Bulletproof Backpacks?

Perhaps you missed it – I almost did.  It was a tiny news item, buried in the small-print section of the media world, about a company selling bulletproof backpacks for children.  I did a bit of a double take.  Bulletproof backpacks? Really?

BULLETPROOF 011369677191It is not news that we are part of a gun-loving culture, in which the NRA holds more sway over our government than countless advocates of health, education, the arts, the environment, or human services.

It’s not news that sports like football and mixed martial arts celebrate a kind of physicality that results in far more injuries than “wins.”  Sports commentator Frank Deford, a football lover, recently went so far as to label the sport “The Brutal Ballet.”

It’s also not news that the USA spends spends roughly half our annual budget on military expenditures.  This represents more than China, Russia, Britain, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – all combined.  China is in second place in military spending – at about 25% of US expenditures.

But bulletproof backpacks for kids.  Just what is the subtext that underlies the emergence of this new consumer item?

Sure, kids need backpacks to go to school.  So lets call these items part of a category called school supplies.   Then, since they’re used to carry notebooks and pencils, we can assume that the kids will wear them on a daily basis to and from school.  And finally, we can assume that since these are bulletproof, gunfire between home and school is to be anticipated.  Something prudent folks prepare for, like buying a fire extinguisher for your kitchen.  Who knows, things happen!

idiot mom

Is it comforting that the company making the bulletproof backpacks is a Colombian company?  Think about urban South America: gangs, drugs, crime… perhaps this stereotype comes to mind.  But it turns out that there is no market for these things in Colombia.  That’s just where they are made.  It is America, where there are nearly as many firearms as there are people, that people buy bulletproof backpacks.

Having just passed the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school massacre, it is worth reflecting on violence in our society.  People become violent when they don’t feel strong, or safe, or powerful.  Will bulletproof backpacks increase safety?  Perhaps.  More important is the question of ‘What we are teaching our kids?’

I stand in shared grief with the families of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook, and in countless other places where gunfire has taken kids’ lives.  For those families this is a painful holiday season.

But I cannot sustain myself with grief.  So, perhaps indulgently, I take a small bit of comfort in knowing that I work in a school where we teach respect and conflict resolution… and I help to create an environment in which, by building kids’ resilience and compassion, we are making them less likely to choose violence.

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One Comment on “Bulletproof Backpacks?”

  1. Suzy Says:

    You have got to be joking. Amazing contrast with my teaching experience in which my students are required to have knives so we can more easily build traps and start fires.


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