I’ve learned that making literary analogies to Ghostbusters — no matter how clever it seems to me — is inscrutable to people who were born in 1992.

But the most important thing I’ve learned from my students is this simple fact: When a four-year old pees on the floor, he ought to clean it up. You’re looking at me as though I just made another impenetrable Ghostbusters reference, but let me explain.

Parents are working harder than ever to get their kids into college. They start saving when their children are born, help them choose college prep courses as early as middle school, and schlep them to transcript-dazzling extracurricular pursuits throughout high school.

But from where I stand — at the front of a classroom of legal adults who show up at a writing class without a pen — I fret their efforts may be off the mark. In fact, some of my campus colleagues and I agree that while today’s parents get an “A” in Getting Their Kids Into College, they get an “F” in Teaching the Entitled Little Buggers What to Do Once They Get There.

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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