CASCADE OBSERVATIONS: The limits of the absurd

When I decided to become a teacher 10 years ago, I enrolled in a 14-month-long master’s program. During those rigorous studies, I learned many things, including how to: explain algebra to a first grader; set up science experiments to teach scientific inquiry; evaluate reading skills by analyzing miscues; and how to design developmentally appropriate social studies lessons.

My program never taught me to recognize the physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic violence, dispense fluoride, attend to a diabetic child, catch vomit in a trash basket, pick up poop off my reading rug or discipline a third-grader who wrote a clandestine note about my breasts — all duties I have had to perform since receiving my teaching license.

“How to Shoot a Gun and Kill an Interloper” wasn’t listed as a required skill either, but many are now suggesting that we teachers learn how to do this, too. Has the world gone mad? I love my students, and would do almost anything to protect them from harm. But arming me, and my fellow teachers, is ludicrous — and dangerous.


I’ve never even shot a BB gun, so my learning curve in firearms use would be steep. Even if I did learn the mechanics of firing a weapon, what would I do in a real situation? When I studied life-saving swimming skills as a teenager, I received the lovely nickname of “Panic Peg.” Instead of keeping my composure while doing a “fireman’s carry” out of the pool during my final exam, I started to cry and hyperventilate. The “victim” was saved, but just barely. Needless to say, I never worked as a lifeguard. You don’t want someone like me shooting under duress.

And what about the practicality of storing a weapon in my room? If I keep it in my desk, do I lock the drawer? If so, how do I quickly find my keys, unlock the drawer, and shoot the insane person before he or she shoots me?

If I don’t lock my drawer, how do I ensure that one of my young charges won’t find the gun and play with it? We’ve all read of too many accidental shootings where a young child thought a loaded gun was a toy, and ended up shooting himself or a friend.

Our society asks a lot of teachers. Please don’t ask us to pack guns in school.

Reading about legislators recommending that teachers carry guns was just one of many absurd acts I read about in a recent copy of The Oregonian. After reading each of these other articles, all I could say was “Are they kidding me?” Herewith, some of the most outrageous:

n A woman in New York City pushed a subway rider into the path of a speeding train, killing him. When she was apprehended, she revealed that she has hated Muslims ever since 9/11. She didn’t know the man she murdered, nor did she know his faith. He just looked like he might be Muslim. I am speechless.

n There is an etiquette in looking at a tattooed person. The article advises us not to stare, or look too closely, at someone with visible tattoos. My question is this: Why would people get tattoos in visible places if they don’t want you to look at them? The article goes on to say that some tattooed folks are sensitive about their body art. The article notes “People sometimes get tattoos and don’t realize they’ll be with them for the rest of their lives.” Gee, I thought that was a fairly obvious result of injecting ink into skin.

n If you are the type of person who absentmindedly sets your glasses down, an advice column suggests that you lay your glasses down on a contrasting surface so they will be easier to find. If you are absentminded, how would you have the insight to remember to lay your glasses down where they can be seen easily? Am I the only person who finds this advice a bit ridiculous?

n A lawyer is suing the state of Connecticut for $100 million on behalf of a Newton, Conn., child who heard violence over the school intercom during the massacre at Sandy Hook. The lawyer contends that the horrific sounds broadcast over the intercom have inflicted emotional and psychological injury and trauma on his client. Yes, it was horrible that any of those surviving children had to see and hear what they did, but how is it anyone’s fault that the intercom was left on? Our litigious world baffles and depresses me.


When I was receiving radiation treatments for cancer (days after the 9/11 attacks) a wise counselor at the Celilo Cancer Center talked with us patients about fear. He inspired us to let the fear go as much as possible —fear about radiation and chemotherapy, fear about our cancers spreading, fear about dying from our diseases. He reminded us that disease is really dis-ease. Instead, we needed to think about finding ease in our lives. We needed to leave our fears behind.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I can’t spend my life fearing that every stranger is out to harm me and I adamantly refuse to carry a gun. Instead, I’ll continue to carry these wise words with me — even when the world seems too bewildering to understand.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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