The Columbine High School Shootings


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On April 20, 1999 in a suburban town called Littleton, Colorado one high school was about to have one of the most tragic and deadly days in US history. Columbine High School was in the forefront of this tragedy. Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, opened fire on their fellow classmates and teacher. These two students cut the lives short of thirteen students and one teacher. They then turned their guns onto themselves leaving the nation with no answers as to why? They did leave videotape. This videotape contained Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planning their attack on Columbine High School. This piece of evidence showed two students that were not part of the "in crowd". They were outsiders, losers, as some would consider them. They were taunted, humiliated, and disrespected by their classmates. But how can two intelligent students do something as deadly as they did. Was it because they had bad parents? Not at all, they even went out of their way to save their parents the blame by repeatedly saying that it was not their fault that they were about to do what they did. So what was the cause of all this tragedy and how can it be stopped so it can never happen again in our middle schools and high schools? Elliot Aronson a social psychologist wrote a book called Nobody Left to Hate, Teaching Compassion After Columbine. This book represents his ideas on how to use certain strategies to have a better school environment that teaches compassion, tolerance while putting education in a winning situation. Aronson discusses the Columbine High School in depth, talking about the short cut solutions or pump-handle intervention as he calls it that schools and legislation passed soon after the Columbine tragedy. He then offers solutions that are more focused toward students as "social animals" in a school situation. In this book he makes it a point that teachers are at the forefront of these solutions and gives them certain class activities that can help teachers have better students and also better themselves. He states that it is their job to show cooperation, empathy and compassion as well as practice it themselves. Aronson's book Nobody Left to Hate is a step that needs to be taken towards a better school environment. We can learn a lot about the tragedy that happened in Columbine High School and if this tragedy is taken like another passing moment with no clear solution then one day it can happen again.

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     Aronson discusses pump- handle intervention. It is solutions that is quite obvious but in many ways short cuts the problem and is not in most cases feasible to do in our democratic society. After the Columbine shootings Congress passed a legislation allowing schools to be able to post up the Ten Commandments. Aronson argues that these types of peripheral solutions won't solve the root of the problem "What is immediately apparent is that most of these cures are not based on solid evidence but rest on emotion, wishful thinking, bias, and political expediency."(p.10). He is also talking about putting forth gun control, putting metal detectors and security guards in school grounds, and clamping down on the violence that children see on television. Gun control has been an issue in this country for many years. Aroson cites other countries that have very strict gun control and is able to show that the US has the most gun related homicides. Aronson also points out that congress is dependent on financial contribution that the National Rifle Association gives them for their candidacy. Metal detectors and security guards is another pump-handle intervention. Aronson was quite concerned of its impact on schools that did not have a high crime. He felt that it would give students negative feelings of their school and it would seem that it was not safe. Another pump-handle intervention is to restrict the viewing of violence in the media. He cites that social psychologist found that there is a correlation to violence on television and violent response by a child depending on the way they are feeling. Aronson also states "there is a great deal of research showing that repeated exposure to painful or unpleasant events tend to have a numbing effect on our sensitivity to those events" (p.61). A solution to this is to have a rating system for violent shows and this Aronson believes is a good step in the right direction.

     Aronson also talks about the idea that humans are social animals. "It is a truism that humans are social animals that we are all deeply influenced by the other people and than ways they treat us, as well as by the general social climate of any situation."(p.21). He states that people jump into conclusion that the behavior was due entirely to the person's personality, but that we fail to put in the mix the situation. He explains that by simply labeling Harris and Klebold as evil it diverts people's attention away from understanding where these two boys are coming from. He then goes on to say that it is of vital importance that we attempt to understand how different social situations can lead to different outcomes. Aronson then explains how Harris and Klebold's social surrounding made them do what they did. These two were labeled in a negative manner by their peers and were taunted all the time, and this certainly played a role in their actions. In closing this chapter Aronson suggest "we must take a look at the broader social environment in which the shooters were embedded."

     With many years of experience in the field of social psychology strategies that Aronson offers in the book are very insightful and thought out. In a short way of putting it Aronson believes that communication between classmates is vital to a better school atmosphere. Teachers and the schools should imitate programs such as to promote better ways of dealing with stress and problems. Emotional intelligence as defined in the book is the ability of a person to be aware of, and to control, his own emotions. It is the ability to motivate oneself and to work with passion and persistence. Aronson believes that this is very important for children to know.

     Empathy and dealing with emotion are some of the subjects that Aronson believed to be important. Empathy, Aroson believed would be a useful tool to give students insight on how other students felt "If you developed the general ability to empathize, then your desire to bully or taunt anyone will decrease. Such is the power of empathy."(p.149). He also states that dealing with emotions in a group discussion is healthy for the person and the people around them. The jigsaw classroom idea is very good. Aronson promotes teamwork and cooperation in this idea that has been in effect in some schools for three decades. This idea is to have students working in a group with projects that is broken up in different sections for each student is going to have a piece of the subject to specialize in. This is good because children will learn to depend on each other becoming more respectful to each other. This process he believes opens up students to other students. "Once your heart opens to another person, it becomes virtually impossible to bully that other person, to taunt that other person, and to humiliate that person."(P.149).

     In the book Nobody Left to Hate is a good step in dealing with the problems in our schools. Maybe if some of the steps that Aronson had proposed before the tragedy at Columbine was taken then it could have been diverted, but then again we will never know. As a social psychologist Aronson goes into the root of many of the problems that students have and he puts into consideration the hardships that they go through. He somewhat puts a major burden on teachers as the principle character to teach students about empathy and working and socializing of the students. They are important but he forgot to mention the most important people in adolescent's lives, which are their parents. The Columbine tragedy should serve as an example to everyone that school would be less stressful if there was less taunting of people that seemed to be different. Overall, this book was very educational and even more useful for college students who plan to be teachers in the future.



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