Today?s Youth, Tomorrow?s Frankenstein
Length: 2206 words (6.3 double-spaced pages)
Views on School Shootings
On a sunny spring day in April 1999, a suburban school named Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado found itself under attack by two of its own students. (http://www.knowgangs.com) In less than fifteen minutes of the first lunch period on that Tuesday, two armed students killed thirteen and wounded twenty-one fellow classmates before they turned the guns on themselves - the most devastating school shooting in U.S. history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only school shooting; about thirty-five students die every year from school shootings. This generation comes from violence, hatred, and ignorance- the three principal factors that cause school shootings.
In the novel Frankenstein (Mary Shelly), Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates a creature that is horribly, brutally hideous. The creature has a heart of gold and a beautiful soul; it is eager to learn and be part of the society it witnesses. But the creature is rejected, insulted, beaten, and hated by everyone it meets. Soon enough the creature becomes a violent and hateful monster, killing people close to it and destroying its home. The question eventually arises: who is responsible for the damage created by the creature?
High school is a place where bullying, teasing, threats, humiliation, sarcasm, physical abuse and social isolation are commonplace. Almost 30% of youth in the United States are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. (safeyouth.org) The shooters are usually among those who are tormented daily by their peers. Killing, then, is their act of revenge. Although this does not suggest that torment justify murder, it does illustrate that the hostile atmosphere of most high schools is a major root cause of the recent shootings.
Try to imagine staring at the clock on a Friday afternoon, feeling the bruises from the three beatings you took already that day and the fifteen you took over the past week, remembering the hundred beatings you'd absorbed that month, knowing that you'll probably have to endure at least one more before you can get the hell out of there and get home.
And we wonder why some kids go for a gun.
Schools are supposed to be second homes. It goes without saying that students should feel safe, comfortable, and happy at school. They're all there for the same reason. They're all stuck in the same boat of studying for the same diploma exams and going to the same assemblies.
One would think there would be some sort of togetherness. Instead, there are certain people who are convinced that there's one way to be, and whoever sticks closely to that recipe is the "best". This generally involves buying the right clothes, buying the right CDs, buying the right cars, styling your hair like the right advertisements, buying the right magazines, and dating the right people. Ironically, those who don't, or can't, stick to this criteria are not left out of the system. Another of the rules determining who are the best people is who abuses the people who don't follow these rules. One would think that the "cool" people would want nothing to do with the people who aren't. Instead those who would prefer to follow other rules and guidelines are kept within the "cool" system, constantly reminded that they are inferior.
If teachers got to know students as more than just nameless faces in a crowd, maybe it would help the troubled students realize that there are good people in this world, that people care about them. Just a simple “hello” or “how are you?” could make a world of difference to them. Maybe it would make the student think twice about bringing out their rifle at lunch time or setting off a bomb in the gym.
Today, marking a little more than six years since the Littleton shootings, it is natural to solemnly reflect on that event. It is logical for everyone to strive to understand the cause of the tragedy, to prevent further similar violence. Solely blaming the individual student does nothing to clarify the social causes of such alienation. People are tying to help fix the problem of school shootings by picking out the “bad apples” separating them from the "healthy" population to prevent them from hurting innocent people. This is only contributing to the problem. After all, separation was one of the main factors in what sparked the violence in the first place.
We have to take these events to reflect on society, on the social dynamics of large groups. How kind are people to other people today? Why is kindness and joy not the standard manner to greet someone? Why were the Littleton killers so angry? Hundreds of thousands of other people listen to the same music and watch the same movies as they did. Why did they shoot a home video before the massacre, picking out certain types of people?
Those two youths were not innocent, by any stretch of the imagination. But now is not the time to cast blame onto victims-turned-criminals. Now we must ponder that tragedy as a symptom of a loveless environment. The two killers were likely tired of defending themselves, of being spit on and laughed at.
For many, the Columbine High School shootings are a wake-up call. For those Americans who believe that violence resides only in the inner city, the Columbine shootings were shocking. Violence is not just a problem of the inner city; it is a problem significant of a society. Americans no longer trust their current President, the government, nor schools to keep their children safe. As a result, many citizens are purchasing firearms in order to keep their property and loved ones from harm. Unfortunately, there are no current laws that require that a person be trained to work a gun, or compelled to keep the firearm locked. (www.davekopel.com) Therefore, the people of the United States need to shove for legislation that will control the availability of guns, define the ways that guns can be stored, and finally, limit those who can purchase a firearm.
Many surveys support the impression created by these shootings that violence is a problem in the schools. A report by Rand, a public policy research institute, finds that during a given school year, about one-half of middle and high school students’ report at least one incident of attacks, fights, theft, or vandalism. In addition, seven to eight percent of high school students report that they have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. A survey of school principals conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that in one school year, 10 percent of schools experienced at least one serious violent crime, and 66 percent of schools experienced at least one less serious violent crime, including fighting without a weapon, vandalism, and theft. In the same study, a survey of students revealed that 18 percent had been threatened with a beating, 13 percent had been attacked with a weapon, and 11 percent had experienced at least one act of violence at school, including being robbed or threatened with a weapon.
One has to wonder where is all this violence coming from?
Video games have become a significant force in the entertainment media since being invented about three decades ago. As they have grown in popularity, electronic games have often been denounced as a cause of social problems. Video games have been suggested as a negative influence on players (Jeanne B. Funk), especially children, for almost twenty years. In 1982, General C. Everett Koop claimed that U. S. children “are into the games, body and soul – everything is zapping the enemy. Children get to the point where when they see another child being molested by a third child, they just sit back”
The two student killers of Columbine High were reportedly devoted to violent video games and influenced by violent computer games such as "Doom," "Quake" and "Mortal Kombat." One of the two teenage advocators provided posthumous evidence linking the massacre to playing video games. (www.post-gazette.com) In a journal entry written almost a year before the attack, Eric Harris (one of the student shooters) wrote, “It’ll be like the L.A. riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke, and Doom all mixed together . . . I want to leave a lasting impression.” (www.thetrenchcoat.com)
The 14-year-old killer in the Paducah, Kentucky school shooting had never fired a real pistol in his life. Nevertheless he fired eight shots, five of them head shots, the other three upper torso shots, killing eight children. Where did he get the skill and will to kill? Most likely from violent video games and media violence. In fact, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army and law enforcement agencies use video games like "Doom" or Nintendo to train their people in the use of firearms. (http://www.drzur.com/teenviolence.html)
There is some existing justification for suspicion and curiosity in a link between video games and these terrible events. Video games have a comrade in this adventure to contaminate children’s minds with violence. Movies today filled with war or fighting seep into the viewer’s minds and pollute their feeble brains. You don’t get ideas of blowing up your student body with mass destruction from taking walks in the park or eating ice cream. One has to wonder: when is the line going to be drawn between violence for entertainment and deadly violence? As the years pass, each movie gets a little more risky when it comes to weapons of mass murder. In ten or twenty years, who knows where the movie entertainment business will stand on their policy of the level of violence in their films?
One could say that the ratings of movies are there for a reason. Sure they’re there for a reason, but who really enforces that? The seventeen-year-old kid whose getting paid minimum wage at the local movie theater? Why should he care if some ten-year-olds want to sneak into the new R-rated film that just came out? Ratings of movies don’t startle kids a bit. To them, they’re just some random letter stuck in the corner of the movie advertisement.
TV influences behavior. If it didn't, Nike, Budweiser, Pepsi, etc. would not invest billions of dollars in advertisements. Violence on TV occurs in most programs and especially (five times more) in cartoons. (http://www.drzur.com/teenviolence.html)
Violence in the media, whether it is reflected in music, cartoons, wrestling shows or movies, numbs children to the effects of violence, validates and glorifies violence and increases aggressive behavior in those who watch it on TV or the Internet.
Another cause rises out of the ashes- could parental neglect be a factor? The home and the neighborhood have an immense influence on children. Violent children are most likely to come from abusive homes and/or neighborhoods. One of the main reasons that children become violent is because they are exposed to violence in their own homes, whether it is directed towards them or towards others. Violence at home can be of a physical nature, or it can be expressed verbally or through neglect and abandonment. Abusive homes and violent neighborhoods are stronger contributors of adult violent behavior than violence in the media. Most abusive parents were physically or sexually abused as children.
Working class parents must work long hours at low pay to meet the material needs of their families. Many middle class families, such as those in Columbine, have bought into the "American Dream" and have mortgaged their family to an expensive house in a serene setting, far from the urban problems. The result in both settings is children who may have their physical needs met, but who are left to emotionally fend for themselves. The chief social and recreational outlet for teenagers has become the shopping mall. Hours are spent with friends in these museums of American consumerism. More hours are spent playing video games where points scored are based on the number of kills you make before you are killed. In place of parents, children get guidance from TV. Hours are spent each night watching such shows as so-called professional wrestling and so-called talk shows. While adults laugh at these shows as live-action cartoons, children see the roughhousing, bullying, and verbal abuse as the norm and seek to model it. Mainstream movies glorify senseless violence as entertainment. The result can be seen in any schoolyard in America at recess.
Bullied children, media influenced youth, and emotionally unstable homes build up to the causes of school shootings. There is no simple answer like lack of protein or McDonald’s hormones that trigger the brain. Kids need to be loved or they will find a way to rebel, even if it means turning a gun on their peers. Shooting a gun to fix their problems seems simple enough to an emotional and physically abused child. Students in middle school and high school have a lower ability to put themselves in another person's shoes and realize how much killing someone would trigger other factors, such as devastated families and friends. If society comes together and realizes that students are suffering everyday from ignorance and hatred strung through out our environment, we could stop and change it.
If we don't want people to turn into Frankenstein's monster, we shouldn't treat them like monsters.