William Goldings' The Lord of the Flies depicts what happens when children are left to recreate society or culture in the absence of adults. The horrific result is violence and death. In his novel, the weapons of choice are sharpened sticks and rocks. Now, the weapons are automatic rifles, sawed-off shotguns, and home-made bombs. And the aggressors have changed--now it's the 'nerds', the rejects, the 'outcasts' who are striking back. And it's not as if we haven't been warned--a groundbreaking work called "Jocks and Burnouts" by Penelope Eckert (New York: Teachers College Press, 1989) defined the problems in our high schools. Her work was largely ignored. It's time to pay attention.
We all remember the bullies, the teasers, the snobs, and the jocks. Do you also remember the humiliation, the loneliness, the isolation that we all felt at one time or another? Now, multiply those feelings by ten or more, mix in the children's absolute hierarchy of acceptable behavior, starting with "Possible Professional Athlete", "Beauty Queen", and on down to "Computer Nerd", "Really Different", and, worst of all, "Gay Tendencies". Every single child from elementary school on up must make a choice--which group do I want to belong to, which will accept me, and what do I do if they don't? Surfers, skaters, rappers, street gang, nerds, brains, goths, and on and on. And if you don't fit anywhere? Start your own--because without a group or 'gang' in school, you're a target. You will be humiliated, abused, rejected, and discarded. You have absolutely nothing to look forward to, and your tormentors, well, they'll die with you because they set the situation up to begin with. Helpless, hopeless, suicidal, homicidal--Littleton.
Bulldoze Columbine. Build small, cluster campuses where every student is known and cherished; where ridicule and torment aren't tolerated. Where kindness and inclusion are part of the lesson plans. Where, finally, all kids are seen and helped to be the best that they can be. Make it a model of tolerance and non-violence. Let the world see what can be done for our children.
How hard can that be?
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