UPDATE: The school and teacher decided to cancel this anti gun indoctrination session in response to readers of this website who emailed and called to express their disagreement. More information can be seen here.
Over the last several days, I’ve exchanged emails with Amanda Razeq, an 11th grade English teacher at College Preparatory School of America, which is a high school in Lombard, Illinois. Ms. Razeq emailed me to ask if I would be willing to come and speak to her students about the proposed concealed carry law in Illinois, after she had been unable to find another pro gun person who was willing to do so. I emailed her back, and expressed possible interest in speaking to her class if she remained unable to find a speaker (I’ve never appeared as a pro gun speaker and therefore would prefer to have someone more experienced do the job if possible, not to mention that I’m rather busy at the moment with school, work, and preparing for the bar exam). Ms. Razeq politely emailed me back, said that she had found a pro gun rights speaker – but that the school was unwilling to allow any pro gun rights speaker to come speak to her class, out of concern for how the parents would react. The school said that only the anti gun rights speaker from the Million Mom March (an anti gun group) could come speak to the class, although Ms. Razeq (who is not an expert in the pro gun rights area) could offer her opinions. I emailed Ms. Razeq back, and explained that having a one-sided indoctrination session with the anti gun rights speaker would be a disservice to the students as well as the society in which those 11th graders would soon be voters. Unfortunately, she politely dismissed my concerns and decided to go ahead with plan of allowing the anti gun speaker to lecture to her class, while denying anyone from the pro gun rights side of the debate a chance to do the same. My thoughts on the matter, my correspondence with Ms. Razeq, and the school’s contact information are below. The school plans to give the anti gun speaker the ability to indoctrinate the students on Friday, March 20, 2009, so please contact the school and express your concerns right away:
As I discussed in my emails to Ms. Razeq (which are reproduced below), educating soon-to-be adults about the political and legal issues that face our country is a good thing, and I commend her for wishing to help her students learn. The problem comes in when the decision is made to give only one side of an issue a chance to speak to the students. That is because young minds are generally quite impressionable, and hearing one side of an argument can cause that young mind to be forever biased on the issue.
Acknowledging this problem of having the students hear only one side, Ms. Razeq said that she would do research on the issue, and present something approximating the pro gun rights position. However this proposed “solution” won’t mitigate the harms of including the anti gun rights speaker while excluding the pro gun rights speaker – and might even make the situation worse. First, it takes a long time for a person to become an expert on a subject as complex as the facts, laws, and politics surrounding gun rights. I’ve been writing at least an article a day on this website for about a year, and still learn new things on a daily basis. It is simply unfathomable to think that Ms. Razeq, no matter how great of a teacher she may be, can learn enough in a few days to balance out what the trained and skilled anti gun speaker is prepared to say. Indeed, having the students hear a well-practiced anti gun speech, no matter how factually and legally incorrect that it may be, and then have their teacher fail to clear up those untruths (either immediately or on a different day), may actually cause the students to give more credence to the anti gun speaker than they would if their teacher hadn’t even tried to make a pro gun rights argument.
I believe that proceeding with the plan of allowing the anti gun speaker an effectively uncontested opportunity to indoctrinate these students is unwise and harmful, for the students as well as society as a whole. I am disappointed that my words to this teacher have fallen on deaf ears, and hope that contacting the school may prevent them from going through with this biased plan.
My email correspondence with Ms. Razeq
Below are the emails I exchanged with Ms. Razeq, starting with her first email to me, then my reply, etc:
My name is Amanda Razeq and I am a High School English Teacher at the College Prep School of America in Lombard Illinois. My eleventh grade class is reading the novel Monster by Walter Dean Myers and the issue of gun usage is brought up and has spurned a discussion amongst the students, especially with the current issue of the CCW Laws. So in an attempt to help them understand theses issues they have been doing research on the bills and current laws. I have tried contacting the ISRA, our local Sheriff and Legislators to see if we can get someone over here to speak with the kids, but have received no answer from anyone.
I understand that you are extremely busy but I was wondering if you would be willing, or if you could possibly refer me to someone who could, come and talk to the students about the current CCW laws and what exactly transpired down in Springfield. This is an issue that has generated a great deal of interest from the students and I would love to have an official of some sort come and speak with the students.
We’re not asking for someone to come and lecture but someone that would be willing to explain the law in itself to the students and would be willing to have an open discussion with them. We can arrange everything around the person’s schedule and would do everything in our power to work with them to make sure they are comfortable and at ease. If you know anyone or you yourself would be open to it please let me know. This would be a great opportunity for the kids and I can really see them benefiting from this experience.
However I do want you to know, we also contacted the Chicago Chapter of the Million Mom March so the students would be exposed to both sides. They have agreed to come out possibly on the 20th of March from 11 am to 1 pm. We can schedule another day for you if you do happen to agree but we would like to keep the timings the same. We don’t want to spurn a debate at all, what we want is to have a discussion where the students can get some first hand experience and benefit from the dialogue. I hope this all makes sense and that we would be able to work something out. Thanks again.
I’m sorry for any inconvenience and I truly hope to hear from you soon. Take care.
[The LearnAboutGuns.com Author]
First, I would like to congratulate you on teaching your students about
current events and pending laws. As a law student and soon-to-be
attorney, I think that our high schools and even universities should do
more to educate the citizens of tomorrow about the law.
Have you heard back from the ISRA or any other pro gun rights
individuals who would be willing to come and speak to your class? I
generally don’t make appearances as you requested, but might be willing
to come in this Friday if you are unable to find a pro gun rights voice
to balance out the Million Mom March speaker
I wanted to thank you for volunteering to do this.. Valinda Rowe has emailed me back offering to send some people out here, however I am sad to say that the school is not allowing me to bring anyone in to discuss this side of the issue. Sadly, they are concerned that parents will get the wrong impression. Nevertheless, I have taken it upon myself to do all the research and will hopefully present this issue to the students to the best of my ability. Thank you again, it was greatly appreciated.
[The LearnAboutGuns.com Author]
If you find that you need further information or have any questions in preparing yourself to discuss the issue, feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to provide you with answers and links to relevant articles.
Am I correct in understanding that your school will only allow the anti gun side of the story to be heard, but not the pro gun side?
Thank you so much for your offer, any articles that you can point me towards would be greatly appreciated, and yes, only the anti-gun side. I understand the school’s concern, but hopefully I will be able to provide the students with enough information so that they can have a decent discussion and not one entirely one sided.
[The LearnAboutGuns.com Author]
Here are a few such articles:
I am deeply concerned to hear that your school has decided to give the
anti gun side the opportunity to tell their side, while actively denying
the pro gun rights side an equal opportunity. While I am sure that you
are a skillful and intelligent educator, it is quite unlikely that with
even the most diligent preparation you will be able to adequately
represent the pro gun rights side of the argument when debating with
someone who is an experienced anti gun rights speaker/campaigner.
Perhaps the following example will help better explain what I mean:
I’m a law student who will graduate in May and take the bar exam in
July. I have a B.S. in Computer Science, and am also currently pursuing
a M.S. in Computer Science. I value eduction, both within my chosen
fields, and in general. While I’m almost done being a full time student
after 7 years of higher education, I plan to continue part time to earn
a M.S. and eventually a Ph.D. Being a reasonable, educated, non-racist
person, I also know that the Holocaust actually occurred. While I think
that, from watching the History Channel and taking history classes in
college, I know more about the Holocaust then most people, I don’t
consider myself an expert. That means that if one of those people who
have spent years denying that the Holocaust occurred were to debate with
me in front of a class full of impressionable young minds, that
Holocaust denier would likely prevail. That doesn’t mean that the
Holocaust denier would be right, of course, but only that I was not
qualified to properly represent the side for which I was advocating. (I
use this particular analogy only to illustrate my point.)
Speaking from experience, as a person who grew up in an anti gun
household and only in the last few years saw gun rights as a good thing,
this gun rights issue is not something that you can learn properly in a
couple days. It took me literally hundreds of hours of research and
writing to reach my current viewpoints and level of knowledge. As such,
I think that allowing yourself to debate a trained and skilled anti gun
speaker will only lead to your impressionable students (who will soon be
voters) receiving a one-sided, anti gun indoctrination during school.
In my humble opinion, the only thing worse than soon-to-be adults not
being aware of political and legal issues that face our society is to
have those students be unfairly indoctrinated by one side. Doing so
does a disservice to the students, as well as the rest of society.
I would like to stress that my above comments are not a criticism of
you. Your original idea to have representative from both sides speak
was an excellent and commendable idea. However the idea, as modified by
your school, really removes the educational value and replaces it with a
situation where there is really only uncontested indoctrination occurring.
I am grateful for the articles and your concern, which are my own concerns as well. I will not, however, be debating with the anti gun speaker since I know that I will not be prepared for it no matter how much research I do in the next few days. I will actually be presenting on a different day prior to the anti gun speaker comes in. In all honesty I wanted to cancel the whole arrangement once they denied the pro rights speaker, however I still feel that they can learn the values of an open discussion with the the anti gun speaker. Prior to the this situation they wrote research papers in which they needed to write without bias about the pros and cons of the CCW laws. They did a wonderful job and began to see the many myths that are out in today’s society about guns and I feel to have them openly discuss these things with not only the anti gun speaker, but amongst themselves can teach them the importance of being open minded during a dialogue. I greatly appreciate all of your concern, and thanks again for your help.
The College Preparatory School of America’s contact information
I would encourage those who feel it is wrong to give an anti gun group the exclusive and virtually uncontested opportunity to indoctrinate students (who will soon be voters) to contact this school and politely voice their disagreement.
Address: College Preparatory School of America, 331 West Madison Street, Lombard, IL 60148.