Responding to Columbine

Since the tragedy at Columbine High School a year ago, millions of words have been written about the two angry students who, without warning or provocation, opened fire on so many of their own classmates and teachers. The adult world has had a lot to say about it. You have probably read or heard commentators blame the tragedy on the ready availability of guns (and who can deny that this is a problem?), or on the lack of parental guidance in today's society (maybe yes, maybe no), or on depictions of violence on TV (something to think about). We don't have to question the sincerity of those who offer these ready answers to acknowledge that none of them satisfies our need to know how such a thing could happen--either at Columbine or the other schools torn by violence since then.

I recently talked with professionals who worked with the families and friends of Columbine victims last year. It is revealing that even trained professionals, after all this time, can't really explain why these things happen.

As teens, you are the experts on the world in which you live; adults can only guess.... What do you think might have prevented these tragedies?

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I believe one vital missing ingredient in our consideration of these tragedies is the testimony of the real experts--the teens of America. I believe that most kids today are decent, law-abiding citizens. You are part of America, but your words are not given the same weight as those of the adult world. And that's wrong. When the subject is what's happening in the teen world, I think that it's time that we heard what you have to say.

As teens, you are the experts on the world in which you live; adults can only guess. Are you worried about the violence in America? Do you think that there are too many guns? Do you think there is too much violence on television? Do you think that parents ought to take a stronger hand in the guidance of their children? Are you satisfied with the education that you are receiving, or do you think that you are being shortchanged? Have you ever been bullied in school by the "popular kids," as the Columbine killers complained they were? While it is impossible ever to know another person's thoughts, do you think that those young killers may have had reason to be angry (though not to kill)? Have you ever been very angry with others, and found a healthy, nondestructive way to deal with it? What do you think might have prevented these tragedies?

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Helen Fitzgerald
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