It struck me as unfortunate this week when Megan McArdle published a piece on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which, among other things, said unarmed "young people" should be taught to suppress their self-preservation instincts and "instantly run at" well-armed madmen. What I didn't appreciate was how much worse the commentary surrounding the tragedy could get.
National Review, a leading conservative magazine, published an item yesterday by Charlotte Allen, which offered observations that are nothing short of stunning.
There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel -- the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the "reading specialist" -- were female. There didn't even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza's knees.Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers.... [A] feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm.
Allen noted that the school's principal "seemed to have performed bravely," and some of the teachers saved lives, but she lamented the notion that "male aggression ... has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools." Allen wondered what might have happened if "some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" at the school had "converged on" the shooter.
The writer went on to encourage folks to "remember United Flight 93 on 9/11. It was a "flight of heroes" because a bunch of guys on that plane did what they could with what they had."
It's hard to know where to start with arguments like these. We could note, for example, how callous it is to denigrate the heroism of the school officials who showed extraordinary courage and heroism during unimaginable circumstances. We could also note how offensive it is complain -- in print, after having several days to ponder the issue -- about American culture based on antiquated and silly gender roles.
And while those concerns are certainly true, I'm also struck by Allen's total disregard for facts.
She wrote there was "not a single adult male on the school premises," which isn't true. She wrote that Sandy Hook was "a K–6 school," which isn't true. She wrote all of the teachers at the school were women, which isn't true. She said there was no male janitor, which isn't true. Indeed, Andrew Kaczynski noted that the "first two sentences" in Allen's piece "contain five factual errors."
What's more, there were no "husky 12-year-old boys" at the school.
And even if there were, I'd remind Allen that Y chromosomes do not contain magical bullet-resistant powers. Look at any of the recent mass shootings in the United States and you'll find victims of both genders.
As for the Flight 93 comparison, it's true that the people on that flight showed remarkable bravery, and saved countless lives on the ground, but I hope folks will appreciate the qualitative differences between charging at men holding box cutters and men holding AR-15s.