Joel Belz: What kind of safety?

KENT COVINGTON, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Kent Covington.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Keeping our kids safe in school means physical safety. And it means a lot more than that if we understand the cultural rot spilling into young hearts. WORLD founder Joel Belz is here now with some thoughts.  

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: One of our readers called the other day, quite upset. His reason? He hadn’t seen or heard any evidence that WORLD is editorially in favor of spending substantial federal money to arm and protect our schools—with military weapons, no less.

He said—quoting now—“If it were your kids who were being shot and killed, it would have been a cover story.”

Well, yes, indeed. I will quickly acknowledge that as soon as any horror story invades my own personal space, both my interest and my involvement tend to accelerate. It tends to be that way for all of us.

I remember when Bill and Hillary Clinton, just before he took office, traveled to Washington to choose a school for Chelsea. In spite of all their talk about the virtues of public education, the Clinton’s signed up for an elite private school. Family spokesman George Stephanopoulos explained why. “She could’ve got hurt or something, because there’s a lot of pushing and shoving in the halls,” he said.

Now, a generation later, things are a lot worse than pushing and shoving. That’s why we now have so many people begging us to listen to their crazy proposals to spend billions of dollars on lock and key systems, armed guards, and special desks designed to let elementary kids hide underneath.

But don’t be sidetracked. The very worst result of all this focus on physical safety would be to forget the intellectual and academic devastation that has beset our culture. SAT scores are full of bullet holes, and so are basic skills tests. The last generation’s misdirected priorities are leaving us with a populace unable—or unwilling—to read. They’re often unable to calculate—and unable to think critically or productively about the educational mess they find themselves in.

Ultimately, though, parents should be most frightened about their children’s spiritual and moral safety. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

It is no accident that the first segment of the American population to desert the public schools in significant numbers over the last 50 years was made up of evangelical Christians—who sensed the spiritual violence and moral mayhem occurring there.

So millions of Americans, driven by these various fears for the safety of their children, have sought to make a prudent choice. The challenge now is that people will be tempted to be preoccupied with the physical safety rather than the threats that, while less noisy, are potentially the most destructive.

Only three or four schools in America – and I do not use the word ‘only’ in a casual way – have been terrorized during the last few months by ultra-equipped gunmen. Those have been devastating events, whose repetition we should do all in our power to prevent. But let’s never forget the devastation that continues to go on in the hearts and souls of millions of students in America’s supposedly safe schools.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Claire Crouch/Lex18News via AP) A group protesting school safety in Laurel County, Ky. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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