Dan Popp
Fish in a barrel
By Dan Popp
May 27, 2018

Let's say you had some fish...in a barrel...and people kept shooting them. Let's say that the fish were important to you for some reason, and you didn't want them to get shot. What would you do? Well, you might set up surveillance cameras around the barrel, and you might try to restrict access to guns. What else? Anyone have any other ideas?

How about removing the barrel?

Let's think of this from another angle: Why is it that we almost never hear of a homeschool shooting? Well, fewer kids shot in one incident means less of a splash in the news coverage. But I'm going to guess there are far fewer homeschool shootings than public school massacres. (I couldn't find any statistics on this, but that doesn't mean homeschools have never been attacked.) The reason for the disparity is intuitively obvious: At a homeschool, the shooter's target is smaller. Like Willie Sutton, who robbed banks "because that's where the money is," the school shooter gravitates toward public schools because there he knows he'll find large groups of innocents in an enclosed space. Fish in a barrel.

So why don't we discuss this factor when we're trying to prevent future tragedies?

Open-minded and creative people look at a problem by first spelling it out. Deranged gunmen are going into schools full of children and shooting the children. Then thoughtful people look at the various components of the problem: Why deranged, and what can we do about the mental health aspect? Why guns (and bombs, etc.), and what can we do about the weapons aspect?

Based on our examination of the components, we'll be able to generate some recommendations, but no perfect solutions. The person who talks about "ending" mass violence is insane, stupid, or a con man, just like the fool who babbles about "ending" poverty or disease. Some of our ideas will be unworkable, unconstitutional, or counterproductive. We'll scrap them later. But we continue to challenge our assumptions about each aspect of the problem.

As we work through this process, we eventually come to the question, "Why are schools full of children?" That is to say, why do you keep your fish in a barrel? Why not keep them in a "safe?" would be one idea. But why keep thousands of them in the same place at all? Why not spread them out, to make them less inviting targets?

One of the answers is that schools are so large because of economies of scale. Once you go to the expense of building a gymnasium or a parking lot or a boiler room (do schools still have those?), the thing will be much cheaper per pupil if there are a lot of pupils using it. Another answer might be control. The more spread-out the schools, the less supervision we can impose from a central authority. Once we get down to the size of the "one-room schoolhouse" of yesteryear, there would be so many of them that each would be pretty much autonomous. I would see that as a massive benefit.

Besides the greater security and autonomy, each mini-school would be more accountable to parents. And if the one-room schoolhouse and homeschools are any indication, the education imparted at these micro schools would be markedly superior to what kids are getting now in the propaganda warehouses.

In another essay I've said that government is the wrong institution to provide education. I won't repeat that argument. Here I'm only saying that, looking at it from a security perspective alone, we would do well to split the student population into the smallest units possible. That would not be our entire strategy, but it could be part of it. Other benefits of smaller, geographically dispersed schools – parental accountability, school autonomy, a better education, and probably others – would be bonuses.

But I don't see a way to have "government education" without the barrel.

How important are these fish, did you say?

© Dan Popp


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