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Looking At Columbine Essay, Research Paper

Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the massacre that took place in Littleton, Colorado on April 20th, 1999. That was the day that two teenage boys, armed with multiple firearms and pipe bombs, took on Columbine High School. By the end of the day, 13 people the two killers included were dead, and 23 others injured. Tragedies like these have seemed to become more frequent this past decade, yet every time it happens, the nation again finds itself asking Why? . Fingers are pointed in every direction; some blame a lack of gun control, some blame the media, some blame popular music artists, and some blame violent video games. Obviously, there is no single cause of this problem, and all of the finger pointing at different corporations, organizations, and musicians is clearly doing us no good. It is all too easy for everyone to simply place the blame on someone else, and that s what we have been doing for too long. Perhaps it is time for America to take a good long look at itself, and search for the reasons why our teens see killing as an option.

One of the essays in Exploring Language suggests that it is not so much a problem with teens as it is with teen boys. One factor that is all too often forgotten is that the killers are almost always males. It seems highly unlikely that this could be the result of some bizarre coincidence. This leads one to wonder why America s teenage boys feel the need to kill. Jackson Katz and Sut Jhally, authors of Missing the Mark suggest that the problem stems from our cultural view of masculinity:

[The cultural environment] helps to shape the masculinity identities of young boys in ways that equate strength in males with power and the ability to instill fear fear in both males as well as females. (253)

One would think that by the twentieth century, America would have moved past such stereotypical sexist ideals, but we aren t. How often are weak, or powerless males glorified? In how many movies does the protagonist simply duck for cover or cower in the corner when gunfire breaks loose? Never. The hero always whips out his weapon and returns fire until the villain is begging for mercy. It is fairly apparent that our society respects the strong and the powerful men. Could it be values like these that lead to tragedies such as the one in Littleton? It is values such as these that could be a stronger influence than we suspect, possibly causing unfair criticism to fall upon those who do not fit this cultural ideal.

Another valuable point to be made is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the killers at Columbine, are not evil people. These teens were constantly ostracized simply because they chose to dress differently. Gossip was always flying about, suggesting that Harris and Klebold were gay; such rumors are often intended and taken as a direct insult on one s masculinity. In Lessons of Littleton, Newsweek reader, Nancy Mace asks, How much [ ] abuse does it take before an unstable person explodes? (262) The attack on the school is by no means justifiable, but it was not without deep-seated motivation. Despite the inner turmoil these teen boys were undoubtedly experiencing, the question of why these intelligent, suburban children chose such violent means of expression remains unanswered.

Mike Males s essay, Stop Blaming Kids and TV perfectly illustrates how mislead we are to believe that the source of the problem lies in the media. In his essay, he uses many surprising statistics that perfectly show just how misinformed we are:

Japanese and European kids behold media just as graphically brutal as that which appears on American screens, but seventeen-year-olds in those countries commit murder at rates lower than those of American seventy-year olds. (258)

That piece of evidence alone makes it very clear that this is not a problem with the media, but a problem with America. So what has happened to America s morals? It seems that from day one, children are still told what is right and wrong. But it seems that somewhere between early childhood and adolescence, they sometimes forget those basic lessons that they were taught so long ago. Males theorizes that this is because contrary to popular belief, teens are not rebellious and they learn by example. Take a look at the facts:

Suicide and murder rates among white teenagers resemble those of white adults, and suicide and murder rates among black teens track those of black adults. (260)

I suppose that the conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that it is not the media that is corrupting America s teens, but the adults that are parenting these teens. Kids learn best by example, so if America s parents want to see change in their teens, they will have to learn to change themselves first.

So in the end, it really is not a problem with the media that is causing these teens to kill. It s a much deeper rooted problem that has to do with the values that are silently taught to the youth of our country. America s image of ideal men combined with the cruel politics of high school and the poor examples set by the adults is without a doubt a deadly recipe for disaster. But how can tragedies like the one at Columbine be prevented? Certainly not by the desperate search for scapegoats that is continuing today. America s parents need to start taking responsibility for their actions and teach their children values through demonstration. We need to get away from the ridiculous masculine ideals our country has. We need to make more of an effort to stop the deliberate elitism that exists in our schools. The question we now have to face is How? , and unfortunately, there are no easy answers.


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