Abraham Maslow (1954) created a pyramid in 1943 (that was finally published in 1954) that depicted the hierarchy of basic needs of all humans. The theory is that we cannot become fully self-actualized (the top level of the pyramid, which is meeting our full potential) unless the other segments are first met. At the base level of the pyramid are the survival pieces like food and water. The next layer is SAFETY. Wow, does that one hit home this week, or what?? Dave and I built our "forever dream home" this past year in the hill country of Texas. It is beautiful country....God's country....a bit rugged with rolling hills and brilliant wildflowers and an unencumbered expanse of roads and trails on which Kirby, L.C. (our two Labs) and I run each morning. One of the nearby towns happens to be Uvalde, Texas, the site of the horrific shooting this week at Robb Elementary School.
As a former principal, I have never quit wondering what it would be like to have such a dangerous situation on our campus, despite practicing intruder drills several times a year. How, I wonder, can students, teachers, and parents alike function when their entire "Maslow safety level" is torn to shreds? Because I don't know those particular 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students or their teachers at Robb Elementary, I keep picturing the elementary students at the school at which I was the principal for almost 8 years. I always used to tell the parents the day before school started, during Open House, "For the time your babies are at Edge, they are our babies too, and we will love them with all our hearts." To have any loved one killed so viciously, sadistically, and violently makes all of us shudder. The safety of our children simply must come first before we are able to teach them about the main idea of a story, how gravity works, or how to multiply and divide fractions.
Matthew McConaughey, whose mother taught at the Episcopal church's school when he was a young boy growing up in Uvalde, visited with the victims' families a couple of days ago. The people of Uvalde said it brought a smile to see McConaughey care so much about his hometown and its devastated residents. McConaughey asked in a Tweet what we truly value and how we can repair the problem. He goes on to caution that we cannot "....exhale once again, make excuses, and accept these tragic realities as the status quo." Amen, Matthew! We can't because, if we do, we are risking the chance that no child will ever feel safe in school, negating all the pyramid levels above safety: relationships and love; feelings of accomplishment; self-actualization and creative abilities. In other words, if we don't feel safe, how can we function in normal society?
I don't believe in coincidences but rather believe in Godwinks...those times in which things happen surprisingly (i.e., "Wow! I was just thinking about that person and then I saw them in the grocery store!"; "I was feeling confused, and the sermon in church was about praying for answers when we feel confused"). As a professor for graduate students at Grand Canyon University, I teach all sorts of courses for educators who wish to become school leaders (principals, Superintendents, curriculum directors, etc.). One of those courses is Education Law. As an adjunct professor (meaning this is not my full-time job), I often find it amusing that Education Law is one of the courses I teach the most (I wonder if many of the full-time professors don't care for it as much as some of the other, more "fun", topics). In a true Godwink, I literally just finished having a discussion with my Education Law class about whether or not they believe that teachers should be taught to carry firearms (with training, of course). In my class of insightful students from all over the country, they were almost exactly evenly split on their own beliefs backed by text-based evidence, anecdotal experiences, and simple feelings. Half believe it would be helpful to have all teachers have a gun in their classroom. The other half believe it would drive them out of education if they were asked to teach AND carry a weapon. I have my own views on the subject, to be sure, as most everyone does. I am terribly frustrated that we sometimes get caught up in the "argument", though, rather than remembering those dear children and teachers who lost their lives this week.
I get extremely frustrated that our lawmakers cannot find a way to walk across the aisle and work with others of a different political party in an effort to make change happen. Whether we are talking about gun laws, mental health resources, or whatever else people want to throw in to stir this pot, there are so many vitriolic comments thrown back and forth, I fear we lose sight of those innocent people who lost their lives on Tuesday. I have wept a few times this week, as children are our future. I wept when I saw the ad that Daniel Defense created, depicting a very young child holding an assault weapon with the Bible verse `Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it ' (Prov. 22:6.). Wait, what? A gun company is using a Bible verse to justify the sale of firearms??? I know people will argue about what that ad was meant to represent, but the use of a child in a firearm ad just hurts my heart tremendously.
Food and water are necessary for any child to be able to learn and grow, so we ensure that even the neediest of families are able to send their children to school for a free breakfast and/or lunch. But that next step on the pyramid, SAFETY, is rocking my world right now. How do we sufficiently promise families that their children will be safe when they come to school to learn and grow (and hopefully filled with respect, dignity, and character, as some will become caretakers to help Dave and me when we are old and feeble and need someone to help us eat and help us wipe our bottoms)? I know for certain that throwing hatred across the political aisles is NOT the answer, but what is the answer? I'll hazard a guess that it isn't just one answer but so many potential ideas that, in tandem, can help us all feel a little more safe, particularly for some of our most vulnerable----our children.
I pray we don't forget, exhale, or accept this Uvalde tragedy (and so many before it) as the status quo. For those of you with children and all of you who are faithful stewards as teachers and school staff, I am praying for you each and every day.
Faithfully communicating and looking for answers,
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality ([1st ed.].). New York: Harper.