Jewish World Review May 3, 1999 /17 Iyar, 5759
Lessons of Columbine High
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
RESPONDING TO THE TRAGEDY at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.,
authorities at first wondered whether there had been any warning signs of
impending violence. Within a day or two, that question sounded more and more
like a sick joke.
Sure, it is always easier to see things through what physicians call the
"retrospectoscope." But come on, when two young men offer as many clues as
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did, it is difficult to imagine how -- other
than by proclaiming their intentions on a billboard or buying a full-page ad
in The Denver Post -- they could have been clearer about their violent
Harris threatened a schoolmate so convincingly that the boy's parents took
their concerns to the police. They alerted the police to Harris' web site,
which, according to The Washington Post, contained statements like the
following: "I live in Denver and god dammit I would like to kill almost all
of its residents. (Expletive) people ... My belief is that if I say
something, it goes. I am the law, and if you don't like it, you die. If I
don't like you or I don't like what you want me to do, you die. ... I'll
just go to some downtown area in some big ass city and blow up and shoot
everything I can. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame." The police took no
That was not the pair's last encounter with police. Harris and Klebold were
convicted of burglarizing a car and sentenced to a "diversion" program.
Their probation officers (oblivious to the web site and morbid attire?)
praised the two in a report.
At every opportunity, Harris and Klebold incorporated their macabre
preoccupations and violent fantasies into their schoolwork. Together, they
made a video for a government and economics class in which they portrayed
themselves as gunmen methodically gunning down "jocks." The video featured a
great deal of fake blood. No one could have known that the video was a
virtual dress rehearsal for the real thing -- but nonetheless, shouldn't the
principal have taken notice?
| Columbine students
(A girl in the class said many of the videos
were violent and sexual.)
In creative writing class, the boys penned extremely gory, violent tales
laced with profanity. They saw Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers"
numerous times, they played so-called "first person shooter" video games
obsessively, they listened to violence-laden music by German rock bands,
they shouted "Heil Hitler" when they bowled a strike and displayed an
unwholesome interest in World War II. They loved Marilyn Manson and
disdained those who believed in G-d.
Someone might have noticed.
They thought it couldn't happen in Littleton. Why? In just the past year,
there have been fatal school shootings in five other states.
One of the reasons schools have responded so lamely to discipline problems
in recent years is the American Civil Liberties Union, which is always ready
to sue school districts for what it characterizes as infringements of
students' rights. Within the past few months alone, the ACLU has sued a
Missouri high school for attempting to ban the marching band from playing
the pro-drug song "White Rabbit"; taken the Chicago public schools to court
for supporting the Boy Scouts (because the Scouts require an oath to G-d);
and harassed a Mississippi school district that has decided to require
The result of this litigation is to make school officials and teachers very
skittish about imposing any limits on students. Parents who once supported
teachers' discipline now more often resist it. And most adults today --
parents and teachers alike -- hate thinking of themselves as authority
figures. Most are baby boomers who have never quite shed the self-image of
youth. To impose authority is to be truly adult, and that, to judge by the
car ads and television programs aimed at boomers, is anathema.
As Patricia Hersch argues passionately in her book about youngsters in
Reston, Va., "A Tribe Apart," teenagers crave attention and guidance from
their parents. They feel adrift. But it takes too much time and effort to
give those things.
Parents instead give their teenagers freedom and "space,"
and think their job is
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©1999, Creators Syndicate