Studying the Past, Confronting the Present, Shaping the Future

by Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed

The epidemic of mass shootings (defined as incidents where four or more persons are injured) in our country are emotionally draining tragedies for which thoughts and prayers are insufficient while rational solutions seem out of reach.

Those who train and educate emergency managers and homeland security professionals pursuing certificates, degrees, or advanced education in emergency management must not avoid analyzing and discussing current, controversial public safety issues. But what we may or may not be teaching adults who are exploring the emergency management /homeland security professions may prove the least of our future problems.

Under the guise of “protecting the emotions” of young people, efforts to distort the truthful presentation of American history are underway in many school districts. Books are banned, often for less than rational reasons. Revisionists claim that the truthful presentation of atrocities like slavery, the internment of innocent persons of Japanese descent in WW II, the historic suppression of voting rights for women and persons of color, and other action that violated our nation’s lofty principles might make our children ashamed of their heritage; presumably that “concern” justifies lying to them about our own historical failures while extolling our nation’s considerable positive accomplishments.

Distorting history, or just “dumbing it down” may prove to be easier than distorting the present, lived experience of today’s children in our schools, where their classrooms become less like windows to the world of possibilities and more like potential danger zones  – with desks and closets doubling as makeshift protective shields.

One account after the recent Highland Park, Illinois, mass shooting on July 4, 2022, is telling: some adults expressed wonderment that so many young people instantly knew how to react when the shots rang out – yet while it may be reassuring that survival training, now an essential part of a school’s curriculum, is taking hold, it should also be more than a little disconcerting that it is increasingly necessary.

I doubt that kids of today, those that survive, anyway, as their educational and intellectual horizons expand, will abide by revisionists’ attempts to pretend none of this really happened? They may recall that their country’s leaders hesitated to pass rational and popular measures to make them safer in classrooms, the grocery store, or even church… How does one “spin” political cowardice, anyway?

Hopefully one day in the future, their kids will study how we removed this stain on our nation. Maybe. If not, then this present-day scourge will provide them a good reason to be ashamed – of us.

Emergency Management Once Removed will take a brief summer break – back in September – stay safe. 

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Jim has spent 3 decades in emergency management, including 12 years at the local level as director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management and 8 and a half years as Washington State’s Emergency Management Division Director. Jim retired from state service in March 2013. Jim also served as President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) from January 2011 to October 2012. He is currently sole proprietor of “EM Northwest Consulting” based in Seattle.

Information on this Blog is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not engaged in rendering professional advice or services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with an professional adviser. Opinions expressed here represent the viewpoints of individuals authoring the blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Center of Excellence.