The recent school shooting in Texas has reignited the debate over gun control. NPR’s Don Gonyea speaks with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan about his idea to boycott school until reforms are made.
DON GONYEA, HOST:
Following the most recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, some students and parents are calling on their political leaders to pass stricter gun control legislation. One radical idea that’s been floated is to boycott school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.
Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been pushing this idea over the past couple of days. He served as education secretary under President Obama. Before that, he was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Arne Duncan joins us now on the line from Chicago.
ARNE DUNCAN: Thanks a lot for the opportunity. Good afternoon.
GONYEA: So explain the idea of the boycott. I understand it started actually with an assistant of yours at the Department of Education, Peter Cunningham, who tweeted about it.
DUNCAN: Well, I just think as a nation, we’re just in an absolute state of crisis. I mean, when you have a situation when you have more children being shot in school than you do people who are in the military serving overseas, it just makes no sense whatsoever. It is a radical idea. I recognize it is complicated and very difficult. I just think it’s complicated and very difficult that parents continue to send their children to school, and they get shot and killed there. I think it’s complicated and difficult that parishioners go to church and get killed there. I think it’s complicated and difficult that people go to the mall and get shot there. And I could just go on and on and on.
GONYEA: I know this is far from a fully formed plan, but when would it start? How might it work?
DUNCAN: Well, you sort of think about going back to school in the fall after Labor Day, and you think at the backdrop, as you know better than anyone, would be elections coming in November. Is it a chance for all of us to take a pause and to, frankly, create some tension that forces us to do something and to think differently and maybe compels us to action from our state of passivity now?
GONYEA: So it’s not just a stunt? I mean, it does sound like a child care nightmare. You know, a lot of students rely on a school program for a hot meal. Will teachers get paid? We can build a long list pretty quickly, right?
DUNCAN: Absolutely. And I built that list. I served tens of thousands of kids three meals a day at school, often the safest place for kids to be. But I think we have a national crisis in our hands. And we are passive. We are complicit. We are just sort of watching the innocent loss of lives. This is a made-in-America problem, and we have to fix it here in America.
GONYEA: You were secretary of education during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. At the time, you and President Obama called for stricter gun laws, improved access to mental health, other measures. You were optimistic that some change would come at that point. What didn’t work then?
DUNCAN: Well, just quite frankly, we failed. We absolutely failed by any measure. And the president has said - and I’ve also said - that, you know, he dealt with the hardest issues on the planet, by definition, for eight years. And that was the worst day of his presidency. And it was my worst day. We played by all the rules. We did studies. We tried to work with Congress. And we got zero accomplished. And so we failed. We played by the rules and got nowhere. The opportunity I’m raising is can we stop playing by the rules? Can we do something to shock the consciousness to move us past our state of moral bankruptcy now as a nation if we do something to keep all of our babies alive?
GONYEA: Arne Duncan is former secretary of education. He’s now the managing partner of Emerson Collective and heads their new initiative, Chicago CRED, which works to reduce gun violence in the city.
Mr. Duncan, thank you.
DUNCAN: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
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