Saturday, May 03, 2008

Guns, Teaching, and Academe

This is by way of Workplace Blog and the Times-Picayune:

BATON ROUGE -- Despite opposition from student government leaders and top state education officials, a House committee Thursday took the first step toward allowing authorized concealed weapons on college campuses. ...

The panel rejected an amendment to exempt private colleges from the bill. The measure heads to the House floor for debate.

State law now bans guns from being carried onto college campuses as well as other sites, such as the State Capitol, police stations, courts, churches and governmental buildings. ...

Joseph Savoie, president of the Board of Regents, the agency that oversees all higher educational institutions, said that similar bills have been killed in 15 states this year; only two states are still in play: Arizona and Louisiana.
I've been trying to imagine what impact the knowledge that some of my students may be carrying concealed weapons would have on my teaching.

How exactly would that bit of information change the polemics I might use? How might the possibility of a loaded gun alter the class dynamics surrounding a lively discussion on abortion rights? And what would be my responsibility as an instructor in such a situation? How am I to protect students from an agitated adolescent who is also potentially armed? Do I need to start packing too? Am I supposed to be able to "draw down" on a student that pulls a gun in class? And even if I were inclined to try such an absurd thing, do students really want their professors to be armed and dangerous? What sort of chilling effect does the threat of the free exchange of hot lead have on the free exchange of ideas?

I'm reminded of the joke about the statistician who was concerned about the threat of bombs on airplanes. After calculating the long odds of traveling on a plane with a bomb the statistician was somewhat reassured. Then, just for fun, he calculated the odds of two bombs being on a plane. The odds of that happening were astronomical. So in the future, just to be safe, he always packed a bomb in his suitcase when he traveled...

I think the logic of this Louisiana law is similarly warped.

I already have a little frisson of fear the first time I meet a large class. Believe it or not, as the local Marxist prof, I do sometimes draw students who are a little on edge. Adding guns into the mix will not help.


  1. Gunning down Marxist profs may be the entire intent of this law, sheesh...and what a wonderful teaching tool, showing the students how life under neoliberalism really works...

  2. Personally I have assumed, since concealed weapons became legal under Mike Foster (elected 1996, if I remember right), that some of my students *were* armed - the 'gun free zone' signs notwithstanding.

    You're quite right though - I've seen quite a few on the edge Philosophy students in my time.

    Also we had a professor in yet another department who had some type of seizure in class. Students said he had "terrorized" them (it really was just a medical problem) and had they been armed it is likely that one of them would have shot him.