My son starts first grade this month. As he returns, news outlets from Wall Street to Main Street will feature policymakers talking about their support of school safety. They will report on the funding of more police officers, more locks and more cameras.

As a parent, I agree, those things are important.

But we need parents, newspapers and policymakers to be equally vocal in advocating for what is happening on the inside of our schools. How do we make sure that our kids have a way to interact? To express emotion? To want to be in school? To learn to make sense of the world, and to care enough to build community with others? How do we make sure our kids find their passion?

Our kids may not be able to connect with us... But they can hear the music. 

In a grim era of increasing childhood suicide: How do we ensure our kids learn to want to live, with themselves and their classmates?

As we return to school, let us summon the will to fight for the insides of our schools: for funding music, sports, arts, and the educators who love our children. For many kids, these “non-academic offerings” are the ways we build paths into their lives. Without those paths, we cannot build character or community.

Many readers will say that music won’t stop bullets, or guns, or mental illness. They are right. But what happens on the inside of a hardened school is a part of preventing violence. Learning and making music does create space for children to connect with one another and with their emotions. Because our kids may not be able to connect with us, or want to hear us. But they can hear the music. 

And because, selfishly, I want my son to live to seven, and 19, and 90. Because I want him to one day be the oldest person he knows.