Columbine High School Deceptions and Destiny Answers


John Wright


Nothing gets our attention faster than threats to the health and wellbeing of our children. Prior to high school graduation, many of our children are under the age of eighteen, and we rightfully think of them as our dependents in more than financial areas. We do not think of them as adults either in their level of social maturation or in their responsibility to fend for themselves in the world at large. That we might also send them off to war and high risk of death a few months later does not even begin to cause us to feel the rage that we feel if anything threatens them while they are "growing up." Isn't that truism deeply ironic?

It seems that we follow an oversimplified, rigid and fundamentally stupid practice in most societies regarding the age of responsibility, for there is nothing magical about the event of turning eighteen or of graduating from high school. Each set of graduates is comprised of individuals with virtually every possible combination of strengths and weaknesses, plus large variations in social maturation and potential to live successfully during their adult years.

Yet, it is clear that all of us must take responsibility for our needs, as we become adults, whenever that time happens to be. Society at large cannot nurture children of a given generation forever. We might, however, start thinking more about grouping our children from the time they are very young into clusters that reflect their levels of accomplishment and social maturation. The traditional practice of grouping by age and grade is long overdue for change, and it is our failure to recognize this need that is fundamentally the hidden supporting structure that allows for tragic events like that at Columbine High School.

It is very clear that our variable maturation or socialization rates and our variable aptitudes would more rationally be accommodated by grouping that develops the student in terms of what that student and similar students need. Frankly, adult privilege and responsibility could and should be denied until minimal levels of competence and maturation are achieved. This means that some students could be required to continue their basic education up to the age of 25, and have some imposed requirements for continuing education to monitor the quality of their participation in society. There is nothing wrong with being employed after high school and simultaneously attending "finishing" classes as a legal requirement to earn adult status.

That we have failed to do these things is obvious. That we overlook the individual differences and oversimplify reality is the basis for why external environmental problems find their way into our junior high schools and high schools. We invite disaster in the nursery. We are totally responsible for our problems and our oversights.

Our junior high school and high school students are threatened by their own and similar age groups, as evidenced by the experience at Columbine High School and literally dozens of other schools. Those events are quite simply awful, and we should do all that we can to stop those types of events from occurring. But it is apparent that no voices are being heard publicly that speak to reality instead of deceptions.

I just watched a television news broadcast about the reopening of Columbine High School. I was appalled at the applied stupidity of our leaders and the rest of us. It seems that Columbine now has a major installed security system, much like a prison. It seems that armed guards will now patrol the school routinely. This response to the horror of the killings at Columbine is pathetic and it will have absolutely no impact on future killings by deranged students. They will simply move their theatre of operations to sports events, rock concerts, student picnics, etc. Note that the building occupants will have the illusion of being safe, while in truth any deranged student could simply wait close to or far away from the school property and shoot at or bomb buses!

How is it that we continually do what is tangible as evidence of our concern and also irrelevant to the problem to be solved? I recall a silly story about a man who was walking up a street at night. He noticed another man searching by the curb under a street light. He asked the searcher what he was doing, and was told that the searcher had lost his wallet and was attempting to find it. The first man helped with the search but it soon became obvious that no wallet was there to be found. Finally, the first man asked the second man if he was certain that he lost his wallet in the area they were searching. The reply was, "No. I think I lost it about half a block from here." The first man said, "Then why are you searching here?" The second man replied, "Because it is easier to search where there is light."

What we have done with Columbine High School is typical of the above situation. We simply refuse to face the reality of the predicament and instead take an action that appears, superficially, to be responsible. Upon examination, it is damn foolishness. All it does is add to cost and eliminate legal liability from the school system officials, by proving that something was done on school property to avoid an exact repeat of the disaster. It does not address identification of the problem individuals before the fact of a disaster. It does not allow for their segregation and necessary psychological treatment. Even more painful is the realization that Columbine is simply one example of a large number of problem schools, and problem students.

Inappropriate responses by our societal leaders, and failure to act on the larger psychological problem of some of our students, are irresponsible, demeaning to the public and certainly deceptive. The issue of deception continues with foolhardy blaming of gun manufacturers. One might as well get ready for a deranged student to drive a car into a crowd of other students at high speed, so that we can then blame the car manufacturers! It is so easy to look in the wrong places to find a scapegoat, and to delude the common citizens with slogans and poor "solutions." In fact, our smarter citizens know that the proper answers to the issue of violence in our schools can be found and implemented, but not while our leadership is allowed to continue their deceptions.

Please recall the passages in the book, Destiny, that call for our use of drug-assisted lie detectors, psychological counseling and medications. You can find that material within in the section titled "Our Legal Systems" in the chapter on the "Responsibilities of Governments." Recall also the passages about why many of our students feel meaningless and migrate to isolation and sometimes violence. You will find that material in the chapter titled "Development and Application of Knowledge." Are we so obtuse that we cannot understand and act upon these realities?

There appears to be a fundamental conflict in our objectives. On one hand, if we value freedom, liberty and equality, and believe a person to be respectable and deserving of personal rights up to the time they commit an atrocity, then we cannot entertain notions of forced segregation within our schools. No, I am not talking about forced racial segregation, which was an unfair and stupid practice. On the other hand, our real life experiences teach us that there are real dangers that we must accommodate effectively so that we might be secure. Columbine is one of those.

An examination of external circumstances may help us understand. If you and I are walking through the woods and one of us sees that we are about to encounter something that looks and sounds like a rattlesnake, what do we do? In general, the common sense response is to change our direction somewhat to avoid that obstacle. We could, however, confess that we really have not ever seen a live rattlesnake before, and on that basis decide that unwarranted fear is unfair and inappropriate, and that we should simply walk past the snake. Another possibility is that we might kill the snake, not knowing whether or not it is a rattlesnake, but putting our safety above all other considerations. Thus, we can segregate, integrate or decide to destroy with no further considerations.

If farmers practiced integration with all forms of life, we would have little or nothing to eat. They need not seek out and destroy, for example, all foxes, so that their chickens might roam freely. However, they will segregate the chickens from the foxes. That is simply common sense. When we attempt to apply that kind of thinking to our neighborhoods, public institutions and to people at large, we are immediately reminded that such thinking runs counter to all of the ideals found in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Those idealized documents and concepts underpin our basic belief in the expectation of reasonableness from other people.

We do understand that our court and prison systems are in place, in part, to accommodate those who do not respect our individual rights to live and to move freely about and to own personal property without having to protect it continuously. But we still assume that people are equal in their rights and that they have freedom of choice, and that we are all responsible to each other to honor our freedoms. Yet, we have Columbine. What does that mean? What are the implications that we must address? What are we missing in our understanding of humans, human rights and human behaviors?

Put simply, the individual circumstances in each of our lives determine how we will behave. Yes, we are responsible for our actions. No, we are not equally capable of making intelligent, considerate, informed decisions. The fundamental concept of individual responsibility based on free will or personal choice is and always has been faulty. This is no small fault. It is a glaring deficiency in our proclamations (laws) and in our personal expectations.

What facts we do have to work with regarding Columbine are these: 1) The killers were part of the subset of students who are not successful academically or socially. I suggest that a study of their lives at home before the tragedy would produce solid evidence of inadequate socialization, doubtful genetic capability both in mental processes and in appearance, and fundamentally no development of skills or even hobbies that might have engaged their minds in constructive activities. 2) Social outcasts have every reason to join forces for their own sense of wellbeing, to form their own value systems based on their outcast status, and to extract a penalty from "successful" people for casting them out. 3) There is nothing useful to be found in examining Columbine High School procedures, policies and practices. We simply had potential and then real foxes in the hen house. 4) The exposure of the outcasts to alternative, that is, abnormal values and lifestyles, via television, movies and music, simply gave them something actionable to believe in that they were unable to obtain from all other parts of the society in which they lived.

We must get past our illusions of equality, for we are not equal, we will not behave equally because we cannot, and most important, we will do whatever we feel we have to do to survive, physically and psychologically. The tragedy of Columbine is no simple problem to solve. But, we guarantee that we will not solve that problem by traditional thinking. Either we effect social segregation and individually designed programs for social maturation for our young people or we will fail badly, repeatedly.