School shootings has been a popularized term in both the United States and Canada for describing gun violence at educational institutions around the country. This especially applies to mass killings or shooting sprees perpetuated by the students or members of the faculty. School shootings are differentiated from acts of terrorism in that they are usually randomly targeted victims and involve students, faculty or alumni of the institution involved. This marked difference can be seen when we differentiate the Beslan School Hostage Taking (BBC News, 2004) from the Columbine Massacre.
For our purposes, we would use the Columbine Massacre as our cultural event to be analyzed. This massacre has been well documented by a mountain of resources and has been extensively analyzed by researchers, law enforcement officers and medical practitioners. The Columbine Massacre is a well-known tragedy in the United States. It was a tragic day where two students who attended Columbine High School shot at their fellow students and teachers. This tragedy ended with more tragedy when the two students took their own lives.
The abrupt and sudden death of the two students gave rise to more questions regarding this tragic incident. After the death of so many lives, no one was left to answer what motivated these two seemingly common boys to do such inhumane acts. Main Argument The purpose of writing a critical analysis of this event is to uncover the “deeper” implications of the event of school shootings on culture as a whole and on the writer as an individual. We will delve at the issue of school shooting from different angles that would show issues in our culture. It is the argument of this writer that school shootings can be prevented.
To do this, we must pass stricter laws in gun control, prevent school violence, and reduce the amount of violence in multimedia and the Internet. Our effort to handle this tragedy has led to a valiant effort to rationalize and find solutions to prevent another Columbine. We must use this information and take responsibility by taking adequate measures in law and in practice. School shootings then as an event has brought to light the following issues: gun control, school violence, violence in multimedia and the internet, our culture on handling tragedies and our own responsibility towards preventing future killings.
Support for Argument – Different Angles Gun Control The issue of gun control has been front and center in the debate regarding prevention of another Columbine Massacre. To support my main argument that stricter gun control laws can prevent another Columbine, it is argued that our laws on gun control are too lax. The access by which the shooters had to guns of high caliber and quantity of explosives prove the inherent laxity of our country’s gun control laws. In his movie, “Bowling for Columbine”, Michael Moore illustrates how guns are given away even when you open bank accounts in America. Even in Wal-Mart stores, guns were readily available.
It has only been recently that Wal-Mart has pulled out guns from a third of its US stores. Even then, the company cites marketing decisions rather than lawful restrictions in its decision. (Pioneer Press, 2006) Stricter gun control laws will ensure that access and availability of guns will only be reserved for law enforcement. The consuming public, much less our children, must not be able to readily access guns without adequate reason. This reason must be well-defined in law and properly implemented to prevent young children from getting their hands on high-caliber weapons. Violence in Multimedia and the Internet
The role of violence in multimedia and the Internet was a critical issue in determining what could be done to prevent another Columbine. Both shooters played violent games and were taking active part in online communities that catered to such games. Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cautioned the Senate Commerce Committee from totally shunning the Multimedia and the Internet. In his testimony before the senate, he reminds us that media consumption is active and not passive. They are tools that we can use and mold to our advantage.
It must also be remembered that media content is a process that is developed over a period of time. Different consumers react to media in different ways. When all else fails, real life would always trump media. It is read against our perception of the world. It is in this light that the writer argues that meaningful recommendations for law making can be legislated in order to control media to lessen the amount of violence available to our youth. Such legislated can be done without trampling on our bill of rights by asking media content providers to be more creative and our schools to use media in K-12 education.
These are just some of the recommendations by Jenkins in order to prevent violence in media use for institutions. More will be discussed with regard to school violence in the succeeding paragraph. School Violence The issue of school violence had come front and center as one of the reasons for the Columbine Massacre. After the event, every circumstance surrounding the life of the two shooters was examined. They were part of “goth” groups and were not considered generally popular with the students in early reports. Some of the myths would even say that they were loners and only a few students knew them.
The truth however, cannot be farther. Even though they were part of “goth” groups, both shooters had a steady group of friends and were not exactly alienated from the student populace. Recent studies have cautioned on inciting a sense of “moral panic” in reacting to the problem of School Violence. “Moral Panic” is a reaction to school shootings where teachers and other students would view fellow students and faculty as “threats” to public safety. This is not the environment that will lead to the prevention of School Violence. (Jenkins, Part I, 1999)
In preventing school violence, the National Association of Independent Schools have come up with the following measures: 1) more support for the youth using digital communities, 2) use media education in K-12 institutions, 3) more respect and knowledge by adults for popular culture of children, 4) more tolerance in the school environment 5) establishing parental discussion groups on appropriate media content, 6) illicit more creative responses from media producers. (Jenkins, Part IV, 1999) Our Culture on Handling Tragedies The deeper implication of this event to our culture is that it is reflective of the way we handle tragedy.
It shows the need of our culture to rationalize and put blame. But more so, it shows the resilience of our culture to heal, move on and adapt to the changing times. The event itself as described above shows two things. The first part of our description culled from the CNN report is a depiction of the extent of violence imparted by the two boys. What happened in Columbine was distinctly violent and ruthless. The second part of our description culled from the Jefferson County report is a depiction of our need as culture to rationalize such violence.
The process of compiling, examining and connecting all the 4,400 leads to more than 80 investigators from the federal and local government to piece together. It took 10 months to complete and amounted to painstaking work and expense. Yet, it was needed for a sense of closure to most of the families of the victims. It is clear from the 10 different findings of the Jefferson County Report that no stone was left unturned. Myths were formed regarding a third shooter or another boy who has principally induced the shooters. A lot of these myths were debunked by the official Jefferson County report.
The need to rationalize by our culture does not end there. We hope to do better the next time around. We hope that tragedy will not be repeated. We rationalize and we move on. The mountain of sources that pile up to rationalize, prevent and defend our schools abound. Our psychiatrists (Block, 2007), law enforcement officers (US Secret Service, 2002), and brother citizens (Cullen, 2004) have all come up with their ways and means to justify and contribute to the growing number of literature meant to keep the discussion alive.
Some have even sued gaming manufacturers of violent games and are seeking financial damages they allege that: “Absent the combination of extremely violent video games and these boys’ incredibly deep involvement, use of and addiction to these games and the boys’ basic personalities, these murders and this massacre would not have occurred. ” (Wade, 2001) For the psychiatrists who have reviewed the cases, some have even suggested being careful in removing restrictions to virtual outlets of rage. It is notable that the boys who perpetuated the violence were deprived abruptly of these virtual outlets.
(Block, 2007) These are all indicative of the ways we cope up with tragedy. These are ways we rationalize and learn from our mistakes. As a culture, the event has deep implications with how we handle seemingly irrational events by acting human in all respects. We pride our rationale as a civilized nation and try to make it prevail over all odds and tragedies. In the end, whether or not there is a rationale explanation to the shootings, it would be hard to know. Adding insult to injury, the shooters in this tragedy also killed themselves.
This is perhaps why the Columbine School shooting has left such a distinct memory in all those touched by it. There is seemingly a distinct lack of closure because no one can be held to blame. Our Responsibility in Preventing Future killings As an individual, the writer is very much affected to reflect on what is happening with his own life. The deeper implication of this event is to cause the writer to pause and reflect his actions and his responsibility. Any other student in our society can easily relate to the deaths of these students. We have all lived a rigid classroom to classroom, day and night existence.
Everyday, we do our work, travel to school and sleep towards the next day to come. Those who died in the tragedy never got the chance to finish their lives as students or graduate into adulthood. Reading all these accounts and reflections about the lives of these students has made the writer focus more on living rather than continuing on the never ending effort to rationalize. Human life seemed to be less significant in light of the quick and abrupt way the lives of thirteen people were ended. School shootings as a phenomenon did not end with Columbine.
Recent school shooting such as the one by Pekka-Eric Auvinen in Tuusuola High School happened only this year. (Xinhua, 2007) The greatest implication to the writer as an individual is to live a life of responsibility. The mountain of information available to implement ways of preventing another Columbine is there. With the rationalization done by our culture and the efforts we have made to move on, it is but proper that live a life of responsibility by implementing all studies made to prevent more shootings in law through gun control measures and in practice by guiding future generations to be more tolerant of other people.
Conclusion The tragedy of the Columbine is only illuminated by the facts that can be culled from the events. However, the deeper problems that lie beneath can only be solved by careful and patient assessment of these facts and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. It is the argument of this writer that school shootings can be prevented. To do this, we must pass stricter laws in gun control, prevent school violence, and reduce the amount of violence in multimedia and the Internet. Our effort to handle this tragedy has led to a valiant effort to rationalize and find solutions to prevent another Columbine.
We must use this information and take responsibility by taking adequate measures in law and in practice. The implementation of the suggestions by the National Association of Independent Schools through Henry Jenkins would be a good start in harnessing the power of media to lessen violence in school institutions. References CNN. com. “In depth Specials: Columbine” (n. d. ) Columbine. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from <http://www. cnn. com/SPECIALS/2000/columbine. cd/frameset. exclude. html>. Ward, Mark. “Columbine Families sue Computer Game Makers”. 1 May 2001. BBC News.
Retrieved 15 November 2007, from <http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1295920. stm. > Block, Jerald. “Lessons from Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage” American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, Volume 28, Issue 2 (July, 2007) United States Secret Service. “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States” May 2002. United States Department of Treasury. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from < http://www. treas. gov/usss/ntac/ssi_final_report. pdf> Xinhua. “US Teenager chats with Finnish School Shooter about Massacre” 13 November 2007.
English-Xinhua. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from < http://news. xinhuanet. com/english/2007-11/13/content_7060867. htm> BBC News. “Attackers Storm Russian School” (1 September 2004) BBC NEWS EUROPE. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from < http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/3616868. stm> Pioneer Press. “Wal-Mart halting Gun Sales by Area” (15 April 2006) Free Republic. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from < http://www. freerepublic. com/focus/f-news/1615500/posts> Jenkins, Henry. “Lessons from Littleton” (1999) National Association of Independent Schools. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
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