With One Question, A Parkland History Teacher Sent The NRA's Dana Loesch Back To School

"The world, our country, our nation, is going to grade your answer."

During a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, a history teacher from Parkland, Florida, refused to give those on the stage an easy pass. Diane Wolk-Rogers, who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, used her allotted time during the town hall to ask National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch a question about the Second Amendment. But it was how she asked the question that caught everyone's attention.

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"What is your definition of a 'well-regulated militia' as stated in the second amendment?" Rogers asked, structuring her inquiry as if it was an essay prompt within an exam. "And using supporting details, explain to me how an 18-year-old with a military rifle is 'well-regulated'? And the world, our country, our nation, is going to grade your answer."

The crowd gave Rogers a standing ovation. After things quieted down, Loesch said that George Mason, a Virginia politician who penned a document that served as the basis for United States' Bill of Rights, "said 'the militia is the whole of the people.' It's every man and every woman."

Several journalists and Twitter users pointed out that Loesch was taking Mason's words, from a debate on ratifying the Constitution in 1788, out of context

"I ask, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day," Mason said in the debate. "If [the Constitution] gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor."

In Rogers' response to Loesch's answer, she also hit upon the question of how the quote pertained to the "future day."

"That was in the context of the time," she replied. "How, now, is an 18-year-old with a military assault rifle well-regulated. Use supporting detail." 

In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, people across the country expressed awe at the research evidenced and clarity offered by a speech made by student activist Emma Gonzalez, a speech that she said was made possible by, in part, her AP Government class. The student activists often allude to how the teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas unknowingly prepared their charges for their future place at the center of a national debate.

Gonzalez and classmates listen at the CNN Town Hall.  POOL / Reuters.

So it was both unsurprisingly and powerful that Rogers echoed the structure of an essay prompt in her question to Loesch and the NRA, an essay prompt that the history teacher might have assigned to her students on a normal day. Even though yesterday and the week preceding it were anything but normal.

Rogers' question was one of several moving moments throughout the night, which included a grieving father confronting Sen. Marco Rubio and student activist Cameron Kasky asking Rubio to reject money from the National Rifle Association.

While the night was full of tension and combative questions, it did produce several commitments to push gun control legislation from the Sen. Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Ted Deutch, who all joined the town hall. It was, attendees hope, the beginning of a public dialogue that produces real change to address violence in schools.

Cover image via Shutterstock / KMH Photovideo.

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