A protester was handed this lollipop at the March for Our Lives. The reason is chilling.

In the second grade, a dentist pulled my tooth with no anesthetic. It had been hanging by a thread, and while I remember the pain being immense at the time, it was quickly subdued by a visit to the dental office's toy box, where I found a sticker and a small bottle of bubbles.

The dentist handed over my tooth, too, and told me to put it under my pillow. The next morning, it had been replaced with a dollar bill. Rewards for making it through an uncomfortable situation with as much strength as my 7-year-old self could muster.


But a viral tweet over the weekend revealed that rewards aren't quite so simple for kids right now.

Among thousands of reactions to the March for Our Lives that poured in on social media, one Boston librarian’s experience painted a clear and sinister picture of how school shootings and lack of meaningful gun control has affected even the youngest students.

On Twitter, Laura Koenig posted a picture of a lollipop a 6-year-old handed to her. The simple message attached read: "This is the prize I get for staying silent during active shooter drills."

The aim of the lollipops — part of a mission called Lollipops for Lockdown — is ostensibly a good idea. It’s a way to keep kids calm as they go through the harrowing experience of an active-shooter drill, a way to train kids to stay quiet as they wait for the all-clear.

It’s certainly better than the idea that schools should arm students with rocks, or as Rick Santorum suggested, that kids should be trained in CPR instead of pushing for stricter gun laws.

Still, the reward is a band-aid, a stopgap measure that puts the onus entirely on kids for their own safety rather than a wake-up call that things must change.

As an article on Scary Mommy points out, lollipops are given to kids for a multitude of reasons, and to associate these childhood rewards with active-shooter drills is more than just "bone-chilling." The image it draws up, Cassandra Stone writes, is "of a classroom full of first graders sucking on these lollipops while hiding from a shooter on a murderous rampage is so jarring it makes me physically ill."

As reactions to Koenig’s tweet came in, it became clear that the lollipops are problematic on a huge scale.

One teacher pointed out that she keeps lollipops in the closet so that kids "can suck on them and try to keep quiet" in order to not be found.

A father chimed in on the thread to say that at his kids' school, teachers had to ask parents to chip in for the lollipops because the school wouldn’t pay for them. What is the government considering instead? Earmarking millions of dollars that would go not to education but to arming teachers — a move that’s already been decried as disastrous.

But perhaps the most frightening thing about the lollipop movement is the fact that the idea that schools aren’t safe places — and wouldn’t become any more safe with more guns in place — is becoming more and more normalized in the eyes of children.

A protestor at the March for Our Lives. Photo by Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images.

As Stone recounts in her post, at a recent family gathering, the lights were turned off in the basement so the kids could play video games in comfort, and one child remarked, with no shock or surprise, "Oh, this is just like a lockdown drill."

This shouldn’t be happening. But it is. And it’s getting worse.

In a recent piece, my colleague Annie Reneau recounted the way that children are being prepared for active shooters invading a place that kids should feel safe.

One school saw police officers shooting blanks during a drill to drive home the point of what a real gun sounds like. In another instance, a teacher told a student who coughed during a drill that if a real shooter had been on the scene, the entire class would have been dead.

Protestors at the March for Our Lives hold up photos of students killed in gun violence. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

It’s terrifying to think of as an adult. As a child, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night. I would have been petrified to return to school knowing that the worst thing that could happen wasn’t a bad grade on a math test, but the possibility of my mistake — an involuntary physical response — sealing the fate of the people with whom I ate lunch and played tag on the playground.

That’s why these lollipops, no matter how well-meaning, can’t be seen as a triumph.  

Instead, they should be seen for what they really are: A clear message that the only way we can keep our kids safe is by changing the way we think about and handle gun control in our country.

Most importantly, we must listen to the kids who are leading the charge of the #NeverAgain movement. As they walk out of classes in protest of the government's inaction, as they crowd the streets begging the government to value their lives, we need to heed what they’re saying rather than placate them with solutions that put the responsibility for their safety against guns squarely on their shoulders.

Children want safety. They want an education. And they need a place where they can get both without having to learn that lollipops are a means of keeping them alive, that their teachers are armed, or where the bucket of rocks they’re meant to throw at an active shooter is stored. Only widespread gun reform can change that.

More

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture