I just finished reading an article in my local newspaper about the soon-to-be completed construction of a new school building in one of our state’s communities. The superintendent was interviewed about the school, which will be an answer to a lot of needs in the community. The old school is no longer equipped to meet the needs of students and teachers. The superintendent extolled a list of features the new school building will provide: 128,000 square feet of space, an art classroom, fully equipped chemistry lab, a library, an indoor sports facility and more. All of this sounded worthy of lauding, but the one thing that caused me to take pause was the security measures that will be in the new building to ensure student safety.
The writer of the article referred to a recent tour of the new school building, when the superintendent pointed out all the new security measures. These features include a bullet-resistant glass door, separating the main entrance area from the main building. This door can only be unlocked from the reception area, which is behind bullet-resistant glass windows. Are you seeing what I’m seeing here? Along with the new features this new school will provide, for improvement of the educational experience of the children who will occupy it, there will also be additional features suitable for any correctional facility. This is the new normal. This wouldn’t have ever been thought of when I attended public school way back in the separate-but-equal days of the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s South, African American kids often went to school in old buildings, with worn classroom furniture and hand-me-down books, but security from wackos with guns was never given a thought.
There are many things to which we can point that have become parts of our new norm. Technology has had an enormous impact on our society, quickly ushering in new norms in every aspect of our lives. I have been dragged into contributing to the growth of e-commerce, purchasing clothing and other kinds of merchandise online, while I witness the slow death of some of my old commercial favorites like Sears and J.C. Penny’s. Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have ordered clothing online under any circumstance. Shifts in how we buy and sell, communicate, connect with others around the world, receive our news are new norms that make life better for most of us; however, the need for extreme security measures in our schools, places of worship, and other areas in the public square are new norms which I wish we didn’t need.
I’ve written before about the normalcy which has developed around the frequency of mass shootings in the United States. This stands out as one of the primary reasons for the heightened security measures we now see in many of our buildings that have been constructed to house workers, who are there to serve us all. Don’t you get a feeling that these people are, out of necessity, being separated from us, not being allowed to have close relationships with their fellow citizens? No matter how impressive the security measures in a newly constructed school building, a new post office, a new customer service center might be, I will try my best to not accept the high-tech security features they possess as the new norm. Unfortunately, my efforts will fail just as they did in my finally succumbing to the convenience of e-commerce.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.