Another school, this time in Maine, has now had to endure a day of trauma and anxiety as they were forced into lockdown due to the threat of violence. Thankfully, no one was hurt. I am grateful to everyone who worked so selflessly to keep the kids safe.

Mostly though, I am just so angry that this is our new reality.

Full disclosure, this one feels especially close. My eldest graduated from that high school. My family, friends and former neighbors were in that building. That’s the town I still think of as home.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

However, none of the other towns, none of the other schools, none of the other headlines mattered less.

Every time, every single time, the threat of violence is brought into our communities – particularly into what ought to be a sacred space of learning and exploration – it hobbles our future.

I know the problem seems massive and all-encompassing. I do. The idea of “fixing it” feels like being asked to fill in the Grand Canyon.

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I also know that our country is the outlier. CNN reported back in 2018 that the U.S. had “57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined.” We’ve gotten worse since then. So, clearly, something is wrong here, and it is pretty darned important that we figure out how to fix it.

We say the kids are our future and our No. 1 concern. But that’s not how we act. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there, but precious little meaningful reform or action. New Zealand placed a ban on most semi-automatic weapons less than one month after a school shooting there. We have yet to even approach any type of gun reform.

Meanwhile, nothing is more telling than a budget. In any organization, be it corporate, a family unit, or a nation, a budget is nothing more than the inherent value system made visible with numbers attached. What you value is what gets funded.

In the United States, according to educationdata.org, education spending falls short of benchmarks set by international organizations such as UNESCO, of which the U.S. is a member. The nation puts 11.6% of public funding toward education, well below the international standard of 15%.

More important, in my humble opinion, is how we spend those funds. We continue to fund the established patterns and programs, despite mountains of research and empirical evidence showing there are better ways.

Finland, the world’s poster child for successful public schools, has a system summarized nicely on webforum.org. They have smaller classes – and smaller schools – with an emphasis on relationships and lower stress. They value higher education, which includes career paths, as well as college. They have a later start time, less homework and less afterschool work for teachers, too. Most amazing, they have eliminated standardized tests. They provide excellent training for their teachers, and then trust them to do their jobs. They are thriving.

Our children deserve better than what they get. Our teachers do, too. School days ought to be spent in curiosity and learning, not hiding.

Data-based education reform, access to the necessities of life, and sensible gun reform. The task is daunting but doable, and I believe we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to put some action behind our words.

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