Just before the Easter break and the arrival of the Easter bunny, an American PR company with an office in NZ issued a press release on behalf of the Evolve Group to say it would take the lead on gun education “in childcare centres across the country.”
“The Evolve Education Group which has 130 childcare centres throughout NZ will be working with its communities to introduce the ‘Gun Safe for Kids’.
The mantra of the PR Company is “Conspicuous Creativity”; “creativity that delivers ideas that are always interesting and that warrant attention, engagement and action.”
A website with a free downloadable gun kit developed by the PR Company and made available for anyone to introduce gun education to their centres provided:
- A cartoon storybook that walked children through the rules,
- Printable cut-out targets and gun safe for children to assemble, colour-in, and use, and
- Printable gun licences for adults to give to children if they listened carefully to the storybook and did not break the rules.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey told the NZ Herald the ministry could not comment on "a commercial programme that we don't have any involvement with."
The Ministry will not question or review a commercial programme that is taught within the curriculum in early childhood services that receive taxpayer funding.
Evolve’s general manager Fay Amaral said: “It’s such a novel and simple approach to starting a conversation with children about gun safety.”
Nathan Wallis, a former University of Canterbury tutor and now private consultant has acted for Evolve and the PR Company as an ambassador to bring gun education into early childhood centres.
Mr Wallis told the NZ Herald: “I know someone personally who shot their brother as a child and killed him. And with all this stuff going on in America about guns, it's good to think about the safety.
Early childhood expert Dr Sarah Alexander commented to the NZ Herald: "For the first time in New Zealand we'll have a large early childhood organisation that has declared itself to be pro-gun. It could be a potential publicity stunt for Evolve to get its name in the media, but it could backfire from families who are not pro-gun."
To know the mind-set and quality of the people who want children to learn about deadly weapons, you just need to look at what gun supporters say. For example, one writer of a letter to Dr Alexander following the NZ Herald article said:
Seriously? Objecting to kids learning gun safety in a nation of 250,000 licensed shooters? With gang members leaving illegal guns around? With grey guns left out in even greater numbers? Way to lose credibility. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Wake up.”
The Early Childhood Council business lobby group’s spokesperson Peter Reynolds, that represents Evolve among some other early childhood centre groups, described Evolve’s move to take a lead on introducing gun safety as a "very sensible approach,” on The Project TV3 show
Some people will be shocked or at least caught off guard by the whole idea of preschool aged children being introduced to guns. If they do encounter a weapon then they need to know how to respond responsibility.
Reynolds was unable to comment on how this possibly related to effective pedagogy in early childhood education but thought it good that early childhood centres helped to normalise guns.
When asked “How many toddlers are accidentally injured by guns each year?
Reynolds replied “Oh I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to that question.”
“Because I don’t remember seeing any headlines about toddlers misusing guns, not to say it wouldn’t be dangerous but it just doesn’t seem to be much of a problem to me,” said the interviewer.
Names of pro-gun centres
To find out the centres that are pro-gun click here to go to this article
Pretend gun play
Teaching gun use and safety to very young children is different to supporting pretend play involving guns and other weapons where children and teachers may get shot and children know their play is pretend fun and not real or deadly.
Learn more about gun play/ pretend play – read: “Superheroes and weapon play for fun and learning”
Not all Evolve childcare centres
Evolve seems to have back-tracked on its initial press release and previous media comments. It provided a statement to The Project show that explained that the gun safety kit was only going to be trialled at one centre in Leeston.
Gun education – seriously?
Gun education may encourage children to actually use real guns if the opportunity arises.
Families who hunt animals are probably better placed to teach their children safety rules appropriate to the context.
Teaching never to point toy guns, fingers or sticks at people or pets and only at targets assumes that young children cannot distinguish reality from pretend play and removes the choice of imaginative play.
Perhaps it’s best to leave the final word to TV3’s The Project: “It’s got us wondering if a childcare group want to teach gun safety because it’s part of life what other life lessons which other life lessons might they teach children.
- No Johnny you never, never, split 10s. Now who can tell me what a trifecta is?
- Despite what James Bond said we never ever shake the martini it bruises the vodka. What do we do? Stir it! Yes.
- So repeat after me, wheel to the right, handbrake up, that’s how you do a handbrake turn.”