Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 26
Q&A With Gary Younge:
Seven Bullets a Day
Another Day in the Death of America chronicles the stories of 10 children
and teens who lost their lives on Nov. 23, 2013. According to the fatalinjury reports between 1999 and 2015 compiled by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, an average of seven young people die from gun
violence every day in the United States. What made you decide to write
about gun violence against young people in this country, and why did you
choose to do so by focusing on personal stories, rather than research?
No other country has this issue. When I lived in Chicago, and even when I
lived in New York, it was a thing that came on after the news. A child was
shot. Each individual [death] provoked no moral outcry. So I wanted to
find out, who are these kids? They're falling every day. Seven a day. It's a
stunning statistic. What do they want? What do they want to be?
Now that President Donald Trump, who has been an advocate for the
National Rifle Association, is in office, policies surrounding gun control
may look very different than they did under President Barack Obama. If you
had the ear of the president or U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,
what would you want to say about the problems and solutions surrounding
protection of our country's students?
I would suggest, before they even got to guns, a robust mental-health service
that was accessible and affordable. That would save a lot of lives. This is one
of the wealthiest countries on earth, these are American citizens, and just as
America helped rebuild Europe after World War II, it should, with a similar
amount of zeal, invest resources in its cities, which is where we see the most
violence. And it should invest in its youth-youth services, clubs. All of those
things that give young people a place to go and get them off the street and
give them something to do that is not just hanging around will result in
fewer deaths. Guns don't help, but there's a range of things you can do before
you even get into what I call one of those very shallow conversations about
the Second Amendment.
In touching on the Sandy Hook shootings, you write in the book that
"children comprise a special category: the most vulnerable and the most
in need of protection," but when people discuss these tragedies, the focus
often shifts to children's innocence and moral purity. Say more about why
this is a problem.
It takes an issue like Sandy Hook for a large number of people to wake up to
what the potential is because suddenly, people think, "That could be my child."
When you start dealing with the "worthy" victim as opposed to all victims, all
children, you shift from saying, "This shouldn't happen to children" to saying,
"This shouldn't happen to children like this, but it should happen to children
like that." If you're African-American or Latino or, to a lesser extent, if you're
poor, by the time you are 16 or 17 you may have a criminal record for a minor
or major offense. There may be a range of ways in which you can be counted
out of being in a worthy category, and therefore your death can be dismissed.
Dave Powell responds to Steele's "Why the
Left Should Work With Betsy DeVos" in a
K-12 Contrarian blog post. Spoiler alert: He
Shrinking enrollment at traditional public
schools is assumed to be largely the result of
charter-school expansion. It's not, argues
There are places in American cities where kids are expected to be shot, where
the fact that they're shot doesn't really change how people think about that
city or that kid or the way America should be. I think it's important to move
away from the notion that only those who are assumed to have moral purity
are the ones that deserve our sympathy or empathy.
You discuss several solutions to alleviating gun violence, including youth
and mental-health services, jobs that pay a living wage, a fair criminaljustice system, and better education. You also write in the book that
getting rid of guns is not generally seen as the solution, but that child
gun deaths are "understood in the same way as car accidents." How can
education make a difference?
One of the reasons why it's interesting to concentrate on children is because,
while it's possible to talk about personal responsibility, we all know as
developed Western societies that there's a collective responsibility for
children. The main place where the state intervenes in terms of children is
education. If a child feels that they have promise, that they have chances,
that they have hope, they're much [less] likely to be ensnared in a cycle
of pathologies that might lead to their early death. Education is the place
where you might start in terms of ensuring that children feel they have
value and potential.
Unfortunately, what I saw the whole time I was in the United States was
that in the areas most likely to be riddled by gun violence, the schools feel
more like prisons-metal detectors, police in the schools in Chicago, and a
sense of suspicion that the children who do go to school are not really there
to learn, but have to be handled almost like they're in occupied territory. To
me, that's not the ideal environment in which to tell a young person that
they are valued.
What is the responsibility of educators and parents to work against
and help children understand gun violence in their own schools and
I think they have to do everything in their power to keep them safe. That
involves telling them about what guns can do and what they should do
if they see one. But I think that's only going to go so far unless parents
and teachers are working together to create the kind of environment and
prospects that make the situations where children might get shot less likely.
Fighting for making sure there are the kinds of resources that mean, when
you're 16 and 17, there is somewhere else you might go that's not hanging
out on the street corner if you don't want to be at home.
I don't think that young Americans are any more violent than young people
anywhere else in the Western world, and I don't think that American
parents are any more negligent than anywhere else in the Western world,
and I don't believe that American teachers are any less caring. So the issue
has to be, what is it about what's going on in America that is making these
things possible? n
The interview has been edited for length and clarity. To read a longer version and to listen to the full conversation, go to
26 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 22, 2017 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
very 24 hours, an estimated seven young people in the United States lose their
lives to gun violence. According to a 2013 report by the nonprofit Children's
Defense Fund, American teenagers are 17 times more likely to die from gun
violence than their peers in other high-income countries. For black children
under age 19, firearms are the leading cause of death. But most of these
youths never make the national headlines. Too often, they remain nameless
British journalist and author Gary Younge, who is editor-at-large for The
Guardian and a monthly political columnist for The Nation, set out to explore the stories behind the
numbers. The author of several books, including The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.'s Dream and No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through the American
South, Younge spent more than a decade covering race and politics in the United States as a foreign
In Another Day in the Death of America, which was published in 2016, Younge puts a human face
on gun violence, uncovering the stories of 10 young people shot dead on the randomly chosen day of Nov. 23, 2013-seven black children,
two Hispanic children, and one white child, all boys ages 9 to 19. They were shot in cities (Chicago and Houston) and in small towns
(Grove City, Ohio, and Marlette, Mich.). One was killed by a stray bullet as he walked home from school, another by a friend who didn't
realize the gun the two of them bought was loaded. Younge tracked 911 phone calls and incident reports to piece together the stories of
these young men's needless deaths, then interviewed their families, teachers, and coaches to focus on their lives.
Set less than a year after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the book dives into questions about America's communities,
policies, education, and economics. Younge unpacks what these deaths-which, unlike mass shootings, often go unnoticed-reveal about
a society in which gun deaths occur daily. Commentary Associate Kate Stoltzfus recently spoke to the London-based Younge about the
causes and misconceptions surrounding gun violence and its youngest victims, as well as what can be done to stop the bullets.
In an online-only Commentary, American
University professor Jennifer L. Steele argues
that those on the left have more in common with
Betsy DeVos than they may realize. Not everyone
agrees with her.
| WEB COMMENT |
I find that the claim
school districts either
ignore or actively resist
innovation' is neither
true nor particularly
centrist. Instead, I find
it rather demeaning."
-dflier, responding to
Ron Wolk's Commentary
"How to End the Charter Schools War"
| CONNECT |
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 22, 2017
Education Week - March 22, 2017
The Hard Work of Making School ‘For Everybody’
Parents See Benefits in Spec. Ed. Vouchers But No Silver Bullet
Trump Education Dept. Has Yet to Hit the Gas
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
News in Brief
Social Media Connects Students to Authors
Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
ESSA Rules’ Rollback Complicates States’ Planning Process
Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Chris Doyle: Fake News Isn’t New
Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 7
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 11
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 12
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 13
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 14
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 15
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 18
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 19
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 20
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 21
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 22
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 23
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Readers React
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 29
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 30
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 31
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW4