A middle school in Ohio has cancelled its 3-day trip to DC. The cause, explained the administrators, is terrorism.
...And an inability to process the idea that just because the world is not perfectly safe doesn't mean it's terribly dangerous. And a belief that bowing to the Gods of Fear will somehow appease them. And a sense that somehow adults can control the entire world in all its complexity, simply by clutching its kids ever closer. (But these irrational ideas, the administration didn't mention.)
School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled “if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised,” according to the letter sent Nov. 8 by North Ridgeville Academic Center Principal Amy Peck, trip adviser Brittany Cioffoletti and Jim Powell, the school district’s superintendent.
“Sadly, we have reached that point,” the letter continued. “Since our parent meeting, we have mourned with many across the country at the loss of lives in Las Vegas, Manhattan and Texas. [Last week,] a man was arrested near the White House after he made threats to the lives of our capital’s police force. All of these incidents at ‘soft targets’ and public places have led to our difficult decision to cancel this year’s trip . . . As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy."
So...is allowing parents drive their kids to and from school worth the potential for tragedy? Because that is the #1 way kids die: As car passengers, not terrorism victims. As one WaPo commenter, Schaeferhund, asked: "Are there no math teachers at this school?" The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically low. So are the odds of being able to predict where is the next "soft target." What if the admins cancelled the trip to DC and said, "Instead, we're going someplace really safe: a small church in Texas"? We cannot know everything that is going to happen, and cannot act as if we do.
So it's not really prudence that is causing the school to cancel. It's the feeling that if anything terrible happened, it would be THEIR FAULT. This is a feeling many parents can relate to:
“As a superintendent, every time we send kids on these kind of trips, I worry about it the whole time they’re gone,” he said. “It’s a lot of responsibility.”
But worry and responsibility are two different things. Responsibility is what you take to make the variables under your control safer. As superintendent, you put a stop sign in front of the school. You run some fire drills.
But it is not any human's responsibility -- or ability, period -- to be able to predict and avoid the rarest and most random of fates outside our doors. The worry comes because we FEEL that we should be able to that. And the news is actually framed that way: "If only she hadn't let her child wait at the bus stop..." But that is a false narrative. We are NOT God. We can NOT know all that is to be. Nonetheless, when something bad happens to a child outside the home these days, it is framed as negligence -- Why did they allow it??? -- though if a child falls down the stairs at home it is framed as an accident. We have dangerized going outside the house.
That's why we are so scared to let our kids do anything, from playing outside to visiting D.C.: We know that should something go wrong, however unpredictably, we will be blamed.
If I were a parent at that school, I'd sign a waiver: "I do not think the superintendent can predict an extremely unlikely and unpredictable event and I will not hold him responsible if, God forbid, that happens." Then I'd send my kids off on a trip that, if they're like me, they will remember for a lifetime.
A lifetime I'd fully expect them to continue even after a visit to Soft (and Hard) Target Land. - L.