To everyone who is searching for a reason behind the Columbine school shooting, read on. If you are truly interested in reducing the problems faced in today's American schools, perhaps you will find the answer here. Why? Because, although I cannot begin to condone what they did, the two boys responsible for this tragedy had a lot of the same problems I had.
When I started school, I was placed in an advanced learning group. I became good friends with the others in my group, and all was well. Then I moved. I was the "new kid", my name was easy to mangle, and I was bright. I received endless teasing from all directions. I moved a second time, and the teasing continued. I didn't swear, didn't drink, didn't smoke, and listened to different music; I got better grades, I wasn't great at competition sports, and I was a pacifist. I became the target of the school bullies, and was insulted both to my face and behind my back.
My parents raised me with positive Christian beliefs, and I knew the problem wasn't me, but that didn't completely hold back the anger, hate, and depression that built up. There were times I went over the edge, and tried to fight back, but that only made it worse (I was a bad fighter...). The kids who picked on me - who stole my posessions, who tried to beat me up - never got in trouble, or took their "punishment" as a symbol. The school administrators sometimes blamed me for my problems, confusing me more.
And the "in" girls were no better. They teased as though they were interested in me, but I could hear the laughter in their voice. In the long run, I trusted no-one except a few of the teachers; I was too paranoid to have many friends.
I tried to fit in. Subconsiously, I concentrated less and less on school work, tried to ruin my reputation for having good grades. That succeeded, but it didn't change my status. I was reasonably in shape, but that didn't help either. I was outcast even among some "outcast" groups.
Good parenting and faith got me through those horrible years. I found a group of friends and acquaintences who played Dungeons & Dragons, and expressed some of my imagination and anger through that. I had church groups to fall back on. And I had music to play and disappear into. Had I not had these outlets, I do not want to think what I would have done. Perhaps I would have cracked and learned to join the crowd. Perhaps I would have joined the alcoholics and druggies in their clique. Or, perhaps, I would have done what those two boys did in Colorado.
I don't know what drove those kids to Hitler, or to violent hatred. I don't know why the parents and those around them didn't know or didn't do anything. But I do know some things which could have prevented the whole problem: understanding, communication, and education.
All three of these are intertwined; they cannot be implemented individually, nor can they be assigned to a sub-group of the people involved. Parents, educators, and children must all be involved in the process in order to improve it.
I got over my problems, and am as well-adjusted as I suppose I have a right to be. My Christian upbringing taught me forgiveness and compassion. My involvement in debates and in role-playing games taught me to think from the other person's point of view. Logic classes have taught me to rationally think through problems. "New Age" teaching and counselling have taught me to seperate myself from problems caused by others. And martial arts have taught me how to deflect and respond to attacks both verbal and physical, while giving me the skills to release my stress in meditation. If other children have these skills, they will be able to overcome the immense pressure put on them by others, and perhaps the killing will stop.
For another excellent article, as well as many intelligent, amazing
responses, please also see:
from the Hellmouth by Jon Katz on Slashdot.org
And its followup: More Stories from the Hellmouth