Visualize Hurled Peas
January 14, 2015 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Priscella P. Holley, principal at the W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, AL, sent a letter to parents asking them to have their children bring an eight ounce canned food item to class. Not to eat, or help the needy, or make a craft project, but to arm themselves against potential school shooters. Other schools have refined these plans: science classrooms equipped with cans of soup, and English classrooms with heavy books.
posted by Wet Spot (69 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd go with used golf balls, myself ...
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:03 AM on January 14, 2015


"You can have my creamed corn when you pry it out of my cold dead hands!"
posted by Captain_Science at 7:03 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Many students and teachers have thought of more creative ways to handle the situation; textbooks, chairs, calculators, and other heavy classroom materials have been suggested as possible defense equipment.English teacher Kate Fleming even suggested equipping each student with a hardcover edition of Madame Bovary.

Yes, we're going to need basic school supplies for all the students - you know, for defense purposes.
posted by zamboni at 7:05 AM on January 14, 2015 [45 favorites]


English teacher Kate Fleming even suggested equipping each student with a hardcover edition of Madame Bovary.

Actually, this is for the narcotic effect of reading passages aloud to intruders.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


What's that saying about bringing a can of pineapple to a gun fight?
posted by ffmike at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is an eight-year old with a can of stewed tomatos.
posted by marxchivist at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


what the fuck is wrong with us
posted by nadawi at 7:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [107 favorites]


I shouldn't kid about this, though.

I work at a college, and we received advice about these situations maybe a year or so ago. A friend taught middle school in Alabama (I think) and several years before they had been given a nifty, color-coded packet explaining what to do in various situations (e.g., run in a zig-zag pattern so you're harder to shoot; throw heavy objects at a shooter; and the like).

It's damn depressing to have to examine every classroom and office for escape routes and potential missiles as soon as I enter. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 7:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


How about a wacky Rube Goldberg device that will cover the perpetrator in pancake syrup and pillow feathers?
posted by dr_dank at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


The world has become a satirical parody of itself.
posted by dejah420 at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


“Has America gone crazy?”
posted by infini at 7:11 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]




When you have teachers and school administrators seriously believing that they are in imminent danger by unknown gunmen, one really starts to despair for what this means for the future of the country. Talk radio has won, I'm afraid.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's so many directions you could go with this that I'm just overpowered by it, immobilized by indecision.

Guns don't kill people, canned goods kill people?

Alabama, whose greatest claim to educational excellence is that at least they're not Mississippi?

They pull a banana, you pull a can of peaches. He sends one of yours to the office, you send one of his to the cafeteria. That's the Alabama way?

There's just too much material. I can't even.
posted by Naberius at 7:22 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I saw a mention of this yesterday evening on the local news, which I wasn't paying much attention to, until they read this story. When I hear something in the news that triggers a feeling of scorn and contempt for my fellow citizens, I generally try to set the feeling aside in the hopes that some mitigating detail will come forth and make an apparently senseless story suddenly understandable.

That is not the case here: this is the dumbest fuckin' thing I've ever heard of.

Everyone involved, from the person who had the idea, to people who thought it worth reporting on the idea, to each and every participant in the social milieux that generates enormous fear for the well-being of our children in the face of gun violence, but that won't do anything to mitigate gun violence, MYSELF INCLUDED, ought to be ashamed of themselves.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


what the fuck is wrong with us

Never mind all the gun nonsense, which if I started ranting about I'd give myself a heart attack.

For fuck's sake. This is America. IT IS CALLED A BASEBALL AND IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR THROWING.

Dammit, if you have to come up with such spectacularly bad answers as "give them something to throw at a shooter" then at least implement your incredibly bad answer correctly. This answer is so stupid that it is literally more stupid than "let's just give all the kids guns!" and is intruding on "Well, if *we* shoot the kids then the bad guys won't be able to!" levels of stupid.
posted by eriko at 7:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


Reading that second article felt like an Onion article. Except yes, our world is really that crazy.

I honestly do think sometime I'll get shot at work these days, given that my work already had a stalker for awhile this year and they have to send in cops to talk to us about how we should learn hostage negotiation techniques and go through the active shooter training. I just hope they make it quick when they come to kill me, because what the hell else can I do?

Get a bunch of soup cans from the last food drive and hold on to them under the desk, I guess? I'm sure that will totes help for the bullets to slightly bounce off of.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:32 AM on January 14, 2015


Put food on your family.
posted by Segundus at 7:38 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile in Texas, you can bring cupcakes to class to fight against the liberals! Deep fat fryers for freedom!

What the fk is wrong with us, indeed.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someone must've remembered the 1943 Maine Potato Episode and figured it could be applied to domestic policy.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:43 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are really only two ways to solve gun violence:

1) Everyone has guns
2) No one has guns
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:43 AM on January 14, 2015


I hear "No one has guns" is pretty effective.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:47 AM on January 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


"Everyone has a gun" solves gun violence exactly as well as "everyone has Ebola" solves epidemics.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:50 AM on January 14, 2015 [35 favorites]


I vote #2.

The cans thing is *kinda* silly, but now and then when I'm out in public and have a paranoid moment I look for items to use in a situation like that and pretty much small heavy throwable things (like cans) and bigger heavy swingable things (like chairs) seem like the go to items. It's sad that kids have to think about this kind of thing though.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:52 AM on January 14, 2015


1) Everyone has guns
2) No one has guns

Since 1) and 2) are impossible outside of prisons or North Korea, the only realistic option:

3) People who want them have them
posted by resurrexit at 7:56 AM on January 14, 2015


what the fuck is wrong with us

why do we sleep so uneasily?
posted by ennui.bz at 7:57 AM on January 14, 2015


"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the campus and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We sit in the classroom, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our schools. Let me have my ruler and my pencil and my pink erasers and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get cans!"
posted by komara at 7:59 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cans can be thrown back at you. That's unsafe. Grenades would work better. Also you pepper the school with remote-arming land mines and add a robocop.
posted by zennie at 8:02 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems like this generation's "duck and cover", or "duct tape and garbage bags" perhaps.
posted by edgeways at 8:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


We can put this right next to 'hide under your school desk to protect yourself from thermonuclear bombardment' in the big museum of We Sure Do Care About Our Children.
posted by echo target at 8:14 AM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


3) People who want them have them

I'd argue that's actually part of the problem. There are so many that anyone who wants one can have one (or many).

1) Guns are not safe, most attempts to make them safer get (ha) shot down because not only do we need guns, we need to shoot guns with as little time delay as possible (also part of the problem)
2) Americans are generally pretty shitty about things like education, so "educating" everyone about gun safety is sorta funny.

So now we talk about flinging cans at potential shooters, but of course the odds of any particular classroom experiencing this those cans will eventually get shoved somewhere out of the way, thrown away or whatever and this will turn out to be another American story of wankertude. Right there with the bulletproof backpacks and armed security guards at school.
posted by edgeways at 8:14 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]




I'm also offended by the lack of URL shortening in that letter. Like I'm gonna retype that long fucking URL. #chuckscanofpeas
posted by stltony at 8:26 AM on January 14, 2015


Spectacularly stupid. Top of my head, 5 smarter things to encourage children to throw at madmen with automatic weapons, with "smarter" understood to be extremely relative:

1. Throwing stars
2. Bags of glitter
3. Glass ampules of highly caustic acid
4. The less athletic children
5. cans of tuna -- opened
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:34 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


IT IS CALLED A BASEBALL AND IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR THROWING.

I think baseballs count as a weapon, and a child bringing one to school will be expelled.

Because we have to keep the kids safe, you know.
posted by happyroach at 8:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


They pull a banana, you pull a can of peaches.

...Suppose he's got a bunch?

Or a pointed stick?
posted by delfin at 8:46 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


My boyfriend owns a gun, keeps it in a gun safe, and it's never out of the safe unless he's taking it to the range. He is 100% completely responsible with it. He owns it because target shooting is a thing he is good at, and there are some maybe (sadly) libertarian reasons plus maybe fears of societal collapse.

Nonetheless, it is really a strain in our relationship. For a while he tried to kid me about it and I was like no stop it. Because he may be 100% responsible but he's still part of the problem, in that his gun ownership is part of a statistic that others use to justify their gun ownership. And once in a while these others do something like shoot up a school full of kids.

I'm unrelenting harsh to him about this, so he's probably going to hear sometime from me that he's in part responsible for tiny children learning how to defend themselves from gunmen with cans of peas. Yup, I'm a bitch about it. Because fuck this shit.
posted by angrycat at 8:47 AM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


This answer is so stupid that it is literally more stupid than "let's just give all the kids guns!"

That's a pretty high threshold, but yeah: goal achieved.

Giving kids this level of paranoia is literally child abuse. It would be like making kids wear football helmets when walking downstairs or making them bathe in bottled water. And the remedy! It's literally laughable. I mean, it makes people laugh at the society that produces buffoonish ideas like this. And it doesn't sound like it's just one deranged person, either. I just can't understand it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:56 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


If the school allows meat, kids will be able to Stand Their Ground Beef.
posted by dr_dank at 9:13 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, fuck you for needlessly scaring my kids.






That's my job.
posted by stltony at 9:13 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I get that this whole thing is wacky, but I think some of these responses are misplaced. I used to teach; I was teaching when Sandy Hook happened. I was terrified for my students (I think I've talked about this before but the Monday afterwards I heard a loud noise and threw myself across one of my students to protect him from what turned out to be the slamming of a fire door).

I don't want guns in schools, I don't want ANY guns in schools, I don't visualize any possible positive outcome from that, but what are you supposed to DO? I mean, I get that this principal seems crazy, but I'd rather have stuff for the kids to throw at a gunperson than bring more guns into school. I've envisioned terrifying scenarios of having to keep thirty unruly sixth graders safe and quiet while someone tried to shoot us all. School shootings happen and they are awful, and since apparently we can't take away the guns I don't think school personnel know what to DO.

So yeah, this is wacky and bonkers and makes one roll one's eyes, and I totally get that, but does anyone have a better idea? You will not receive credit for "bring more guns into schools"; this is not likely to lead to positive outcomes. Yes, bringing in canned goods to throw at someone is absurd, but no more absurd than the fact that school shootings continue. Sometimes when the world has gone crazy, the only sane response is to do something crazy yourself.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


what the fuck is wrong with us

We prioritize guns over children's lives?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes we can!

(Now I finally get it!)
posted by chavenet at 9:28 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


resurrexit: 1) Everyone has guns
2) No one has guns

Since 1) and 2) are impossible outside of prisons or North Korea, the only realistic option:

3) People who want them have them
Your three-way reduction is barely less unrealistic than the duality of Mr.Encyclopedia's first two. Let's introduce another layer:

The easiest (and only legal) access to guns would be through a process that attempts to prohibit the immature, the mentally imbalanced, repeat violent offenders, and those motivated by sudden impulse from obtaining a gun.

You know: like many countries other than the US and Korea implement.

Then, while it is impossible to absolutely prevent bad guys from getting guns and doing bad things with them, it might be much less likely to happen.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:28 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


This will end well.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2015


Since 1) and 2) are impossible outside of prisons or North Korea

What a relief, I was afraid no one would come up with a way to work gun control axe-grinding into this thread
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:56 AM on January 14, 2015


As an aside, this will be the first year where firearms overtake automobiles in terms of deaths. Most of these will be by suicide or accident - putting more guns in more hands will kill more than they save, and this has always, always, always been the case.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:02 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


So yeah, this is wacky and bonkers and makes one roll one's eyes, and I totally get that, but does anyone have a better idea?

I think doing things that create an illusion of safety without actually providing safety (see also: taking off our shoes at airport security or pretty much all enhanced TSA security theater) has a long term damaging effect on the population. First, it means we avoid addressing the actual problems (putting an adorable Frozen band-aid on a severed limb, if you will). Second, in the event of that absurd thing not succeeding, our response in the US tends to be "let's just do that absurd thing more and harder." Third, it reduces our critical thinking skills in that we stop questioning why we're being made to do absurd things and just do them instead ("it's moronic, but it is the law, oh well, wish there was a way to change it but what you going to do?").

In this case, doing absolutely nothing is a preferable option to doing something absurd.

That said, there were a number of easy, more common sense approaches that schools took that were sad and reduced freedom, but which were less insane than "arm teachers" or " ask kids to treat the gunman like a bad stand up comedian and hurl food at him." For example, many schools in Connecticut have made it harder to get in to the actual building - you have to be buzzed in. Other schools installed surveillance equipment (sigh) that would make It easier to track an assailant. Our school has initiated a lock down process (lock the doors to your classroom and move the students to areas away from windows so they can easily be seen).

So there are better solutions than hurling chicken noodle soup at some dude with an MR-WTF.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Everyone has a gun" solves gun violence exactly as well as "everyone has Ebola" solves epidemics.

Precisely!

You have to think how things work in the long run, people.
posted by ocschwar at 10:10 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every generation needs its "duck and cover", apparently.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:13 AM on January 14, 2015


So yeah, this is wacky and bonkers and makes one roll one's eyes, and I totally get that, but does anyone have a better idea?

I don't think this is a solution to the fear of school attacks, let alone an actual attack. Kids aren't stupid; they're going to realise that this is nonsense. I think it may have the opposite effect: "Is this the best they can come up with?", they'll wonder; "This means we're all alone, right?"

Getting rid of guns would largely solve the problem of school massacres, but I appreciate that this is not seen as a realistic solution in the USA. As an alternative, I suggest more funds for mental health, more and better-trained school counsellors, and a way of safely diverting children who are potentially a danger to others without expelling or stigmatising them. This will be more expensive and save fewer lives than many other things that could be done in the USA (e.g., better road crossings) but people aren't really rational about safety. So.

As for the fear of school shootings, the canned-peas "solution" helps kids feel empowered, which is good. You need things that aren't quite so silly, though. I suggest that it would be better to encourage kids to discuss their fears, and provide solutions to those. For instance, if they're scared of an attacker entering the room you could show that the doors are impregnable and lockable. If they're scared of the chaos of a school attack the school could run emergency drills - not some half-assed "everybody go assemble in front of the building" but properly designed plans that recognise different contingencies. And so forth.

Finally, there are students in other countries who are much more likely to be attacked. They probably have the same fears. It would be worth finding out how teachers handle those, too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:15 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


One weird detail: the letter specifies an eight-ounce can. Why eight ounces? The most common canned veggies or beans come in 11 to 15 ounces sizes. Tuna cans are mostly six ounces or less. I'm just puzzled at the thought behind that.
posted by Flexagon at 10:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The chances of a school shooting taking place in a US elementary or middle school in any given year: 1 in 141,463

I teach in an elementary school, so I wondered what other ways of dying I need to start preventing now that I know I can bring some canned food to prevent a school shooting... it turns out, pretty much all of them...

So... choking on food - 1 in 4,404... only soft food from now on, kids! Jello, applesauce, Ensure, etc. and make sure the canned food you bring in for the shootings is nice and soft in case someone accidentally eats it! Imagine the irony!

Bicycles - 1 in 4,147... no more bikes, that's an easy one!

Falling off furniture - 1 in 4,238... ok, seriously? No more furniture, or maybe put pillows on the ground?

From January 1990 through August 2000, CPSC received reports of 147 deaths to children younger than age 15 that involved playground equipment. In the 128 incidents for which location was reported, 90 (70 percent) occurred in home locations and 38 (30 percent) occurred in public locations.

That's about the same number of deaths as the shootings over 10 years, so definitely no more playground equipment.

It's called being proactive, people!
posted by Huck500 at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


One weird detail: the letter specifies an eight-ounce can. Why eight ounces? The most common canned veggies or beans come in 11 to 15 ounces sizes. Tuna cans are mostly six ounces or less. I'm just puzzled at the thought behind that.

It's the easiest weight for kids to throw at a shooter that would still do some damage, I'd guess... weird is right.
posted by Huck500 at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't they be teaching kids to hurl insults at active shooters instead? Small children are probably too weak to do much damage with a thrown soup can, but have you ever received a really cutting remark from an eight year old? It may not be as satisfying as throwing something heavy, but the shooter's self-esteem would be devastated.
posted by indubitable at 10:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


If your kid can't take down a classmate using a spork, hold him back a year. He's not ready.
posted by delfin at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Still not convinced this isn't actually a cunning plan by a cash-strapped school admin to top up teachers' pay with complimentary creamed corn.

If it is legit, it's too bad they replaced the classic pull-top razor-edged pudding cans with those worthless, no-stopping-power plastic cups.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So yeah, this is wacky and bonkers and makes one roll one's eyes, and I totally get that, but does anyone have a better idea?

It's not something government could do, but: stop covering school shootings, at least in any detail beyond "A deranged student shot 12 people at Wossname High School today, killing 7."

As it is now, murdering some students is your ticket to be The Most Important Person In America for a few days. You can go to your death (or possibly capture) knowing that tens of millions of people will know your name, that tens of millions of people will know why you say you did it, that tens of millions of people are going to care about what you did.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love how this school went from a zero tolerance policy prohibiting anything that might be a weapon to a policy requiring it.
posted by ocschwar at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, you can view the choice of canned food as a sort of real-world solution to a special case of the Byzantine Generals Problem.

You want a 'weapon' which is only effective if everyone decides to use it, but that isn't useful if used independently. I guess the thought is that one kid throwing a can of soup is manageable, but thirty of them is significant enough to have deterrent value against an attacker. I don't know if that latter claim is really true, but that seems to be the goal.

I heard people make similar suggestions after 9/11 as anti-hijacking measures: what if you put a button on each seat, such that if 80% of them were pressed, the plane would dump its fuel? (Of course we know that's not necessary.) They're trying for sort of the same thing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:28 PM on January 14, 2015


Seems to be traceable back to this Ohio enterprise.

The cans are not intended as weapons per se, rather, they are an option for part of C in the Go Ask ALICE acronym, that is to say "COUNTER: Create Noise, Movement, Distance and Distraction with the intent of reducing the shooters ability to shoot accurately. Counter is NOT fighting."
posted by BWA at 12:56 PM on January 14, 2015


I'd like to highlight that food is a universal humanizer, so my mind is open to some of this. Stricken communities deserve real talk. It's called a disarm technique. “There are three basic options: run, hide, or fight. You can run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide and/or deny the shooter access, or incapacitate the shooter to survive and protect others from harm.” "If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him." - the Art of War by Sun Tzu. So basically corn mash indicates flee? With can openers taped to the can this strategy is impeccable! /constructive sarcasm.

Let's just step back a little and consider the imagery argument. Where do attackers tend to go? The lunch hall, the auditorium, the classroom or the hallway? Since when did human powered slingshot arm-throws become the go to device for self protection? Without specific information pertaining to how these canned food items will be turned into projectiles...one could observe a manipulative half-baked news story. Bags of marbles would last longer.
posted by ArticTusk at 1:02 PM on January 14, 2015


Part of me thinks, "If we're actually at the point of trying to have a rational discussion about what household items are good for kids to use in self-defense against a gun-wielding attacker, then maybe we should just call it a mulligan on this whole human civilization thing and start from scratch with, I don't know, sentient corn.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


It has been
6
days since our last
gun-related
school shutdown


Note: this applies to my district only. I'm sure there have been plenty of others in the past week.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


> stop covering school shootings, at least in any detail beyond "A deranged student shot 12 people at Wossname High School today, killing 7."

That seems to be what they're doing with the shutdown in my city. I know some of the details, because I have two kids and had to find them during the lockdowns / shut downs / evacuations , but very little information has been in the news. Nobody was hurt, but also nobody has been arrested.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:33 PM on January 14, 2015


Seems to be traceable back to this Ohio enterprise.

I thought that was going to link to a cannery.
posted by figurant at 8:04 PM on January 14, 2015


I thought that was going to link to a cannery.

No, but good guess!
posted by BWA at 3:56 PM on January 15, 2015


ha ha ha ha oh god what
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:05 PM on January 15, 2015


Cans can be thrown back at you. That's unsafe. Grenades would work better. Also you pepper the school with remote-arming land mines and add a robocop.

Every school should have a drone with a gun. The kids would control it since their experience with video games would make them better shots than the teachers. What could go wrong?
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on January 18, 2015


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