Several years ago, Intellectual Takeout released the popular image below pondering why rifles and target practice are no longer a part of school activities today. Needless to say, the image generated a lot of debate and discussion.
But while rifle practice is still taboo in many American schools, one school in the U.K. has made shooting a regular part of its studies. And not just shooting in a gun range, either. We’re talking about shooting outdoors. In the wild. At real animals.
As a video produced by Channel 4 News explains, headmaster Michael Fairclough believes that the children of West Rise Junior school should have the chance to be outdoors, to learn to use a gun responsibly, and be able to prepare, cook, and eat the wild game they bring down with those same guns. The students, it would appear, love these lessons:
Male Student: “Life-changing.”
Reporter: “Why was it life changing?
Male Student: “Because I’ve never done it before and the first experience it just changes my opinion of shooting.”
Female Student: “It’s just amazing. It’s really good adrenaline and it’s a nice feeling.”
Channel 4 News goes on to explain that Fairclough believes these lessons are necessary in order to counteract the “cotton wool culture.” Fairclough goes on to state:
“It’s only really people’s own sort of limiting beliefs and a few media myths that people have invested in which have stopped children from having these sorts of activities. So yeah, we’re bucking against the trend, but also we’re not doing anything that we’re not allowed to do, in fact we’re being supported in it.”
Some of that support may stem from the academic results Fairclough’s students produce. Although two-thirds of them come from a low socio-economic background, the school gets top scores in the U.K.’s annual exams. As a school employee explained to The Guardian last year:
“We’re in the top 5% nationally for attainment in the Sats and the top school in Eastbourne for reading, writing, maths, punctuation and grammar. [Fairclough’s] getting that hit by having the children challenging themselves and finding solutions together rather than spending all the time facing walls in the classroom.”
It’s hard to see Fairclough’s shooting and other survival lessons catching on in U.S. schools, but what if they did? Children in America were once quite active outdoors, and fishing, hunting, cooking, and other strenuous activities were a way of life which children were expected to participate in. Is it possible that it was these activities which made children curious about life and thus eager to learn? By taking these activities from them, have we quenched their interest in learning and seen academics and knowledge suffer as a result?