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Voices From The Hellmouth 1228

Posted by JonKatz
from the Geek-Profiling dept.
In the days after the Littleton, Colorado massacre, the country went on a panicked hunt the oddballs in High School, a profoundly ignorant and unthinking response to a tragedy that left geeks, nerds, non-conformists and the alienated in an even worse situation than before. Stories all over the country embarked on witchunts that amounted to little more than Geek Profiling. All weekend, after Friday's column here, these voiceless kids -- invisible in media and on TV talk shows and powerless in their own schools -- have been e-mailing me with stories of what has happened to them in the past few days. Here are some of those stories in their own words, with gratitude and admiration for their courage in sending them. The big story out of Littleton isn't about violence on the Internet, or whether or not video games are turning out kids into killers. It's about the fact that for some of the best, brightest and most interesting kids, high school is a nightmare of exclusion, cruelty, warped values and anger.

The big story never seemed to quite make it to the front pages or the TV talk shows. It wasn't whether the Net is a place for hate-mongers and bomb-makers, or whether video games are turning your kids into killers. It was the spotlight the Littleton, Colorado killings has put on the fact that for so many individualistic, intelligent, and vulnerable kids, high school is a Hellmouth of exclusion, cruelty, loneliness, inverted values and rage.

From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Todd Solondz's "Welcome To The Dollhouse," and a string of comically-bitter teen movies from Hollywood, pop culture has been trying to get this message out for years. For many kids - often the best and brightest -- school is a nightmare.

People who are different are reviled as geeks, nerds, dorks. The lucky ones are excluded, the unfortunates are harassed, humiliated, sometimes assaulted literally as well as socially. Odd values - unthinking school spirit, proms, jocks - are exalted, while the best values - free thinking, non-conformity, curiousity - are ridiculed. Maybe the one positive legacy the Trenchcoat Mafia left was to ensure that this message got heard, by a society that seems desperate not to hear it.

Minutes after the "Kids That Kill" column was posted on Slashdot Friday, and all through the weekend, I got a steady stream of e-mail from middle and high school kids all over the country -- especially from self-described oddballs. They were in trouble, or saw themselves that way to one degree or another in the hysteria sweeping the country after the shootings in Colorado.

Many of these kids saw themselves as targets of a new hunt for oddballs -- suspects in a bizarre, systematic search for the strange and the alienated. Suddenly, in this tyranny of the normal, to be different wasn't just to feel unhappy, it was to be dangerous.

Schools all over the country openly embraced Geek Profiling. One group calling itself the National School Safety Center issued a checklist of "dangerous signs" to watch for in kids: it included mood swings, a fondness for violent TV or video games, cursing, depression, anti-social behavior and attitudes. (I don't know about you, but I bat a thousand).

The panic was fueled by a ceaseless bombardment of powerful, televised images of mourning and grief in Colorado, images that stir the emotions and demand some sort of response, even when it isn't clear what the problem is.

The reliably blockheaded media response didn't help either. "Sixty Minutes" devoted a whole hour to a broadcast on screen violence and its impact on the young, heavily promoted by this tease: "Are video games turning your kids into killers?" The already embattled loners were besieged.

"This is not a rational world. Can anybody help?" asked Jamie, head of an intense Dungeons and Dragons club in Minnesota, whose private school guidance counselor gave him a choice: give up the game or face counseling, possibly suspension. Suzanne Angelica (her online handle) was told to go home and leave her black, ankle-length raincoat there.

On the Web, kids did flock to talk to each other. On Star Wars and X-Files mailing lists and websites and on AOL chat rooms and ICQ message boards, teenagers traded countless countless stories of being harassed, beaten, ostracized and ridiculed by teachers, students and administrators for dressing and thinking differently from the mainstream. Many said they had some understanding of why the killers in Littleton went over the edge.

"We want to be different," wrote one of the Colorado killers in a diary found by the police. "We want to be strange and we don't want jocks or other people putting us down." The sentiment, if not the response to it, was echoed by kids all over the country. The Littleton killings have made their lives much worse.

"It was horrible, definitely," e-mailed Bandy from New York City. "I'm a Quake freak, I play it day and night. I'm really into it. I play Doom a lot too, though not so much anymore. I'm up till 3 a.m. every night. I really love it. But after Colorado, things got horrible. People were actually talking to me like I could come in and kill them. It wasn't like they were really afraid of me - they just seemed to think it was okay to hate me even more? People asked me if I had guns at home. This is a whole new level of exclusion, another excuse for the preppies of the universe to put down and isolate people like me."

It wasn't just the popular who were suspicious of the odd and the alienated, though.

The e-mailed stories ranged from suspensions and expulsions for "anti-social behavior" to censorship of student publications to school and parental restrictions on computing, Web browsing, and especially gaming. There were unconfirmed reports that the sale of blocking software had skyrocketed. Everywhere, school administrators pandered and panicked, rushing to show they were highly sensitive to parents fears, even if they were oblivious to the needs and problems of many of their students.

In a New Jersey private school, a girl was expelled for showing classmates a pocket-knife. School administrators sent a letter home:

"In light of the recent tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, we all share a heightened sensitivity to potential threats to our children. I urge you to take this time to discuss with your children the importance of turning to adults when they have concerns about the behavior of others."

This solution was straight out of "1984." In fact, this was one of the things it's protagonist Winston was jailed for: refusing to report his friends for behavior that Big Brother deemed abnormal and disturbing.

Few of the weeks? media reports - in fact, none that I saw - pointed out that the FBI Uniform Crime reports, issued bi-annually, along with the Justice Departments reports (statistical abstracts on violence are available on the Department's website and in printed form) academic studies and some news reports have reporters for years now. Violence among the young is dropping across the country, even as computing, gaming, cable TV and other media use rises.

Unhappy, alienated, isolated kids are legion in schools, voiceless in media, education and politics. But theirs are the most important voices of all in understanding what happened and perhaps even how to keep it from happening again.

I referred some of my e-mailers to peacefire.org, a children's rights website, for help in dealing with blocking and filtering software. I sent others to freedomforum.org (the website Free!) for help with censorship and free speech issues, and to geek websites, especially some on ICQ.com where kids can talk freely.

I've chosen some e-mailers to partially reprint here. Although almost all of these correspondents were willing to be publicly identified - some demanded it - I'm only using their online names, since some of their stories would put them in peril from parents, peers or school administrators.


From Jay in the Southeast:

"I stood up in a social studies class -the teacher wanted a discussion -- and said I could never kill anyone or condone anyone who did kill anyone. But that I could, on some level, understand these kids in Colorado, the killers. Because day after day, slight after slight, exclusion after exclusion, you can learn how to hate, and that hatred grows and takes you over sometimes, especially when you come to see that you're hated only because you're smart and different, or sometimes even because you are online a lot, which is still so uncool to many kids?

After the class, I was called to the principal's office and told that I had to agree to undergo five sessions of counseling or be expelled from school, as I had expressed ?sympathy? with the killers in Colorado, and the school had to be able to explain itself if I ?acted out?. In other words, for speaking freely, and to cover their ass, I was not only branded a weird geek, but a potential killer. That will sure help deal with violence in America."


From Jason in Pennsylvania: "The hate just eats you up, like the molten metal moving up Keanu Reeve's arm in the ?The Matrix.? That's what I thought of when I saw it. You lose track of what is real and what isn't. The worst people are the happiest and do the best, the best and smartest people are the most miserable and picked upon. The cruelty is unimaginable. If Dan Rather wants to know why those guys killed those people in Littleton, Colorado, tell him for me that the kids who run the school probably drove them crazy, bit by bit?.That doesn't mean all those kids deserved to die. But a lot of kids in America know why it happened, even if the people running schools don't."


From Andrew in Alaska: "To be honest, I sympathized much more with the shooters than the shootees. I am them. They are me. This is not to say I will end the lives of my classmates in a hail of bullets, but that their former situation bears a striking resemblance to my own. For the most part, the media are clueless. They're never experienced social rejection, or chosen non-conformity'Also, I would like to postulate that the kind of measures taken by school administration have a direct effect on school violence. School is generally an oppressive place; the parallels to fascist society are tantalizing. Following a school shooting, a week or two-week crackdown ensues, where students? constitutional rights are violated with impunity, at a greater rate than previous."


From Anika78 in suburban Chicago:

"I was stopped at the door of my high school because I was wearing a trenchcoat. I don't game, but I'm a geekchick, and I'm on the Web a lot. (I love geek guys, and there aren't many of us.) I was given a choice - go home and ditch the coat, or go to the principal. I refused to go home. I have never been a member of any group or trenchcoat mob or any hate thing, online or any other, so why should they tell me what coat to wear?

Two security guards took me into an office, called the school nurse, who was a female, and they ordered me to take my coat off. The nurse asked me to undress (privately) while the guards outside the door went through every inch of my coat. I wouldn't undress, and she didn't make me (I think she felt creepy about the whole thing).

Then I was called into the principal's office and he asked me if I was a member of any hate group, or any online group, or if I had ever played Doom or Quake. He mentioned some other games, but I don't remember them. I'm not a gamer, though my boyfriends have been. I lost it then. I thought I was going to be brave and defiant, but I just fell apart. I cried and cried. I think I hated that worse than anything."


FromZBird in New Jersey:

"Yeah, I've had some fantasies about taking out some of these jerks who run the school, have parties, get on teams, are adored by teachers, have all these friends. Sure. They hate me. Day by day, it's like they take pieces out of you, like a torture, one at a time. My school has 1,500 kids. I could never make a sports team. I have never been to a party. I sit with my friends at our own corner of the cafeteria. If we tried to join the other kids, they'd throw up or leave. And by now, I'd rather die.

Sometimes, I do feel a lot of real pure rage. And I feel better when I go online. Sometimes I think the games keep me from shooting anybody, not the other way around. Cause I can get even there, and I'm pretty powerful there. But I'd never do it. Something much deeper was wrong with these kids in Colorado. To shoot all those people? Make bombs? You have to be sick, and the question they should be asking isn't what games do they play, but how come all these high-paid administrators, parents, teachers and so-called professional people, how come none of them noticed how wacked they were? I mean, in the news it said they had guns all over their houses! They were planning this for a year. Maybe the reporters ought to ask how come nobody noticed this, instead of writing all these stupid stories about video games?"


From ES in New York:

High school favors people with a certain look and attitude - the adolescent equivalent of Aryans. They are the chosen ones, and they want to get rid of anyone who doesn't look and think the way they do. One of the things which makes this so infuriating is that the system favors shallow people. Anyone who took the time to think about things would realize that things like the prom, school spirit and who won the football game are utterly insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

So anyone with depth of thought is almost automatically excluded from the main high school social structure. It's like some horribly twisted form of Social Darwinism.

I would never, ever do anything at all like what was done in Colorado. I can't understand how anyone could. But I do understand the hatred of high school life which, I guess, prompted it.


From Dan in Boise, Idaho:

"Be careful! I wrote an article for my school paper. The advisor suggested we write about ?our feelings? about Colorado. My feelings -what I wrote -- were that society is blaming the wrong things. You can't blame screwed-up kids or the Net. These people don't know what they were talking about. How bout blaming a system that takes smart or weird kids and drives them crazy? How about understanding why these kids did what they did, cause in some crazy way, I feel something for them. For their victims, too, but for them. I thought it was a different point-of-view, but important. I was making a point. I mean, I'm not going to the prom.

You know what? The article was killed, and I got sent home with a letter to my parents. It wasn't an official suspension, but I can't go back until Tuesday. And it was made pretty clear to me that if I made any noise about it, it would be a suspension or worse. So this is how they are trying to figure out what happened in Colorado, I guess. By blaming a sub-culture and not thinking about their own roles, about how fucked-up school is. Now, I think the whole thing was a set-up, cause a couple of other kids are being questioned too, about what they wrote. They pretend to want to have a 'dialogue' but kids should be warned that what they really want to know is who's dangerous to them."


From a Slashdot reader: "Your column Friday was okay, but you and a lot of the Slashdot readers don't get it. You don't have the guts to stand up and say these games are not only not evil, they are great. They are good. They are challenging and stimulating. They help millions of kids who have nowhere else to go, because the whole world is set up to take care of different kinds of kids, kids who fit in, who do what they're told, who are popular. I've made more friends online on Gamespot.com than I have in three years of high school. I think about my characters and my competitions and battles all day.

Nothing I've been taught in school interests me as much. And believe me, the gamers who (try to) kill me online all day are a lot closer to me than the kids I go to high school with. I'm in my own world, for sure, but it's my choice and it's a world I love. Without it, I wouldn't have one... Last week, my father told me he had cancelled my ISP because he had asked me not to game so much and I still was. And when he saw the Colorado thing online, he said, he told my Mom that he felt one of these kids could be me'I am a resourceful geek, and I was back online before he got to bed that night. But I have to go underground now.

My guidance counselor, who wouldn't know a computer game from Playboy Bunny poster, told me was Dad was being a good parent, and here was a chance for me to re-invent myself, be more popular, to ?mainstream.? This whole Colorado thing, it's given them an excuse to do more of what started this trouble in the first place - to make individuals and different people feel like even bigger freaks."


From Jip in New England:

"Dear Mr. Katz. I am 10. My parents took my computer away today, because of what they saw on television. They told me they just couldn't be around enough to make sure that I'm doing the right things on the Internet. My Mom and Dad told me they didn't want to be standing at my funeral some day because of things I was doing that they didn't know about. I am at my best friend's house, and am pretty bummed, because things are boring now. I hope I'll get it back."

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Voices From The Hellmouth

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I find it amusing they everyone wnats to blame the internet, Marylin Manson, and geeks. But when you look at, these kids were obviously ignored by thier folks. C'mon, they police said they found the Bomb just lying around the house! My foilk would have been at least a little suspicous about that.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Assigning the blame for this situation "to mean jocks and uncaring teachers" is specious. Unfortunately, this is a straw man; the article
    discusses the misery caused by social pressures in light of the colorado incident.

    Truthfully we don't have any good idea of "why" these kids decided to do what they did; we don't really know (short of some slightly educated speculation) that it wasn't quake that was "The Cause."

    What we do know is that tons of people play quake (and do not murder people) and tons of people are shunned socially (and do not murder people as a response.)
    What I think the point of these people in saying "I understand a little bit of where the TCM were coming from" is that from personal experience they know how punishing the sort of ostracism that *is* caused by "mean jocks and uncaring teachers" really is. People have different responses to this stress. There are some pretty good indications that this sort of stress was a big deal to the TCM.

    The point (at least from Katz and people who think about it) is *not* that the kids involved are "not evil." The point is that in the scramble to offload responsibility onto video games/movies/whatever, which have a dubious causal connection with the shootings at best, most people have overlooked the fact that by their own report the TCM were responding to brutal social behavior. This doesn't excuse the shootings, but this behavior is evil in its own right, as well as having some sort of connection to certain violent crimes.

    Everyone (not just Americans) is interested in sexuality, and violence is a concern to everyone.
    Arguably americans don't deal with these very well, but I think instead of saying "violence and sex on TV cause people to have sinful interests" it would be more accurate to say "the content of television is necessarily dictated by what people are interested in." No one has to be taught violence and hate, but they can be trained to deal with these.
  • This story hit me hard. 12 years ago and the thought of high school still cramps my stomach. I could never hurt anyone, period, and if these shooters had survived I would not want to see them released, ever. I am however willing to wager these 2 kids were subjected to special treatment for being "different". What makes the bile rise is not the idea of being un- or not-popular, it's the fact that the whole process is *institutionalized*.

    I came from a small town, where the total HS population was like 400 kids. The Jocks and the Rich Preppies got special treatment while The Geeks got silence. Example: You take your seat while the other students are streaming in; the teacher stops some of the 'elite' students to ask them How Was The Game, or How Was The Weekend Ski Trip? There's no accounting by the teachers for smart kid kids who are NOT well-dressed (so you're not a 'rich preppie', some of whom are not so smart..).

    When over and over a teacher asks the same set of students for input, what they are really telling the class is The Geeks, The Others have nothing to contribute. Kids are smarter than adults think, but we tend to forget this as we get older.

    The kids don't miss the subtleties of exclusion, and following the scent they Prey Upon The Weak. It's the Law Of The Jungle, riiight? Well, when some "freak" snaps THAT'S *also* Darwinism! About all that seperates us from rats is tool usage and more efficent language skills.

    The media is perpetuating the witchhunt, and the teachers who are supposed to know better, express at the very least "unease" towards what they do not understand.

    The CNN closeups on the product packaging for DooM was a CHEAP stab at an "emotional push-button" for those who are always looking to control what's on TV, the Internet, games, etc. DooM is a release, like I suppose working out does for people like Henry Rollins.

    So do the Serbians play Doom, where they're doing massacres like this EVERY DAY..? How about US Postal Workers (do they play Postal? :-/

    Everybody snaps under pressure (war confessions anyone?). Most people seek help before it's too late; however some people have been successfully alienated so far they will avoid talking to anyone.

    The gun is just an easier tool for venting rage. Ban guns, and these kids would still have killed. HOWEVER they would not have killed more than a person or two each before "mob justice" stamped them into a grease spot.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I disagree - my high-school was a living hell, i too had revenge fantasys ...... but never carried them out ..... but you know in the long run I did sort of .... it's very simple

    Living well is the best revenge

    Now I earn 5 times what those jocks who made my life miserable in school do .... their lives have been marginalized - some have been in and out of prison because they came out of school without a career - lets face it there are only a couple of hundred people in the whole country who can make as good a living playing football as all us geeks can make programming

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In the mid 1970's I attended Renton High School of Renton Washington, a true redneck stronghold whose entire reason for being was to churn out worker bees for the Boeing assembly line. For anyone with even a bit of intelligence it was hell. For someone who did not or could not fit in it was worse than hell. I never fit in...

    Instead I was the 1970's version of the 'Trenchcoat Mafia'. I was a punk and a rocker. I was involved in theatre arts. I wore weird clothing, said weird things and dared the jocks to do something about it. The pressure to conform was incredible, but I am a very stubborn person; it just made me more determined to be different. All the while hating the fact that I couldn't fit in (after all, teen years are a time of inconsistency as well).

    This was before things like 'Goths' and the Camarilla, before even RPG's. Star Trek had not yet spawned the hordes of Trekkies. As I grew older I learned to subsume this part of me and conform outwardly. My two greatest outlets were Science Fiction and the guitar, and they both allowed me to have a life outside of the mundane world. It wasn't until this decade that I rediscovered my inner geek when I started programming for PC's and the Internet (after years of doing *GACK* mainframes) and when I started attending Science Fiction conventions and getting involved in Fan activities for the first time in thirty-plus years of reading and writing SF. At those conventions I learned of things like Goths and the semi Gothic types we generically call PIB's (People In Black).

    The thing is, those 'Trenchcoat Mafia' kids are not really gothic, more a bizarre mix of several different influences. They seem to be closer to skinheads in their outlook than anything else. I feel sorry for the parents of the two shooters and the parents of their friends. I know they must be agonizing over everything they ever said or did to their children. Wondering where they went wrong. I wonder if those parents will be able to see that the real problem isn't clothing choice or being different, but rather in how the kids handled their anger. How they dealt with being rejects in the only society they know.

    There is a lot of truth in thinking this (the tragedy in Littelton) changes the way kids who choose to be different will be perceived. Or perhaps (even, more likely) it will be just one more thing to torment them with. I wonder if those who called the attackers names and gave them a hard time are looking at their own actions at all? Thinking, perhaps, that if they had not been as cruel perhaps this would never have happened? Somehow I doubt it...

    I don't know. I do know that I was among the worst of the outcasts when I was in high school and that I never went on a murderous rampage. I had access to all the guns I could have ever needed. I knew how to make bombs. I certainly harbored enough rage and anger. But, outside of some fist fights with the jocks, I never acted on my emotions. Was it simply that I wasn't exposed to violent video games and movies like 'Natural Born Killers' or is there some greater gulf between myself and those two boys?

    Could it be that I was taught gun safety and personal responsibility for my actions by my parents (and by reading Heinlein)? Could the difference be simply that when I was a teenager my father could still legally beat the crap out of me and that I was more afraid of such a beating than I was of the final dark of a suicide pact? I will never know. I am not sure I want to. Supposedly the suicide rates of teenagers have doubled since 1975 while drug use has gone down. What does this mean? Anything?

    It is truly a different world than I grew up in. Has it changed for the better or the worse? Can you lay the blame on the parents or on Hollywood? Is it the gun maker's fault when a gun is used in a crime or is there any such thing as personal responsibility? Is it fluoride in the drinking water? RPG's and DOOM? Lack of religious training?

    People are going to be debating these things for a long time, but the only positive moves we are liable to actually see will be ill-considered knee-jerk reactions of one kind or another. Things that, in the long run, are likely to turn out worse than the alternatives. That is how humans work...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is easy to blame things that can't fight back. And even easier to blame people that don't fit in.

    Thought the ages you always had something that was responsible. Strange Gods, Guns, French, or Doom. It truly doesn't matter what you blame as long as its not yourself. It is much easier to think that others are not as good as we are, then to admit that we are not perfect.

    I believe that this is the root of racism and a lot of evil in the world. After all Black man looks differant then me, his hair isn't straight.. and therefore he MUST be worse then me.

    Easy answer but reality is much differant. There are many factors that create people. The society, the parents, their friends.. and finnaly something inside of them.

    I think personally I had most of the factors that would make me the same as the kids that killed. I mean I lived in the country were everybody was Roman Catholic. I am not. Therefore I was branded, I was the outcast, and the communist (which I never was, but because I am athiest therefore in some people's minds that made me the hated evil communist).
    Then I came to America.. and now I have an accent, BRANDED.. OBVIOUSLY I am not as smart as others because I don't speak like they do. I don't socialize, play on teams. Drink, or go to parties. I hate teenage girls, and so I don't date (though I am not gay). Worst of all, I do what at that time was the most evil thing in the world... I play D&D!, and I use computer.

    So look at me, I have all the reasons to go balistic. I am the upopular geek, that doesn't fit in, that is made fun off, that isn't' athetic, and that plays D&D. Yet I am almost 30 now and never have I pulled a gun on someone.. nor would I ever even think about it.

    My point is simple, stop blaming things that can't fight back, look into yourself. Find the answers that are much harder to accept.
    The fault was within the kids themselves. There will always be the "in crowd" and the rest. Part of being a teenager is that you are trying to find yourself. Most teenagers are confused, feel at least partially rejected. They try to find who and what exactly they are. They think they are ready for the freedom that the society is not ready to give them. Plus they think they know the world, and older people just don't get them. It has always been that way, and will always will be.

    As much as I can't believe of 17-18 year old being "evil" I also think that there has to be something wrong within them, to have the ability to comit such an act.
  • From "The Wonderful Power of Storytelling," a speech to the Computer Game Developers' Conference, 1991, by Bruce Sterling:

    "Follow your weird, ladies and gentlemen. Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude. In the immortal words of Lafcadio Hearn, a geek of incredible obscurity whose work is still in print after a hundred years, "woo the muse of the odd." A good science fiction story is not a "good story" with a polite whiff of rocket fuel in it. A good science fiction story is something that knows it is science fiction and plunges through that and comes roaring out of the other side. Computer entertainment should not be more like movies, it shouldn't be more like books, it should be more like computer entertainment, SO MUCH MORE LIKE COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT THAT IT RIPS THROUGH THE LIMITS AND IS SIMPLY IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE!

    I don't think you can last by meeting the contemporary public taste, the taste from the last quarterly report. I don't think you can last by following demographics and carefully meeting expectations. I don't know many works of art that last that are condescending. I don't know many works of art that last that are deliberately stupid. You may be a geek, you may have geek written all over you; you should aim to be one geek they'll never forget. Don't aim to be civilized. Don't hope that straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell with them; they put you here. You should fully realize what society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don't do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it. Have the artistic *courage* to recognize your own significance in culture!

    Okay. Those of you into SF may recognize the classic rhetoric of cyberpunk here. Alienated punks, picking up computers, menacing society.... That's the cliched press story, but they miss the best half. Punk into cyber is interesting, but cyber into punk is way dread. I'm into technical people who attack pop culture. I'm into techies gone dingo, techies gone rogue -- not street punks picking up any glittery junk that happens to be within their reach -- but disciplined people, intelligent people, people with some technical skills and some rational thought, who can break out of the arid prison that this society sets for its engineers. People who are, and I quote, "dismayed by nearly every aspect of the world situation and aware on some nightmare level that the solutions to our problems will not come from the breed of dimwitted ad-men that we know as politicians." Thanks, Brenda!

    That still smells like hope to me....

    You don't get there by acculturating. Don't become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the muse of the odd, don't read Shakespeare. Read Webster's revenge plays. Don't read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where he's off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats. If you want to read about myth don't read Joseph Campbell, read about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You didn't come here from nowhere. There are reasons why you're here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous."

    (Note that Bruce is advocating not revenge through violence, but revenge through cultural change. We're already doing a good job; the TV networks and conventional newspapers are already in a panic over the promise/threat of the Net. Let's do more. Let's make manually operated stock markets and futures markets and currency trading obsolete, and put all those Wall Street toads on the street. Let's gut the lobbying business, and marketing business, and make highly paid retail sales positions an anachronism. In other words, let's make all the jobs that jocks eventually migrate to obsolete. Make them live in our world for a change. BWAHHHH-hah-hah!)

    Stefan

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1984 was supposed to be an allegory for 1948

    You mean anagram?

    IIRC Orwell needed some arbitrary year in the not-too-distant future, and he pulled that one out of his ass by transposing two digits. IIRC also Winston Smith is only guessing that that's the year, because nobody keeps track any more.

    Grim book, I agree.


    It had a lot to do with the nationalist attitudes, "My Country, right or wrong" that were prevalent at that time.

    That and also the degradation of public discourse into meaningless slogans and bullshit, which was a hobby-horse of Orwell's. He was especially concerned about the retroactive re-engineering of history, which the Soviets were famous for, e.g. airbrushing "unpersons" out of official group photographs. Another good example would be when the first Gulf War started: Saddam Hussein was and always had been the eternally steadfast, peace-loving friend of Oceania -- but then one morning, the truth changed, and everybody knew that Saddam Hussein was and always had been the eternally inimical, war-mongering enemy of Oceania. And hardly anybody noticed, much less cared. (Yeah, I agree that Saddam Hussein is a shithead -- but a lot of people had been saying that for years before George Bush did, and they had always been dismissed as fringe lunatics. The "new, improved truth" was probably a lot more accurate than the old "truth". My point is not that Bush was particularly good or evil, nor that that war was or was not justified; rather, my point is that the state was able to redefine "black" as "white" overnight and make it stick.)


    The fact that a lot of it is still relevant is what scares me...

    Now more than ever, I'm afraid.

  • What ever happened to equality. You're denouncing the underlying foundations for our society, which is an evolution that has occured over the past couple hundred years. The rights of the individual are paramount. I suggest you read 1984 by George Orwell, or observe similar phenomenon in Kosovo at this time. This is not acceptable behavior. period.
  • My expereince is going to come to an end in about 30 days. So, I have a pretty fresh look at experience in high school. My high school is located in a affluent suburb of New Jersey and thus my experience probably deviates from those experiencing high school in a city. However, I am predisposed to thinking that my experience should be similiar to others in suburban high schools, or at least similiar to other's in north eastern suburban high school.
    I'm definetely not apart of the 'in' crowd or popular. I do hwoever have several friends, most are not 'geeks'. I have rarely been cruely ostracized by others. From my observations and experience, derogatroy remarks to others are usually meant in a 'joking type of way' and not meant to be harmful and usually only occur when both parties feel comfortable with the situation.
    In addition, classes are usually segregated by ability or motivational level. In other words, you aren't going to find people completely uninterested in learning taking Calculus I or college level Biology. Gym classes, lunch, and extra classes of course are not segregated. In these classes, I have generally found very little problem. Occasionally in gym, some ass who is obsessed with winning makes some belittling remarks. However people who follow the aforementioned behavior pattern are surprisingly few.
    As for the distinction between jocks and nerds, its almost nonexistant. The valedictoria plays on the varisy soccer team, she is going to UPenn. The saledictorian plays varsity soccer and lacross, he's going to Harvard. Other people who participate in sports and extra cirricular activities are evenly disperesed between the various levels of intelectual abilities and motivations.
    Maybe my highschool is a deviation and not the norm, I'm not sure... From comments by other posters, it seems it is the devitaion.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You're basically just described the embodiment of myself in High School. Academically I sat in the same percentile as you. Teachers DID tell me that I was smart, and I naievely believed them. In my last year I did wake up from that three year sleep. This is when I realized something. High school isn't hard; your just have to try. I found that everything was easy providing that I stayed on top of the course material. This is coming from someone who did NOTHING throughout until senior year.

    From then the world started looking a lot brighter. I was actually interested in literature, math, law, and science. I even presented myself and argued my point of view instead of holding back. Before I had kept to myself and had been relegated to the library each lunch, gripped by paranoia that other people would make fun or persecute me; but as I payed more attention to social nuances, friends naturally came.

    I am now in University and working towards a BS in engineering. If it wasn't for those teachers who motivated me, I think i would most likely be flipping burgers to pay for my night school devry classes, hoping to get a sysadm job with no BS and an ultimate salary cap of 45k a year.

    You are right though. It's the social ineptness that kept me back. It also distorted my view of the world, and kept me laying in bed at night, wondering why we do anything at all. I was kidding myself that nothing mattered, when in fact, I was crying myself to sleep.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have never been popular in school. In elementerey school, I continually picked on to the point where I actually got pretty good at defending myself with my fists. In middle school, I sat at a table by myself for lunch. I was even harassed by my teachers there for expressing too many of my own opionions. At the beginning of the year, I was told by my Reading and Social Studies teachers that I would fail both of their classes if I continued my efforts to rather eloquently criticize the views expressed in classroom materials. My social studies teacher once made us make posters that would increase our awareness of environmental concerns. I never really liked making posters of any sort, especially in 8th grade where we should be learning to read and write instead of doodling. I explained this matter to my mother who agreed such an assignment was a waste of paper, and proceeded to write a speech on recycled paper about it. My teacher would not hear the speech, and she made me stand up in front of the class while she told them, "It's people like this who are destroying our ozone layer." This event made it really hard for me to participate in many classroom activities, not to mention school activities. I was also an outcast in high school as well. I discovered linux early in my freshmen year, and spent a lot of time on doing computer things nobody understood. I was constantly criticized about my long hair and odd style of clothes (my nickname there is shagz, I don't mind it as long as the tone isn't demeaning). I didn't go to any high-school dances or games until this, my senior, year. My attempt to join track only meant that I was exhausted all the time and repeatedly thrown into the pond. It was only this year where I discovered a place where I truly do fit in, a club (that shall remain namelsess) open to people under 21 on Saturdays. Here I could truly be myself, and meet other individuals like myself. The place has changed quite a bit last Saturdy. Parents have dropped in to see where their sons and daughters are going. I'm not sure that it's a step in the wrong direction, but I sure hope they can look past the strange garb and different music and realize that the people who go there are all intelligent, caring, individuals--people more kind than the Tommy-Hillfigger(tm)-wearing, SUV-driving kids who spend much of their time attempting to merge with the right crowd instead of being an individual.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    let's face it: the "REAL WORLD" (TM) is whatever universe you're living in NOW !

    Not what the world will be in X years.
    Not what the world is for someone else.
    Not what the world is elsewhere.
    Not even a combination of the above.

    And for some people, that REAL WORLD is hell, for whatever reasons.

    That's why I think computers/games/Internet are great for those people : for a moment, you can evade hell and live in another universe far more interesting and pleasing, even if it's just for a moment, even if it's just a virtual world.
    At least, with a little imagination, it FEELS real for a moment. Helps alot when you go back to Hell after a lengthy game of Quake/AD&D/whatever...
    At least you had fun for awhile.

    Just a few notes (no particular order here, lower your flame-guns flamers) :
    - I feel sorry for these 2 kids. What they did was BAD, I agree. But they were kinda pushed to it.
    Imagine how hard it must have been for them to think that the only way out is to kill others and die. yeak.

    - I feel sorry for their victims, too. Whatever they did, they surely didn't deserved to die that way.

    - I hope (I know, it's utopic) some kids in school will think about how the way they treat other kids can make those suffer.

    - knowing what pushed the killers that far is interesting, but let's not think it applies the same to everyone. Even if you could identify exactly what externals conditions led them to those insane acts, you could not predict that the same external conditions applied to someone else will lead to the same results.
    (hope you get what I mean, I know my english is poor)

    - it's kinda ironic that school admins. are worsening the pressure on kids by trying to adress the problem (cf. stories of kids asked to not wear this or that, etc..). What they are actually telling kids is "I think you're a potential killer" - I hope some kids won't think "I'll prove them right"...

    just my 0.2 $...

    Nicson
    [too lazy to create an account and log in]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    >my suggestion: go to a large school (I'm at Berkeley)

    I wish it were that simple. When you are under 18 you don't have much (if any) choice of the school you'll be attending.

    I've lived in small towns in Wyoming and North Dakota that had just one high school (unless you went to the Catholic school) and that was *it*. I am also a geekgirl/woman/programmer/gamer/whatever (just hit the big 3-0, whoo hoo, so that might be putting me outa the 'girl' range...), and while growing up my family moved around a lot.

    Here's what my experience has been. I tend to ramble, so if anyone reading this has a super short attention span, please feel free to move on. And I want to state for the record that I have very little sympathy for the shooters because everyone is ultimately responsible for their own actions. So don't get the wrong idea from what you read below.

    Ok- first a bit about me. I was born in California and come from a racially diverse background (caucasion and creole). My father work in the oil business (roughneck) and we moved wherever the oil was. Early on I lived in Odessa, TX and Casper, then Douglas, WY, back to CA and back to Casper.

    I don't have any particular bad experiences to recount from there as I was really young.

    On to Dickinson, ND (I lived there 4 years). I moved there from Casper in the fifth grade. I arrived after the school year had started and was the new kid. Dickinson is the kind of town where people are born, they live, and they retire and die there maybe venturing as far as Bismark or Grand Forks. I am somewhat exaggerating but you get the idea.

    Anyway... I tried to make friends there, but it didn't work out very well. I didn't look like them or talk like them (speech therapy eventually fixed that) and they could be very cruel. I don't know, it's kinda hard being a girl with a 'fro and a lisp in their perfectly feathered hair world.

    I tried to fit in. I'd get the same clothes, try to do something with my hair. I went to the skating rink where the popular kids went, tried out for cheerleading and student council, *anything* to be accepted.

    Nothing worked. No matter what I would try, I was not_like_them and would never be. And they were very active in their dislike. I was hit, spit on, had gum stuck in my hair, not allowed to sit next to them on the bus, etc. I would tell my mother about it and her response was: 'What are you doing to make them not like you?'

    Hmmm... let's see here. Oh yeah, I don't have the blue Nikes with the white swoosh, I have the white ones with the rust colored swoosh. Strike one. My hair won't feather. Stike two. I live in a trailer park. Strike three. I have a lisp. I could go on with the reasons but it should be 'obvious' why someone would hate me as clearly I am not as 'good' as the rest. Do I sound hostile? You bet! Even just composing the post has opened up something very raw and painful. Do I to this day have a strong dislike for them? Yes. Would I have taken a gun and shot them? Hell, no.

    As it turned out, I have the last laugh as I got outta there and am doing quite well...

    To anyone still reading this, whew! You stuck it out this long with my public venting. Thanks!

    DL
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...for this and countless other reasons.

    And to hell with any smarmy politican that wants to save it, or entertain fantasies that it can be reformed. The whole notion is structurally flawed. Let's finally scrap it. Let's go completely to private schools.

    For the underprivileged, there's parochial schools. Yes, I'm aware that catholic schools are really messed up places, but they're still not as bad as inner city public schools. Those borderline psychotic nuns are the lesser evil.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    To all these kids that feel this way, hang in
    there and fight the good fight. To people like
    us, high school was the worst experience of our
    lives. But from there on out, it gets easier
    to find your own cliche and fit in in your own way. Just don't give up because it does get
    better. And remember, five years later you'll
    probably be earning twice as much as the jocks while they're still living with their parents.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I really have to agree with this. What I have
    found most disturbing about the media coverage
    of this tragedy is the lack of examination
    of the environment which cause those two
    disturbed individuals to feel so ostracized
    while the media looks for easier scapegoats.
    Only salon.com and Cokie Roberts (on 20/20)
    have pointed any blame at the cruelty of the
    kids in the high school.

    Marilyn Manson and video games are easy target
    but unfortunately these types of feelings have
    been going on for a long time. Just look at
    other pop culture references which have been around for a while. The Boomtown Rats song
    "I don't like Mondays", Julie Brown's "The
    homecoming queen has got a gun", or the movie
    Heathers which all show that these feeling are
    nothing new.

    When one looks at where these event have been
    happening, it's appear to be smaller, more
    conservative towns. While some are surprised at the violence in these "safe" communities, it
    seems obvious to me that the homogeneous and
    rigid nature of these place is at the root of
    the problem.

    I went to a large diverse high school in a major
    city. Like all high school kids I struggled
    with fitting in versus defining my own identity.
    Feeling a bit like an outsider I always found
    some solace in the fact that all the exterior
    scenes from Heathers were shot at my junior
    high school. However, in such a diverse
    environment, there are some many groups that
    you could never feel actively excluded by
    EVERYONE. There was such a mix ethnicities,
    socio-economic groups, and individuals.

    In a smaller, less tolerant situation, with
    fewer options and less tolerance, I can't
    imagine how oppressive it must be. Persecuting
    those who already feel oppressed and removing
    their ability to express their feelings at best
    is only going to gloss over the situation. At
    worst, it will create an ever more oppressive
    environment. The only way this is going to get
    better is to create a more tolerance environment,
    both in high school and in the society at large.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I spent my high school years watching the best and brightest moulded, manipulated, mutilated by the American school system. There were two choices: you could give up your identity, your free will, and conscious thoughts by "rebelling" and conforming with the "non-conformists" or you could be fully conformist: getting the best grades, joining the right clubs, being the darling child. All the while reeling in the pain at having to cut off your most personal appendage so that you would not be constantly attacked and berated.

    But there is always another choice. You can coose to withdraw and focus your attentions on the teachers that care, the few subjects that you have passion about. Those rare lines of study that you didn't test at a post high school level for in 6th grade.

    On some levels I feel amazingly lucky that I was able to find a large enough group of people at Boise High school that simply accepted. That was all we really wanted so we gave it to each other.

    Oh my the rewards of being outside the outsiders. The most inane comments would receive scrutiny from the counselors. It must be luck, In two years we were scrutinized not by local law enforcement, but the FBI and the Secret Service.

    Big brother stepped in to make sure we knew who really was in control. Did it really matter? I gave up the prestigious college. I run into those people every once in a while, their spirit broken, happy because they have found "success" but hollow because a part of them is missing.

    Never stop searching for the answers. High school sucks, but that's the point. This is life at it's worst. It only gets better from there. Get together with some people and watch all the high school angst movies.

    Gee can I spin some more cliches together for a feel good speech?

    Seriously the American Educational system is the embodyment of one singular goal: conformity. We mass produce people with the same grinding industrial assembly line that we use to produce cars and computer chips. We even use the same terms. Non-conforming kids are "defective" and must be "corrected". People that excel at embracing conformity and celebrated.

    This is a societal issue. It's also an issue of control. It is easier to control people that have given up questioning authority and the decision making process.

    This all comes back to the siren call of the Internet for many of us: Acceptance. A group of peers. We can go into thousands of chat rooms and IRC channels and gaming servers and find people like ourselves. People who want to find the truth, who don't want to give up their freedoms. People who are willing to accept other people as unique human beings. Some better, some worse, but all people, human beings.

    There aren't any pat answers or sources to blame. These are fundamental societal questions. I don't know what we can or should do. I just know that we have the collective intelligence around here to do more than bitch and I hope to see that happen.

    chris
    chris@pugrud.net

    --

    p.s. for the polls I do own several guns and I have a license to carry those guns in public. I do dearly hope that those guns are never used for anything but the target practice that I so enjoy.

    If you want to maintain your rights and freedoms you must exercise them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hello all... This is my first post, so forgive me... I have just never felt so deeply about a subject... I'm sorry if any of my comments below offend any of you - they are not meant to. I am just curious if there is anyone else out there who is like me in any way - If you are, please tell me - I'm tired of feeling so alone...

    I, like most other people in America, did their time in High School. In my case,I 'literally' did my time - in jail. When I was a junior in HS, I skipped school where I was 'learning' how to play basketball, and went to the local Air Force Base and learned how to hack Unisys machines... Of course, the establishment didn't see it this way, and I went to Juvenile Detention - 4 times in fact. After a year of this, I was forced to go to a group home, where many of the other people there had long histories of sexual abuse and being abusers. So, I lived there until I graduated in 1991. Here I am up in my little room banging away on my Amiga, learning how to compile a compiler... I never will forgive my mother for this (My parents were divorced) - my father, thank god he is as geeky as I am...

    Back in school, I'm learning about everything that I taught myself with a good set of encyclopedias when I was a kid. I taught myself to read when I was two. Everythin that I learned that I needed to know, I taught myself. Any of you ever learn about phreaking in high school? Any of you ever learn how to set up a BBS? How to program 3D tesselations in your mathematics classes? I don't think so.

    I was one of those people that all the other people that was strange. I was a complete outcast. People thought I was going to kill others, or set the school on fire, or kidnap people and hold them hostage. Why? Because I looked different? Because I got good grades? I never caused anyone any trouble. Damn school psychologist `arranged' for me to be evaluated. I wish I would know was it is they found - No one ever told me (go figure). I'm not a deviant person. I've never hurt anybody else in my life. I've never attacked anyone, or abused anyone. I remember one time when I was in that group home that I refused to take the damn medications. Three hours later I was in the back of a police car on my way to the Juvenile Detention center yet again - BTW, I was over 18 now - big lawsuit here... Life has been so crappy...

    When I got out on my own, first thing I did was shrug those drugs into the toilet. And then I moved away. The moving away was the best thing I ever did. I had no money for college, let alone food sometimes, but I saved it up...

    I'm now 26, and I am so much happier now. My fiancee is in many ways like me, except in her case she was ostracized because she was involved with theatre. We have both been through these things, and all I can remember is that the whole time through all these evaluations, and drugs, and therapies, no one ever bothered to stop and think that maybe I was the healthy one. When you are a smart kid, I guess that also means that you are insane and evil and all you can think about is wanting to kill, kill, kill. Not me. When I would use my computer, and other computers, and when I would read, I would begin to understand. The pieces of our world suddendly fit together. I see the possibilities where everyone else thinks "so what?"

    Everything I ever needed to know about life I learned from skipping school that junior year. I learned about people and how they are scared of the smart ones because we are different. I learned to stop living day-by-day and to step back and look at the whole picture and see the world for all its possibilities, not its differences and failures. My five year reunion was a few years ago, and nobody ever even cared enough to send a notice, let alone an invitation. One of my friends went, and from what he told me I should be damn thankful I didn't - after five years, nothing had changed other than we aged a bit. Something tells me that even in twenty-five more years things will still be the same... At least I can save on plane fare...

    I never went to college. I got accepted at most of the major `technology' schools in North America. I never felt like I could. I'd spent 13 years of my life (K-12) on this school thing, and I never want to go back. Everytime I go to the local university and begin to register, I see so many people that do those same high school things like they did when I was in school that it scares me off.

    I did at one point try to become like them. I bought the fancy expensive clothes, and went from being the computer nerd to the computer nerd with the expensive designer clothes. Made no difference. I was still ostracized. No girlfriends in my school for me. All the personal relationships I ever had came from those who were like me and understood. My fiancee now understands, but I don't know if she really does. All those years of hurt have affected me in many ways. I am a way-over-achiever now. But, I am misunderstood. That is the problem I would like to solve. I have never really been understood. Sometimes I feel like I don't belong in this world at all, but it is here, so I have to try. Sometimes that is all I have is to try.

    Someday maybe the world will understand and accept that there are more of us geeks and nerds than they care to admit. Maybe the world needs a real wake up call - in some odd way maybe the Y2K problem will be our saving grace, so to speak. We could be the only ones with power, lights, heat, telephone, computer, etc... Only because there is an unquenchable desire to know all that is knowable, and to see a better world for all of us, not just the geeks and nerds...

    You know, I have a lot of knowledge, and I know that all of the /. readers do as well... Every major accomplishment that mankind has was either invented by us, or by people like us. Yet, I apply for a good paying job, and I am turned down because I never went to college. I guess the days of Andresseen and the others are gone... I respect the truely educated people, and give them the honor that they earn. But, in my mind, to quote a woman like us from IRC, a degree is nothing more to many people than an expensive paper that says you are a trainable monkey. (Sorry if I am offensive to anyone, but come see this years graduates from the local college, and you'll see why i feel this way)

    Like I said at the beginning of this post, i'm sorry if I have offended anyone. But when I saw these posts, I realized that I needed to tell someone my story. I have never in my life felt so emotional in the ten years I have been on the Net about something in either a newsgroup or later, on a website...

    Something has to change... I have always prayed that the geeks would inherit the Earth... Something tells me though, that it's not going to happen in my lifetime...

    Thank you for you time - and for letting me dump on you. I feel so much better now.

    moriarty@americamail.com
  • I am currently a junior in high school. During my first two years of high school I was involved in debate. I was in CX debate. There are two types of debate and this one was not our school's main focus. CX debate is much faster, much more policy oriented, and requires more work for prep. than the other. As a result the CXers (about 10 or so last year, 4 or 6 this year) were left in the squad room to work on their own, usally unsupervised. My sophmore year I had two periods of this in a row which meant 3 hours every other school day, not including lunch, of debate. 2 of the 3 other students I had during that time mistreated me to no end. I do not (and try to not) remember many specific events but the last one I remember was being forced into a trashcan and having a bottle of coke dumped on me.

    I quit debate between my sophmore and junior year because I was fed up with this abuse. Many jokes were made that one day I would snap and kill many students, but luckily that never happened. I dropped out quietly mainly because I was still afriad. I got it taken out of my schedule and skipped the end of the year banquet. I didn't show up at the before-school-year workshop and told them about my desicion when asked.

    I was scared of school at the beginning of my Junior year, but now everything is okay. It's amazing how much of a difference a couple of peers can make in the world of high school. I am enjoying school, as much as a geek like me can. I still loath pep rallies, homework, and many other staples of school, but that doesn't stop me from having a good time inside my classes. I enjoy playing chess, spades, or other games with my friends during lunch of free time. (Many of my friends are gamers, but I enjoy more traditional games..)

  • A girl at my highschool was sent home for having on black fingernail polish, They called it "suspicious behaviour"

  • Why do you think that the public keeps brigning up the easy answers?

    Because, easy answers have easy solutions, also always invole the other guy. It's easy to blame Marilyn Manson, DOOM, the Internet, and trench coats, becuase these have nothing to do with the persons placing the blame. Now with these answers there is now an easy solution, just get rid of these things and the problem will go away. Of course, this is just a solution that will not really work, but it will cause the public to belive the problem is being worked on. The real problem here is the High School Culture, and even American Culture. Now to accepet this answer would require people to blame themselves, which of course is a hard thing to do.

    The high school culture is very messed up, it basicly one of confority, and control, if doesn't fit in and play by the rules, then one is punished. Now this is not a easy problem to fix, there some hard truths that need to famced and some hard changes will need to be made.

    The problem american culture, is the desire to have everything, yet give up nothing. This leads to a porblem with many american families, now when a couple has kids they are unwilling to give much of anything for the welfare of the kids. In order to keep a big house, the expensive cars, and the other luxeries of life, both parents have to keep working, and there is no one to properly raise the kids. The real soultion is for parents to reailize that parenting is not a part-time job and not a job that someone else can do. Then decide that they want a family there needs to be a strong commitment do doing it right.

    Jon,
    Great article, it's good to hear what is really happing, and further expose the stupidity of easy answers.

  • I'm from a small Catholic school (175 students) in Pittsburgh, PA. All of the stories in this article seem so distant to me, because in my school such discrimination would quickly be noticed, and would spread like wildfire. Although, as far as some students (and possibly faculty) are concerned, I could be R. Harris. I'm a `computer geek' who plays a lot of DooM and Quake. I wear a black trenchcoat. I know how to make explosives (oooh...pipe bomb, there's a tough one...take pipe, cap both ends, drill hole in one, full with explosive, insert detonator), but it's not a skill a learned on-line. It's something i figured out from Chemistry class, and because I have a mind larger than a small peanut. I could probably be put into the catagory of anti-social if you looked closely enough at me. Quite frankly however, I'm not a killer. The people who really know me can see that is obvious. But although I may not receive suspensions, or letters form the school Administration (yet). I still feel the stare of the principal on me every second I'm within her view. In a school as small as mine, there aren't many geeks to watch. In fact, I'll guarantee I'm the most computer literate person in the school (this is including teaching staff), simply because I've seen everyone else trying to use a computer. In all honesty, I'm more worried about the stupid people, or the jocks, or whatever group you'd like to choose for the blockhead masses. I actually heard once last year that someone said "I really wish I could kill Jon Olson. That kid just pisses me off with his `smarter than thou' attitude." Possibly the reason you think I have that attitude it because I am `smarter than thou.' Sure, I'll glady answer any question a teacher asks me. However, I can't shoot a basketball to save my life. Hell, I just got my learner's permit, and even the simple coordination required for driving is a challenge for me. It's just that I acquired different skills in my childhood. And the real kicker is, if you ever do something wrong academically, it's assumed that you're not really smart, and you're just faking it most of the time. Anyway, I'm rambling, and by the time this comment gets posted no one will be reading that far anyway.

    Geek power and all that jazz.

  • This system evolved to serve a purpose; by ruthlessly punishing difference, rewarding conformity and reinforcing an immutable status quo, it creates the preconditions of a modern industrial society; a population of predictable, conditioned worker/consumer drones, people who accept their place in the great machine of society and don't make trouble. The relatively small number of murders and suicides is well within the margin of acceptable loss.

    I think there is an interesting point to be gleaned from acb's statement above. Highschool prepared/s us for the modern industrial society - which is the source of our public schools system. Highschools, last time I checked, is doing a mediocre to terrible job of preparing us for the information economy (sorry about the overused cliche, but it need to be there).

    Highschool sucked, in university it got better. The 'real world' (as much as I'm in it) got even better.

    - Caro.

  • by Adam Schumacher (267) on Monday April 26, 1999 @06:35PM (#1915256) Homepage
    Throughout my years in the public school system, I have seen much of the spectrum of pressure and abuse which the individualists in the school culture are subjected to. Although I have no formal credentials, I feel that my 3 3/4 years in high school qualify me to at least dispense some advice to those who feel alientated by the system. I can summarize this adivce with two main points:

    • Learn how to work the system
    • Fuck the system

    Wow, pretty contradictory, eh?

    The system is all around us in our culture. It is all about rules, controls, checks and balances. This system is implemented by the powers that be to keep things running smoothly. Powers fear change, and therefore need the system to ensure that everything runs according to the plan.

    As an individualist, you have probably already dismissed the plan. You have probably already recognized it's shortcomings and weaknesses, whis is why you have chosen to branch off from it, rather than try to conform to the expected norm. I feel that this is a good thing, but you must realize that, because the powers fear change, they will resist you. They will try to force you into the system. They will become frustrated, and you will become angry. You wmay be branded as an "outsider" or "troublemaker". This is not a good thing.

    You cannot simply go against the system. The system is like a fast moving river, and you are stranded somewhere along it. The current tries to push you in a certain direction. If you try to fight the current, you will lose the battle, and be swept away nonetheless. What you must learn to do is work the system, the current. No one is asking you to go where the stream pushes you, but by watching how the water flows, and observing and learning it's patterns and behviours, you can use the current to take you where you want to go.

    As it is in the system. If you fight the system head-on, you will fall. It's not fair, but that's the way it works. What you need to do is look at how the rules of the system work, and learn to use, manipulate, and bend these rules to get you where you want to go. Don't reject the system outright, but rather use it's power to your own advantage. Don't let it change who you are, but rather find a way to make the system work with you.

    You will need patience. The system doesn't always let you move where you want to immediately. You must learn that, if you move in the right way, at the right time, you can go where you want to through the system. Attaining a harmony with the system, but not letting it control you, is the path to success. Ever see The Matrix? Kinda like that, only without having to jab a probe through your brain.

    So how do you make it through the system without becoming a drone? That's where the other point comes in: fuck it. No, I don't mean literally. You must also see that, despite the power of the system within mainstream society, it is not omnipresent. You must be able to "escape" the system every now and then. By reaching out and finding a peer group of people who are "on your level" and have also learned to see the system, you let yourself exist on an intrapersonal basis in an environment free of the rules of the system. The Internet is a great forum for this, as the deliberate environment of agreed anarchy precludes the intervention of the system. A warning though, don't let it become all-consuming. Don't let the Internet take the place of real intra-personal relationship, or the real-world skills that help you navigate the system will soon begin to decay.

    Once I made this realization, life suddenly became so much easier for me. I am still learning the rules, but the more I know about the system, the more I can manipulate it to my own ends as a non-conformist. You'd be suprised how often the powers can look past your individualism so long as they can't detect a threat to the system.

    In summary: The system is there. You can't stop it by fighting it. Don't give up your individualism. Learn how to work and use the system, and you will rise above it. Keep a few good friends, with whom you can relax outside of the system. Be yourself.

    Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    Adam Schumacher
    cybershoe@mindless.com

  • I can't say that I have as much life experience as you, but I can definitely understand your situation.

    I've been involved in computers from the age of 6, when I got my first real PC, a 286/16 (currently I'm almost 17 and a sophomore at high school.) Ever since then I've been hooked, in that little gray box there is a world of possibilities and adventures, and the only thing holding you back (if you aren't using some shitty OS like 'doze :) is your will, knowledge and imagination. In the past I've done a lot like running a BBS, programming since I was like 10 or so, administering computers and networks, etc. Currently I'm working on my own CRPG (online, static-world, high-capacity roleplaying game...www.avalonent.org) and I love it, I feel like a god whenever I work at the code, creating my own world. But there's another side to life, and it certainly isn't all that great for me at this time...

    Where I live is known for being a very liberal town, hell, even the mayor is gay. But I still take plenty of crap for being different. I've become really good at hiding what makes me what I am rather than risking being ostracized for it, the state of the public school system in America is rather sad. I don't really pretend I'm someone else, I just don't openly share who I am with others, if I do it's usually on a very superficial level. Some would say to "be yourself and don't care what others think about you", but I've been there and done that, and in high school it only makes your life hell, or at least it did mine.

    Right now I fit in alright, I'm not popular or anything, but at the same time I'm well-liked by most others. But I feel that I'm not *living* my life...my potential is constantly oppressed and I can't really talk to anyone about who I really am because they just can't understand me, so I've all but given up with trying. This is a good indication as to the fact that I've never gone to see school counselors, etc.

    I'm really a good guy at the root. I hate being mean to people (I'm sure it bothers me more than them when I do it) and I just love having fun, fun that doesn't involve putting others down to make yourself feel better (that's certainly hard to find in my environment.) For me understanding comes from children, I love kids. Just spending time with them makes me feel somehow fulfilled as a human being...all you have to do is give them attention and love and they'll love you back for who you are. I don't have to pretend in front of them, and that's what I love about it. Of course they most likely can't understand what I do, nor do I expect them to try, just the fact that they're there and smiling at you is enough. It's sad to see them grow up and be filled with stereotypes and misconceptions, but it's inevitable these days, I don't know how it was back when you were growing up.

    People fill that void in different ways, for me it's children, for you hopefully it's your fiancee ...hopefully I can find an understanding woman in my future, one who is fine with me being myself. I'm sorry that I really can't offer any advice but I can only share my short story and hope that you find that you're not alone, there are plenty of others like you and I who have been "shown the door" concerning inclusion in society, some more than others. The world is a scary place, and those who brave it while staying true to themselves are the real winners.

    Robby Dermody (Nova)
    nova@avalonent.org
  • Well, there is a serious problem people on this discussion aren't addressing.

    The issue of how much time parents have available for their kids is an economic and social issue. In a society where, in low-middle class families, both parents have to work to make ends meet, some people have to have more than one job, and so on, parents may have to make this choice: spend quality time with your starving children, or work all day.

    Think of it. If a parent stays home and dedicates him/herself exclusively to care for the children, the system considers that person to be unemployed!!!

    Anyway, look at the economic indicators for the last 20 years. The situation of the US lower and middle classes has been continuously getting more and more fucked. This with horrible consequences for their children.

    ---

  • Oh, not everyone did. In fact, I didn't :-).

    Well, I would have to agree that these couple of recent pieces by him have been VERY good... And they have provoked a lot of nice comments from people.

    I wish I'd read this story when I was back in high school. I was at a Jesuit school in Puerto Rico; it was hell, and I really wanted to kill myself. Luckily I had a couple of very good friends who were into what I was into--- playing music, electronics, and computers.

    Anyway, I escaped that hell, and went to college. I had a FUCKING BLAST!!!! Studied literature, math, philosophy, programming, art, psychology, and more. I got to meet lots of bright people.

    Now I have some advice for all the geeks still stuck in those hell holes. Finish high school early, and go to college. I skipped my senior year--- took the courses I needed from that in summer--- and it was definitely worth it.

    Then, you got to pull the strings right to get the most out of college--- otherwise, it can really suck, as I've seen it has done for many people. Go with the brightest, most challenging professors. Try not to be locked in to some particular program, say, CS--- you'll learn more from a general studies program where you carefully pick classes all over the field with the bright professors than from a structured program with lots of requisite courses you don't want, taught by mediocre guys. If you're going for grad school, anyway, the most important thing is not what area your degree is in, but what courses you've taken, what books you've read, what good stuff you've written, and, overall, what you know.

    If you're not going for grad school, still, spend college doing that, plus teaching yourself stuff. Think of all the people who write in slashdot that got sysadmin or programmer or whatever jobs, and are not only self-taught, but have a degree in something seemingly unrelated--- economy, political science, philosophy. You'll be happier that way.

    ---

  • I can't agree more. High school for me sucked incrediably, I have the same story as hundreds reading this, outcast, picked on, doing my best to hide from any and all attention and just make it through another day without being embarassed publicly again.

    Toward the end though, things got better. I started working out in the gym, started rock climbing and found I was *good* at it. After high school I hooked up with some new people in college, and was so so so incrediably happy to meet people who were mature, and who didn't find joy in making fun of my shoes/jacketc/shirt for no reason other than to make me feel bad.

    Finding good people is the key I think you can thrive off of each other, and if your environment is comfortable and happy life is so much better.

    But that said, I really feel for the kids in HS today, because at least when I was there (6 years ago or so) we didn't have nearly the drug/weapon and gang problems that are more and more apparent these days :(

    Good luck guys, and just remember that there *are* people out here who feel as you do, and this "evil internet culture" can (and is) used for support and communication.
  • I've been reading messages on this thread, and I pulled out a CD I happened to bring to work with me...Rush's Signals album. And I played the first track of that album - "Subdivisions." I've always liked that track for its music...but now I fully understand what the words mean. And it nearly has me in tears.

    Listen to that first verse...that's Littleton, CO, right there, and N other suburban towns around the country. And the chorus just describes perfectly what I've seen posted in other messages in this thread, the way high school is for many people like us, the way it must have been for those two kids.

    I don't know if I can look at this tragedy in the same way again...for now I can look at the way my high school years were, and what must have happened to these two, and say "there but for the grace of God go I." True, I didn't go postal the way these kids did...but I can easily imagine the possibility.

    I listen to the song, and I think about what's happened, and I think, "What have we done?" Neil Peart penned those lyrics in 1982, right about when one of the Littleton killers was being born...have we learned nothing in all those years? Will we learn anything now?

    Eric
    --

  • by Jordy (440)
    Maybe I just went to the wrong high schools, but I had no problems. I wasn't exactly mr. popular, but I was never ridiculed for doing well.

    On a typical day I would come to school, late of course because I was online all night, do all my homework during first period and spend the rest of the day either keeping to myself or socializing with a few friends I had.

    I never felt any pressure from jocks or any other social class. Then again, I didn't exactly pay much attention to others.

    I went to two schools, an upper/middle class school in northern california and a full range school in southern california. Both where basically identical, though the one in LA did have a bit more violence.

    I guess I don't get it. I've been playing first person shooters since wolf3d, but never had any violent tendancies. I never wanted to strap on an uzi and paint my school with blood. Personally I detest senseless killing.

    And you are most definately wrong about jocks having a free ride in the world. Once you get past high school you have to enter the real world, where work performance is more important than social standing.

    That's not to say social standing isn't important, without good networking skills you are sunk in a large portion of the business world.

    What I'm trying to say is that the kids in Littleton were, as far as I can tell, mentally unstable. If high school didn't push them over the edge, something later in life would have.

    --
  • by Analog (564) on Monday April 26, 1999 @12:33PM (#1915263)
    I'm not sure where to start, but here goes.

    First, as regards those who are being mistreated in school as a result of this, the admininstrators are not your friends. Accept this. When you find this isn't true in the case of one individual or group of individuals (rare, but happens), treat them accordingly, but remember that they're there to make things run smoothly. If they can lower their workload by walking all over you, most will do it without hesitation. Expect it.

    So what to do? You people are supposed to be smart. God or nature may not have given you beauty or strength, but one of the premises here is that you to have brains. Use them. The letters to Katz show several lawsuits waiting to happen. Be aware that you don't have to file them (I never did). Go to the library. Read the relevant areas of the Constitution. Find some court cases that set precedents that favor your position. When Joe Administrator tries to force you into counseling for speaking your mind, lay it on him calmly, coolly, and with confidence. He will turn tail and hide.

    And if this doesn't work? Pick up a pen. "The pen is mightier than the sword" is an old cliche, but it's true. If you know how to use it. When my school implemented a draconian dress code (for no real reason that anyone could ascertain; the vice principal just decided to do it) I wrote a long editorial for the school newspaper. I pointed out the flaws in the reasons given for each specific rule. I did not call names. I did not use inflammatory language. I did use humor. I did cite legal angles. When the vice principal tried to kill the article, he was unsuccessful because he couldn't point to anything that was actually wrong with it other than it kind of made him look stupid. The dress code wasn't repealed as a result of this (it ain't a perfect world), but neither was it enforced. And if he had killed the article? First I would have offered to send it to the local paper along with an explanatory letter to the editor. This will usually work. If that hadn't worked, I would have gone ahead and sent them.

    The point is, you need to do what the TCM didn't. Take responsibility for your life. If you can get help from your parents or a teacher do so, but if you can't (I usually didn't) don't just roll over. There is always a way to fight back. You'll have to work harder than you should have to to find it, and you'll lose some frustrating battles, but if you're smart (and you are, right?) and careful, you'll win most. It is worth it. And you'll find that you might not have to wait until you're out of high school to laugh at the people who are putting you down.


  • How did that atmosphere cease to exist between the late 1960s and when you were in school in the 1980s?


    In 1963 the Supreme Court voted to ban prayer in public schools. Since then, the ideas of "love your neighbor", "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.", and "forgiveness" have not been uttered or espoused. These are the things that a complex society needs to have if its constituents are to be happy, healthy, and wise. However, these values are considered "religious", and thus cannot be uttered. It is a truly sad and paradoxical situation.


    However, that said, it is really the responsibility of the parents to instill these values. Obviously not every parent does, and it seems fewer do all the time. When kids go on a shooting rampage like this it is always due to problems in the home, compounded by problems in school. Many posters here complain about abuses in school, but home life and family values are at least adequate and so they do not go out and shoot up the school.



    How can a couple of school kids make bombs and amass weapons without their parents knowing or caring? That is the crux of this problem.



    --
  • I think the best thing to do for your kids is to teach them self-reliance and independance. Not just teaching them to be totally different all the time, because that is just another form of basing you self worth on what others think about you, but truly doing what you want to do, whether that be the same as others sometimes or not. Like many people on Slashdot and around the world, I am just like these kids. The difference is that I was taught to do my own thing and not to condone or condemn other for doing theirs. The most important thing is to teach your kids that yes, high school is usually four years of shit, even for the "popular" kids, but it will end. The real world is nothing like high school and definately worth waiting for.
  • The main problem I have with homeschooling (I wasn't but I know those who were) is that you only have one teacher, maybe two if both your parents teach you. I did not really enjoy high school but I did like the many different types of teachers and many different styles. I got a lot out of just different things we did in each class, even if it was just the same stuff I could have learned out of a book. I also think you have a bit of a disadvantage in the socialization department because you don't have the tons of different types of people to be around. When you only socialize at functions you choose, you are dealing primarily with people with the same interests as you, not the weirdo sitting you behind you, the pretty girl in the next seat over, whoever.
  • 'nuff said, again. >;)
  • That's absolutely right. I was so damaged by high school I tried to kill myself! It took _years_ to heal from all that, especially because I didn't realise it WAS NOT the real world. It's been a long hard road learning that lesson. But now, I have self-respect and know who I am and where I have value, and you know what? I may have faults, but there are ways in which I'm just _better_ than the people I felt so less than in high school.
    Honest to God, when you quit taking High School and the whole High School perspective seriously, it gets better. There are whole areas of human experience (slashdotters of all people should know this already!) in which the high school In Crowd will always be _losers_.
    Your popularity with the football team will never help you write a line of code. In FACT, it will not help you run a business worth a damn either if all you know to do is schmooze. In other words, know yourself, learn, and DITCH the high school values as quick as you can, or you'll be somebody's half-bright employee all your fscking life! I can't overemphasize this. Far from being the golden key to life and happiness, that whole high school in crowd thing is the biggest obstacle to success and fame you could ever have! Be _grateful_ that crowd are wasting their lives by complacently acting like royalty _now_ in a protected, artificial environment with Mom and Dad paying the bills. They, not the geek crowd, will be hurting in ten years, or singin' 'Glory Days' in dingy bars wondering what the hell happened.
    'Nuff said.
  • I'm afraid I'll have to agree with the initial poster. The parents should not take away the computer as an easy solution to keep themselves from having to spend time with their child. Either spend the time to supervise him, or hire somebody who will. Just getting rid of it is not an option.
  • Well, homeschooling obviously has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages.

    If you spend most of your life at home, with relatives, and with a few close friends, you don't learn how to deal with other people. That could be a serious problem.

    Also, leaving the education of children up to the parents only works if the parents are themselves responsible enough to teach the children. If you have bible-thumping fundamentalist parents who teach you that evolution is a sinister conspiracy of godless atheist scientists, you're going to be laughed out of college.
  • That's the problem I have with homeschooling. Teaching your kid "this is what the Bible says, and it is the one and only truth" is not doing them any good. If it is indeed the one truth, you should allow them to reach their conclusion on their own. Teaching a kid to accept things as truth from other people without thinking about them on their own is definitely a negative influence on their intellectual development.

    I have no problem with the teaching of religion, as long as it remains in the context of "this is what christianity says, this is what buddhism says, this is what islam says, this is what judaism says, and this is what i personally think," and then allowing the child to come to his or her own conclusions.
  • Hmm, I've heard references to that several times, but i'm not sure of the details. Could you elaborate on the connection?
  • I'm a government school product. I know of dozens of homeschooled kids, and know over a dozen very well. Without exception, they are far better socialized than their government-educated peers. The reason ought to be obvious: they are not plunged into the pit of peer-pressure hell. Instead, they interact both with other children (of all ages) and with adults (note: not just their parents; homeschoolers frequently collaborate).

    Well, I suppose it would depend on the way things are set up. If there is a good amount of collaboration and contact with other people, that's perfectly fine. What's not good is if you sit at home all day and never meet anybody (what I'd probably do if I were homeschooled).

    Ha ha ha! That was cute -- no, really. I know one homeschooled girl who scored 1400 on her SAT and was an A student in college. She rejects evolution as so much garbage (and rightly so). It obviously didn't hurt her education, and it surely wouldn't, either. But hey, I suppose you had to get in your digs at Christians somehow. Feel better?

    I have no problems with Christians. Many of my friends are Christians, and my parents are Christians. I find fundamentalist Christians a bit odd, but I'm acquainted with some of them, and they're not entirely unpleasant to be around. What I do have a problem with is them trying to impose their beliefs on others. If you want to believe that the scientific method and all current scientific theories are fundamentally wrong, that's your choice, and I'm perfectly fine with that. However, imposing that choice on others, such as your children, is not ok. Giving the children both sides of the story and letting them decide would be much preferrable to giving them a pile of Creationist texts and telling them "this is what is correct."

    I personally find evolution to be the most plausible theory to fit the evidence at hand, but I've seen both sides of the story, and my parents (who are Christians) were not afraid to show me both the creationist and scientific sides of the story. FWIW, I got a 1570 on my SAT.
  • What is this carnage you are speaking of? Only thirty or so kids have been killed in the last 18 months in school shootings. That's less than have been killed driving to school in that time period. That's less than have been killed in inner cities by gangs in that time period. There's countless other factors that have taken more than 30 students' lives in the last 18 months.

    Why does this one get so much more attention? Is it because the victims were mostly wealthy and white, while inner-city shooting victims tend to be poor and black?
  • The two responses to "Sharkeys-Day"'s post that I've read so far both included just the sort of assumptions and attacks on religion that geeks are suffering on other topics.

    That's not how it was intended to be, I'm sorry if it came out that way. I disagree with foisting one's religion on one's children, but I have no problem with the children choosing to follow a religion on their own (whether it is the same as that of their parents or not).

    I don't know what to believe with respect to religion but I firmly believe that we have the right to believe what we want, right up until we start harming others with our beliefs.

    I agree. That's why my previous post stated:

    I have no problem with the teaching of religion, as long as it remains in the context of "this is what christianity says, this is what buddhism says, this is what islam says, this is what judaism says, and this is what i personally think," and then allowing the child to come to his or her own conclusions.

    Which is basically what you said - anybody can believe whatever they want, as long as they don't harm others by their beliefs. IMHO, forcing your religious beliefs on your children constitutes harming others by your beliefs, so it is neither beneficial nor morally acceptable.
  • I can't agree with that. What is wrong with a parent teaching a child about his/her religion?

    There's nothing wrong with a parent teaching their child about their religion. There's a problem with the parent forcing the child to follow the same religion.

    t is a tremendous fallacy to suggest that participation in an organized religion somehow is a form of brainwashing or intellectual laziness. It is just as much an active choice to stay with and practice your family's religion as it is to choose one of your own.

    If you are conditioned since birth to believe that a certain thing is wrong and certain other things are right, it is very hard to overcome that conditioning. Hence, somebody raised as a fundamentalist Baptist Christian, fundamentalist Orthodox Jew, or fundamentalist Muslim will be extremely likely to follow that religion for the rest of their life, mainly because they have never even given a thought to the possibility that they might not be right about everything.

    And to say that religous training will somehow get in the way of a child's intellectual development is an insult to the memory of such towering intellects as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Albert Einstein, to name just two handy examples.

    I'm not familiar with Mr. Brandeis, but IIRC, Albert Einstein was the one that said that Buddhism was the only organized religion that made any sort of sense. He didn't seem like a big fan of organized religion. Again, IIRC, he converted to Buddhism later in his life.

    As for counter-examples, take William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist Christian (perennial presidential candidate and witness for the anti-evolution side in the Scopes Monkey Trial). Or how about Osama Bin-Laden, a fundamentalist Muslim. Or perhaps Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Christian.

    Do you think any of them have seriously decided to follow their religion? I have a strange feeling they have been a member of their religion since birth, and have never entertained a moment's thought that they might not be following the One True Religion(tm). Of course, they can't all be following the One True Religion(tm) now can they?
  • The media is so hypocritical. They run news shows on how somewhat violent games are destroying our children interspliced with advertisements for their outrageously violent "specials" on car crashes, riots, and bloodsports. "See these criminals smash cars and run down pedestrians while we stand by and videotape it!" Something else no one has really pointed out is that games actually have a *therapeutic*(sp?) effect on children. I began my addiction to gaming in its many violent forms in high school, when I was feeling exactly the pressures that drove the Trenchcoat Mafia over the edge. Virtual combat was an outlet, where I could work off rage without resorting to physical violence. I remember many times where I came perilously close to simply putting my fist through the wall, but I chose to attack pixels instead of things that feel pain. Perhaps if tried to encourage virtual violence instead of suppressing every form of emotional pressure relief fewer teenagers would go ballistic, to put it tritely.

  • Read "Sewer, Gas, and Electric" by Matt Ruff. Ayn Rand is a character in that novel (sort of).

    You may never look at Objectivism the same way again.
  • More links to articles similar to Jon's...

    http://www.salonmagazine.com/news/feature/1999/0 4/22/misfits/index.html

    http://www.salonmagazine.com/news/feature/1999/0 4/24/rumors/index1.html

    Too bad the "mainstream" media seems clueless. Has anybody noticed that the bigger the readership, the more clueless the magazine? Compare Salon Magazine with Slate, for example...

    -E
  • >>>
    First, there are about 600M people in the US,
    >>>

    HUH???????
  • Posted by narrowfellow:

    I certainly didnt have it as bad as many kids, but I don't look back on my high school years fondly. I hope this is an issue that gets heard in the mainstream media. Forward the page link to Tom Brokaw!

  • Posted by Amar Kinseth:

    The Trenchcoat Mafia is about racism and I hope some jock beats the crap out of any kids who can relate to them.

    I hated high school and am a standfast geek (and proud of it) but I bear no association to these vile children from Colorado.
  • Posted by gerstenberger:

    I am currently a 20 year old college sophmore and looking back at my high school years I remember feeling much the same has everyone has discribed.
    I was probley one of three kids who knew what a bbs was and physical and emotional abuse was a regular part of my day.

    So now comes along a couple of kids that were just like me who decide that they can't take anymore and they have the means to take their revange.

    So who does society blame? First it was guns. A simple mechanical object whos purpose is to put holes in people. (personal i believe guns are a problem but not the central one)

    Next we decided to blame TV, internet, etc.
    Next we will jump to the parents.
    Then to the school, then to some unknown auther of a book, then back to guns.

    This is a cicle of blame and all it is is looking for an excape goat. We have to stop and look into the mirror. We must come together has a community
    and look in the mirror.

    We are the lucky ones. The ones that at least know there is a problem. I saw it when i was in school i see it now. But we are now on the defense we are under attack and are getting labeled has "trouble kids who are going to kill others" What a joke. Every one wants to give into their rage from time to time. But we must be stronger then that. We need to chalege society and open our eyes. We need to look past the names of geek, jock, prep, nerd and look at what is true. That is that we all are people. We all want to be happy, to love and be free. We can't build these wall that separat us from others. We need to destroy them before the cement hardens.

    So my point. Be happy and proud of who you are. Stand up for yourself. But don't play the game, don't hate some one or look down on them becuase they aren't like you. Turn the other cheek. Rise above this school heirarchy bullshit. Don't buy into.
  • Posted by ChristianC:

    If a man who had constantly abused and beaten his wife over a few years was killed by his wife who would you feel sympathy for?

    Who is in the right when a whole school seems to turn against you? When teachers ignore each incident. How easy is it to ignore people hitting you? How else can one survive in such a situation except by becoming more introverted, and harbouring an ever building resentment? And if guns are available, is there not a temptation to 'teach these people a lesson'?

    I doubt if you can legislate against unpopularity, but you can legislate against bullying and for much stricter gun-control. Unfortunately, more killings will occur, because people prefer to blame red herrings like Doom, Marylin Manson and the internet instead of confronting the real issues.
  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

    All of these new knee-jerk rules, regulations and mandatory therepy sessions are not about making schools or the country safer. They are about doing two things. The first of which is to passify the dimwitted unwashed masses. In the wake of this horrible event people are understandably upset. This sends the messages that our school adminitrators are "doing something" about the percieved problem. This will keep politicians comfortably getting a paycheck without doing and real work.

    The other focus, the main focus in IMHO is that they take the "misfits" or non-traditional thinkers as I call them, and pound into them the idea that those who are in "authority" can do whateve rthey want to you, that they can make any rule that they want, regardless of if it makes sense or not, and there is NOTHING that you can do about it so you'd better accept it.

    It was non-traditional thinkers who've changed our world. Columbus (even though wrong about where he landed) believed that the world was not flat like his peers did. Galileo was threatened with death if he didn't stop preaching that the Earth was NOT the center of God's Universe. Those of us who think differently have always had to face adversity. Now the answer is save us from that adversity by bait 'n tackling or betty crockering us into conformity. If we refuse to conform, we must be dangerous because all rational people want to "fit in".

    Even though I know it will never happen, but we should stand up and make ourselves be noticed. The homosexual rights community made great advances because of groups like "act up" and "Queer Nation". For Black people groups like the Black Panther Party brought their problems to the front pages of the nations news papers.

    What could we do? I guess we're not as intimidating to the masses as black leather jackets, afros, berets and shotguns.

    LK
  • by silver (790) on Monday April 26, 1999 @09:33PM (#1915337)

    This is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be written about the Colorado massacres. I just think it's a bit of a shame that we can't get columns like this into all the paper media.

    School can be hell. I think most of us know this on some level. I didn't go to school in America, I went to school in New Zealand and every day I experienced the same thing, the nasty comments, the abuse (both verbal and physical). I remember one day when four successive people walked past me and simply spat on me for no other reason than that I wasn't a conformist, I wasn't popular. I wasn't like them and what they don't understand they fear.

    The administration of my school, Riccarton High, in Christchurch, New Zealand, did nothing to stop this. What can you do when one of the people who teases you is the pricipals son and one of the people who spits on you as they walk past is the Deans son? Nothing, because you are different and they simply don't care and won't take the time to understand.

    The experiences I had a school almost made me leave, there were entire mothns when I didn't show up to shcool because I couldn't bear the thought of what would happen when I got there. I ended up in deep depression and in counselling for a couple of years after that.

    My only satisfaction comes from the fact that now I'm 23 years old and earning more than most of my teachers and have a hell of a lot more prospect that most of my fellow pupils, they may have been half-decent atheletes but they'll get old and slow and fat and I'll be sitting behind my terminal making their porn connection work.

    To everyone out there who is getting hell at school, bear with it. Let it flow past you and get on with your life. It will be the one of the hardest things you have to do but if you get through it and don't let them break you then you will win.

    We are not misfits, we are not dorks, we certainly aren't idiots. We are Morlocks and we will be the ones who make their world work when our time comes around.

  • Not eveyone is so stupid as to beleive that by targeting video-games and goths we will prevent further tragedies.

    I watched the first ten minutes of Meet the Press on Sunday morning while waiting for a ride. The US attorney-general Janet Reno was being interviewed about her take on the mess in Colorado. The transcript of this interview is availbile from MSNBC [msnbc.com]

    Here is an illustrative quote from the interview:

    MR. RUSSERT: The Internet-I know when you were in Littleton, everyone talked to you about the Internet, where there was evidence that-instructions how to make bombs were on the Internet and these young men used them. How do we control the Internet? How do we keep young people from getting access to that kind of information?

    ATTY. GEN. RENO: Again, that comes back to how we raise our young people, how we teach them what's right and what's wrong. Ten years ago you could go to the library and get a book that told you how to make a bomb, but it wasn't as accessible. But you didn't take the book off the shelf. We have got to teach our kids that there are things that you don't do with the Internet and things that you use to broaden your education to learn from and to expand your horizons.

    The answers of limit this, limit that, limit the other, change this, change that, change the other, don't go to the hard issue of how we raise our children the right way, how we listen to them, how we understand them. And in that sense, if we train our police officers to listen, train our teachers to listen, to communicate, to elicit from kids what their problems are and try to help them to solve those problems, we can make a difference

    She also answered some questions about metal detectors in schools, parental responsiblity, etc. in a similar fashion.

    So, when you are looking for a good quote to back up your argument, you might just be able to snag one from the top law-enforcement officer in the federal govronment. And that can be handy.

    --

  • by jafac (1449) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:54AM (#1915377) Homepage
    To all high-school outcasts:

    We do all have something in common, but we're not all the same.
    I was a High-School outcast. I've often referred to that experience as "4 years of hell". I'm 31 now, and I've come to grips with what I went through, and why it happened. I dealt with it back then by kidding myself that I was smarter than them, better than them. Truth be told, I was at the exact 50th percentile in the class. Okay, I topped out all the standardized tests, and all the counsellors and teachers had these heart-to-hearts with me telling me how bright I am, how smart and talented I am, but really, I think at least some of that was a thin attempt to get me exited and involved in a world I had no interest in. Academics. So bottom line, I wasn't the "best and brightest" of my school, and now, 14 years later, I don't have the comfort of seeing all the jocks and preps working daddy's car dealership. (some of them)
    But I eventually figured out, the problem was me. For some reason, even in the professional world, I just don't fit in. I'm just not very socially - fluent(?). I don't know what it is, but at least now, I don't carry a lot of angst over it, I just deal with it as best I can. At least here, in the professional world, the people I work with are grown-up about it, and the wolf-pack mentality that kept me excluded and ostracized from everything in High-School is no longer present.
    I'm not as bad off as some of you. I've read about others in the "Why Kids Kill" column, some people have had counselling, drugs, and even "extended stays" at Arkham Assylum for the Criminally Insane.

    I don't know how to solve my root problem, social ineptness. I know it's a problem that feeds on itself, because the more aware of it I am, the more nervous I get around people, and the worse I am. But I do know that being online, and conversing with others online - like-minded or not, helps a lot. I don't even know if THIS problem is what causes ALL kids to be excluded and ostracized. I know there are probably other factors (economics, parental "connections", acne, physical stature, and hobbies). But I DO know one thing: If I knew then, what I know now, I would DEFINATELY done many, many things different, and perhaps, I would be in a much better position in life now.
    The main thing was, I couldn't see past age 18. When I was in High-School, I was so preoccupied with my misery, that I couldn't see my future at all. All I could see what I was missing out on. I think that this is a totally critical thing for kids going through this need to understand. That their situation is temporary, that the other kids are behaving the way they do because they're just kids. Most of them will grow up and stop being assholes. You can't wallow in self-pity like I did, because I ended up totally screwing up my life. And while things are going well for me now, at least financially, things could be MUCH MUCH better. (if only I had got good grades, and finished college, and not changed my major to art. ART?! What was I thinking? I don't know.)

    I think about these kids and I see that at least they had a clique to be in, though some of the other TCMs say that these two were fringe members, that may be some defensive distancing. I did try sports, and I did play some sports, but I wasn't accepted by the "jocks". There were a couple of instances where I DID actually go postal, but I was unarmed, so I didn't end up in the news. Luckily for me, I had a big brother who used to tease me and beat the crap out of me, so at least I knew how to fight. Won some, lost some, luckily, never got in trouble over it. But I didn't fit in with the intellectual geeks, I didn't fit in with the stoners, I didn't even fit in with the theater kids. I was kind of a fringe member of all those groups (except the preps, that was an economic thing, pure and simple - mommy and daddy didn't buy me a BMW to drive to school). I wasn't even accepted by the D&D players. I did dabble in Paganism, I did have a gun, I did build bombs (take the Anarchist Cookbook with a grain of salt, some of it is just plain wrong), and I read Che Gueverra. I guess I'm just lucky I never decided to end it all and take some people with me.
    (although - I wasn't ignored in a class of 400. I was voted "Most likely to blow up the world")
    In the end, I didn't bear a grudge against any individual. I guess I still feel anger, but you know, life is what it is, and it's the way it is. You can try to change it, but it's not likely, and bottom line, at least I'm not some poor Rwandan kid, starving in the savanna, witness to his parents being hacked up by machettes in tribal violence. Kind of puts things in perspective.

    And do I feel angry at how the press handles this shooting incident? You bet I do, but face it. These TV reporters and Politicians were all popular kids when they were in High-School. They have no idea, and can't possibly understand what we went through, and what you kids are going through now. And when they begin to understand, they HAVE to close their eyes to it. Can you imagine the guilt they must feel? (I do not feel sorry for them, but this is how I rationalize it).

    So I welcome this "movement", of outcast kids on the internet. It's pretty crappy that this is turning into a witch-hunt, but I think maybe we'll all be a bit smarter from this experience, and maybe we'll all see what this can lead to, and maybe, the things that I've said can help some of you (and maybe some of those "sociologists and psychologists" out there will get a freakin' clue!). Maybe this gathering on the internet is something that can finally help this situation, something that wasn't possible before (I know I certainly had zero outlet for these thoughts and feelings when I was a kid - there was no internet back then. Not like today.)
    So, for the kids who are getting their internet access cut off, I say, go to the library. Stay in touch with those who are going through the same things you are. I think it's the only way y'all are going to stay sane. (and by sane, I mean SANE, not "normal" or "conformist")

    And please, stay away from this Nazi crap. That's just stupid. I'm not going to bad mouth Paganism (though I don't recommend it, it didn't get me anywhere, in terms of spiritual peace), This Nazi stuff is just plain stupid. It's SO 50 years ago. . .

    Well, good luck.

  • by nstrug (1741)
    I agree - a really great article. As a non-American I had never given a second thought to the US school system until I started reading articles on it following the Littleton massacre. The system of cliques, prejudices and the social ostracism of those who do not conform is indeed sad to read about, especially as it occurs in a country that prides itself (rightly) on its classlessness.

    I would be interested to hear from any UK posters whether this atmosphere has developed in schools there - it certainly didn't exist when I left school (12 years ago).

    The only concillation one can give to those who have a hard time at school is that, although it may seem like the whole world now, as soon as you leave you'll realise how unimportant it all was and how pathetic those children who humilitated you really were. Small concillation, I know.

    Nick

  • Heh, I AM one of the "million" foreigners, though immigration requires that I be paid at least a certain amount so as not to depress the local job market.

    FWIW, I am already over the 35 hill, at 37.

    Frankly, if the U.S. educational system REWARDED smart students, there would be less need to import people like me -- many of the recent college grads I've encountered working here wouldn't even make the ENTRY requirements to a good Canadian Computer Science university program (though at my alma mater we had (small) riots for this reason).

  • What will the vast majority of those current high school jocks and their empty headed
    cheerleader girlfriends be 20 years from now?


    You're doing exactly the same thing that the media is doing: shoving everybody from one, general category, into a description that really, nobody will fit (c'mon...Al Bundy? :) )

    But like another poster said, many of the so-called bubbleheads *will* fit in and be incredibly businesspeople. Life is about relationships...even those killer kiddies out in kolorado had relationships (although they were a bit "different). Nerds have a sort of underground relationship with other nerds. Unfortunately, most people out there are not nerds. Most people *can* socialize. And those are the successful sales-people, upper level managers out there. Because they *can* deal with people.

    In high school, I too was not in the *in* crowd. I went for sometimes days at a time without talking to people. I walked around at lunches by myself for lack of anything better to do and nobody to do it with. However, I never felt ill-will towards anybody. As long as you try to be "nice", helpful, and generally sociable when other people approach you, you won't be ostracized.

    What I'm feeling is that the general trend here is that a lot of you nerds are feeling hatred towards those who oppressed you. This is natural. However, it probably isn't the best mentality to take, as it only contributes to the already profuse hatred out there.

    You and I will never be understood fully by the real world (tm). Think of it more as "differences in philosophy of life", rather than as a competition, where one is necessarily better than another. That's the only way we can positively deal with our differences.

    <tim><
  • by acb (2797) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:45AM (#1915426) Homepage
    Far from being idyllic, happy communities, high schools (including the one in question) are hellish social pressure cookers. High school society is strictly regimented into rigid hierarchies; at the top there are the athletes, the cheerleaders and the kids with rich parents; the alpha primates. At the very bottom of the food chain are those who do not fit in. The environment is a closed system; there is only one hierarchy, and nowhere to run. And failure to conform is relentlessly punished, not by the indifferent authorities but by the system itself. Systematic physical bullying goes on on a scale sometimes reminiscent of the English public school tradition of "fagging". The whole system is sadistically elegant; if a latter-day Dante was writing an updated Inferno, he could scarcely find a better model than the social structures of the high school.

    This system evolved to serve a purpose; by ruthlessly punishing difference, rewarding conformity and reinforcing an immutable status quo, it creates the preconditions of a modern industrial society; a population of predictable, conditioned worker/consumer drones, people who accept their place in the great machine of society and don't make trouble. The relatively small number of murders and suicides is well within the margin of acceptable loss.

    Meanwhile, when the jocks and popular kids grow up, they take their places in the leader-caste of society; and while most of them are, by then, relatively decent individuals, they do not see that there is a problem. Hence, when a bunch of black-clad angstpuppies massacre some jocks and popular kids, the solution is obvious: sue the video-game companies, restrict the Internet. and ban aspects of outsider subcultures, such as black clothing.

    And so, the invisible hand increases the pressure even further.

  • by jjohn (2991) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:19AM (#1915431) Homepage Journal
    Although I didn't have a rough time at all in high school, I think I can appreciate some of the problems that occur to "oddballs". High school nor society is ready to handle "special cases". Our country isn't very long on tolerance. It was founded by puritans after all...

    It is far easier to run a school like a prison than to maintain a place of independent thought. Even teachers are kept on a leash. It is also easier to fault "deviant" lifestyles, like Goths, Geeks or Gamers, than to admit the utter failure of our school systems to engender social skills in our children. Is it possible that parents need to do this themselves? Please, mom and dad are already working two full time jobs.

    In a fiercely capitalistic culture in which "greed is good", one's status increases by the number of people walked on. The outcasts deserved to be abused because they make the rest of us feel uncomfortable, right?

    I saw VP Gore talking about how we need to reduce the amount of violence we expose our children to. He didn't mention NATO's "relief efforts" in Kosovo as one of those harmful influences. Clearly, real violence isn't as harmful to children as Doom.

    What these Colorado kids lost wasn't their minds. It was hope. It's a shame what happened in Littleton. It's worse that our country won't learn squat from it.

    Is it me or does anyone else see some parallels to the movie _Heathers_?

    "What's your *damage*?"

  • As a 31 year old adult, far from the years of high school, I can tell you that those years were absolutely the worst time of my life. As a computer head and social outcast I grew up in a wealthy suburban town in Massachusetts. Getting teased regularly is one thing, but these kids assaulted me in large groups. I didn't stand a chance and the faculty refused to provide relief from my tormenters. If I attempted to defend myself the administrators would take me to task for supporting violence, yet would not prevent or punish those committing blatant violence against me and the other outcasts.

    This is a human rights issue. I know many who had to drop out of high school because it was just too dangerous to continue in school, even though we lived in a famous suburban town (known for it's involvement in the revolutionary war -- how ironic). School administrators use the threat of being outcast and regularly assaulted in order to force mental obedience. Because of my experience I will never place my children (when I do have children) in public schools. I would rather homeschool or find a good private school than potentially subject my children to that environment.

    Of course what those kids did was wrong. It pains me to know that they were pushed up against the wall and mentally twisted to the point where they murdered 13 others and then committed suicide. But the very fact that they planned suicide from the very start is telling: as far as they were concerned their lives were worthless because of the regular abuse they received. So they struck back by taking the lives of their tormenters. Kids who take enjoyment from dishing out abuse should take note of this event; they may reap what they sow in lead from their targets.

    And yes, nearly fifteen years after my walk through high school hell I am still angry over how I was treated and how the school administration prevented me from living in a reasonable non-violent and non-abusive environment. So, while banning trenchcoats, video games, and access to the Internet won't stop kids from going on insane murder sprees, school faculty and administrators might consider providing a safe and reasonable environment to learn without danger; that just might bring peace back to our schools.
  • In my case, it was a physical handicap. I suffer from a neurological motor deficit. I was not able to speak clearly until I was 18 or so, and was very clumsy in my movement. It's gotten almost completely better over the years.

    As soon as I got to first grade, around 1963, the teacher heard the way I spoke and walked me down to the retarded children's classroom, where I stayed until my parents realized that my description of my classmates was a bit odd. No IQ tests or anything, she just dumped me in there. Once my parents found out, they tested my IQ (it was high) and put me back in the regular class, but the teacher resented it - she took every opportunity to tell me, in front of other students, that I was retarded and that I didn't belong in the class. This made me the school pariah until Junior High or so.

    The problem with American schools is the awful pressure on students to conform, when they simply can not do so due to the misfortune of being bright, handicapped, or in some way unusual. The pressure to conform is the same sentiment that causes racism and religious intolerance - there's simply a different group being hated this time. It is enforced by the students but it must come from the instructors and parents - where else would the students be getting it?

    Anger in our schools will be a problem until we can embrace our differences rather than try to iron them out.

    Bruce Perens

  • by squarooticus (5092) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:35AM (#1915472) Homepage
    This is unbelievable. Thanks, Jon. I never thought so many people felt the same way I did when I was in high school. Thankfully, things have changed for me in recent years (as they usually do), but that doesn't make the high school and middle school (worse for me) years any better.

    Thankfully, I'm an adult and can't have my net access taken away by mommy and daddy. =)
    --
    Kyle R. Rose, MIT LCS
  • by clintp (5169) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:01AM (#1915477)
    My kid is 6 years old now. Very smart. Handles a computer better than most adults. (On his own correctly analyzed and fixed a hardware setup problem last week when his game stopped working...) He's not particularly athletic, he despises "team" sports, and he's a nonconformist. His chances are pretty good at being a smart outcast in school.

    I was blessed. I got to go through public elementary school in a 1-day-a-week gifted student program. Wonderful implementation. Freedom of expression was foremost. Most of those kinds of programs have dried up. I'm wondering if my child is going to have any way of expressing himself when his time to go through high school comes around. I doubt it. Parents are so quick to put on the Jackboots, and squash individuality. Supress individuality and expressiveness long enough, and it will find its own way out--in short, harmful, and explosive bursts.

    As a postscript, my wife and I have raised Foster Children before (and shortly after) our son was born. For children that are truly destructive, harmful, and uncontrollable there are lots of warning signs. In practice, they differ from expressiveness and individuality as much as a shovel from a bayonet. Only when expressed in the dry, clinicians language used for describing behaviour do the differences fade. "Flat, sharp, metallic, with a handle". It's this dry description that's going to be used to hunt down the individualists.

    (We had a Foster Child committed to a home for a while because of this kind of desctuctive behaviour, with good results. It's possible to tell the difference, and necessary to act on them.)

  • by cthonious (5222) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:49AM (#1915479)
    If they were enraged by jocks teasing them, why did they shoot everyone in the library? Hard to find jocks and other popular types in the library. If you look at the list of victims, there doesn't seem to be any method to it at all. If they wanted to get revenge on "popular students", why not crash the prom? It doesn't make sense.

    What the people can't accept is that the massacre was utterly meaningless. You have to consider a few things:

    • they had no intention of getting away with it (i.e., living through it)
    • there was no clear target - they were indiscriminate

    I just think they wanted attention; they wanted to do something superlative. When life is meaningless (and most surburban youth are upset at meaninglessness of bourgeouis life), there isn't anything else left. This doesn't look like the "suffering chilld being driven over the edge" thing to me.

    They were obsessed with Hitler. Hitler was definitely superlative. I guess they could have done something great, but slaughtering a crowd of helpless people is a lot easier than self sacrifice.

  • by J05H (5625) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:00AM (#1915493) Homepage
    I hated high school.
    I REALLY hated high school.
    High school, the act of getting up every
    fscking morning to walk through hallways of
    laughing happy people, to get shoved around
    by people I didn't even know, to get called
    names for the way I dressed, spoke.

    I had friends, very close friends, but we
    were a tight group because of the oppression
    and crap that got thrown at us every day.

    I remember getting slammed into lockers every
    day for two years, over and over, for being
    a little different. I remember teachers,
    especially Mr Gunn, the coke head that stared
    down girl's shirts, simply turning away, knowing
    what was going on, but not caring.

    In my high school, you got kicked out for
    throwing a punch, so defending yourself from
    physical agression lead to suspension.

    I don't support what the kids in Colorado did, I
    think it's repugnant, but I understand how they
    were driven to what they did. The parents, guidance
    counselors and adminstrators don't have the balls,
    or intelligence, or compassion, to prevent this sort
    of thing from happening. Unless people, that is,
    teenagers in our schools, somehow start treating
    each other like valuable human beings, instead of
    social doormats, this sort of slaughter is going to
    continue as more of the discontent snap.

    Unfortunately, that does not seem to be what is
    happening. It seems that, so predictably, there is
    yet another backlash against the geeks, freaks,
    nonconformists and kids who don't fit in. "Be normal"
    they will tell you, over and over, "Try to get along",
    failing to realize that it's not you, but the savages
    that are stepping on you that are not being well
    behaved.

    To all /.ers that read this that are still stuck
    in high school: good luck with the next few years,
    my heart goes out to you. It should get better
    afterwards, it might not seem like it now, but there
    will be a time after school when you can look back
    and think "How did I survive that?"
  • by Anonymous Commando (6326) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:38AM (#1915504)

    With my 10 year high school reunion coming up, I'd been thinking a lot about my teenage years a lot. Now with the shooting, I can't think of anything else.

    I was always the weird kid. I completely sucked at any sort of sports - I was on the school softball team for a while in Grade 4, but quit after it conflicted with piano lessons. I am pretty near-sighted, so I've had glasses since I was 7 or 8. The school that I attended from kindergarten to grade 8 was living hell for me, especially in the later years (actually, the school shut down one year after I left due to the number of parents pulling their kids out). By that time, I had a shattered self-image and no self esteem. I got into some fights with other students, and began bullying other kids who happened to be just a little geekier than me.

    Grade 9 saw a new school for me, with the number of students at least a full order of magnitude greater than the previous school. Here again, I was ostracized and bullied. Gym class was a special sort of nightmare - eventually, I just skipped class. I took the grade 10 computer class along with a number of other grade 9 geeks, but wound up crossing paths with one of the grade 10 jerks in the class. None of the teachers knew me, or seemed to care.

    Grades 10 through 12 were at a private residential school in a small town about an hour away from my home city. The total enrollment in that school was about 115 students - the teachers knew each student by name. I believe that the three years at this school is what kept me from becoming a complete sociopath. It wasn't perfect - grade 10 was a bit of a rough transition, my roommate in the dorm that year was a complete psycho, and I threatened suicide twice - but I don't even want to think what would have happened to me back at my old school. The social structure among the students wasn't very rigid - you had your jocks and geeks, but they managed to get along fairly well (I sang in the school concert choir, along with most of the members of the basketball and volleyball teams). I made a number of lasting friendships from those years (and a couple of people that I hope don't show up at the reunion).

    I'd say I turned out pretty good, but I wonder what would have happened to me today? In grade 12, I grew a beard and dressed in camouflage. I read "International Combat Arms" magazine. I played computer games (Autoduel and Beyond Wolfenstein were favorites). I loved violent movies (Aliens, Predator, and Platoon were among my personal collection). I listened to heavy metal. I had an UZI water pistol. A kid like that today would be in serious counseling and/or surveillance.

    Life after high school has been pretty good. Got into BBS-ing in the early 90's (under the alias "Suburban Commando"), went to university, got into the Internet and earned my B. Sc. majoring in Computer Science, married a girl that I had met in high school, and I'm now the father of a 1-year-old girl. I've got a good job as network admin for a small company (even if it is an NT network), and I'm happy with my life. I don't wear camouflage any more, but I still listen to loud music, play games like Quake and Jedi Knight, and I drive my car a little too fast sometimes. But I survived high school, and I'm happy now.

    This shooting has hit me pretty hard. I can understand what the two shooters were feeling - I'm not condoning their actions, but I think I understand their motives. Revenge is a powerful drive, pain and hate are powerful emotions, and it's pretty easy to let them override common sense. To everyone who is currently in high school, I just want to say "hang in there". It'll soon be over, and then you can get on with the rest of your life.
    ________________________

  • we're not all bad :-)

    unfortunately, when the smart girls go through school, it can be worse than the guys. when I moved to a "conservative" school in MA, people made me miserable SPECIFICALLY because I am a girl who does not fit their shallow expectations. I'm quite glad I'm in college right now and missing the witchhunt...

    at least college is better. and, being an engineer like I am, there are great people around me to hang out with. (and date :-) )

    I'd like to extend my sympathies to all those who are getting persecuted by their parents or school officials... it will get better. my suggestion: go to a large school (I'm at Berkeley). there are sure to be great people in such a large, diverse group, and professors or whoever don't take the trouble to persecute anyone (there are enough around that they don't really care), but some will take a positive interest in you, if you talk to them.

    Lea
  • by ghjm (8918) on Monday April 26, 1999 @04:02PM (#1915531) Homepage
    I may be in a uniquely qualified position to comment on this issue, as I moved from Canada to the U.S. halfway through high school. This was in the mid-80s, and I don't think American high schools were as bad then as they are now, but the difference was obvious.

    In elementary school (in Canada), I was picked on by the other kids pretty badly. But when I got to high school, I didn't have any real problems, even though I was high-IQ, low-brawn, into computers, etc. The high school I went to in Canada had less restrictive policies than some American universities. You were expected to go to class, and if you failed to show up for a scheduled class more than once or twice, the school would call your parents and get you in trouble. But at lunch time, or before and after school, or during a period when you hadn't scheduled a class (what American students call a "study hall" - we called it a "spare"), you pretty much did whatever you wanted: Go sit in the cafeteria or the library, walk across the street to the nearby shopping center (which had a video arcade and a food court), what have you.

    After a couple years of this, I moved to the U.S. and was thrown into an American high school. I showed up the first day with a walkman, like I'd worn to school every day for the last two years; it was immediately confiscated. We were not allowed to be in the halls during class without a signed note from a teacher; we were absolutely not permitted to leave school grounds during the day (except for seniors who, only if they had their own car, were conditionally permitted to go out to lunch, no more than two days a week). If we didn't schedule a class during a period, we had to go sit at a desk in a classroom, with a teacher sitting up front but not teaching anything--and we weren't allowed to _go to the bathroom_ without asking permission first.

    After about a week in this environment, I realized, not without some horror, that these people were children and that I would have to spend the next two years being treated like one of them. The coursework was almost without exception pure memorization and repetition--in my case, it involved a heavy diet of American propaganda indoctrination ("civics") because this was the only graduation requirement that I hadn't already satisfied. Happily, the school I went to had a "gifted & talented" program and I managed to find a couple courses that were actually interesting--AP physics and calculus.

    I also met my first geek when I went to the computer club. Now, there are undoubtedly geeks in Canada; I'm not trying to say there aren't. But these people bought into every negative stereotype about themselves. They didn't just like playing with computers; they defined themselves by _hating_ the good-looking kids. I didn't get this at first, and almost wound up ostracized by every group at the school including the geeks. But as it turned out I was a lot better at the computer stuff than all but a couple of them, which earned me some respect.

    Then there was the racial tension. In gym class, the black kids and the white kids actually played on opposite sides of the gym. This was so far beyond my comprehension that I didn't even notice, and went and played on the wrong side. They whipped me into line pretty quick--and it wasn't just the students; the gym teacher took me aside and told me what the deal was--as if it had official approval!

    In short--I've never been in a more hateful, useless, divisive, nasty place than an American high school, and I can state from experience that there's no inherent reason why it has to be that way. It may sound like I'm painting Canada as some land of milk and honey--but believe me, that's not what I think at all (otherwise why would I still live in the U.S.)--and I have no way of knowing what's happened to Canadian high schools in the last 15 years. But if Canadians rarely kill each other in their schools, maybe there are good reasons why.

    I think that the heart of this problem is the notion of discipline in schools. As much as Americans talk about freedom and liberty, they sure aren't comfortable with it in practice. America can be (and is) one of the most oppressive nations in the developed world. Hell, any politician who doesn't have quite as many votes as he would like can run a "get tough on crime" campaign and win an election. And what's the effective difference between "get tough on crime" laws in America, and oppressive social policy in places like China and Saudi Arabia?

    The typical American on the street is strongly in favor of, to name a few, state-sponsored execution; state-sponsored political assassination (of foreigners, never of Americans--but no qualms about foreign heads of state, Geneva conventions be damned); immediate death penalties for anyone even suspected of, say, selling drugs to children; economic "starvation warfare" against civilian populations; the sale of heavy arms to essentially crazy people (ie state militias); and God knows what else--I can't even go on.

    And they want to blame violence in the schools on Quake and Doom? Please.

    The penchant for extreme violence and extreme social oppression is built into the American psyche. You can't get away from it. The use of language, the mass entertainment, the political scene, the reality of many neighborhoods--you can't turn around twice without being confronted by violence. Hell, America was founded on violence; up to maybe four generations ago, a fairly typical way to get land to live on was to go drive off or kill the native people who lived there. There's the old joke about an American and a Canadian talking about guns: "Guns are necessary," says the American, "because without guns we couldn't have won the West from the Indians." Replies the Canadian: "Did you ever think of making friends with them?"

    But even with all the violent tendencies in the world, it's very difficult to act on them if you don't have a gun. Guns are the basic problem. Gun advocates will quote the Constitution as if it were holy writ: I say, the Constitution be damned; the provision for well-armed militias was written when the worst thing you could carry was a wheel lock musket. Stop hiding behind the Constitution and tell us exactly how free access to guns helps build communities in our cities. A note to the clue-challenged: You can't. They don't. Wake up.

    -Graham
  • I have oh-so-fond memories of high school. Let's see... computer geek, band member ("band fags" was the "cool" way to refer to us), republican, Christian... sheesh, I had _nothing_ going for me to endear me with any of the "in" crowds.

    I had (and still have) some opinions that certainly didn't make me any friends back then, and probably won't make me too many friends in this forum either, but at least back then (early 90's) everyone was kind enough to pay lip service to "respecting my opinions". A few of those opinions, which I had no qualms about expressing in class, no doubt caught some administrators attentions; I'm not sure what kept them from acting, perhaps just because mind-control wasn't quite so widely accepted in public education six years ago, perhaps because they knew I wouldn't ever "keep quiet" if they pulled any of the crap some of these kids wrote about, perhaps because they also knew that if they sent such a letter to my folks some (figurative) heads would roll for it. (One advantage of having free-thinkers for parents...)

  • Hell. I remember it. Not only was I a geek, but my parents moved so much that I went to 5 different high schools in four years. Actually, that probably insulated me from a lot of peer abuse, but it also insulated me from peers in general. High school was a living hell for me, just as it is for Katz' correspondents.

    Administrators at every level between guidance counselor to President Clinton are asking "what can be done?" Yet they fail to understand that they are as much to blame as the TCM's parents. They fostered the environment where anyone who is not a superficial stuck-up bimbo or a dumb masochistic macho jock is an outcast, and ridiculed.

    What can be done? Provide some socially acceptable environment other than battle.net for exceptional teens. Don't penalize them for being bored by the least common denominator curriculum you dole out in uniform, non-challenging parcels. Give them some advanced curriculum that interests them. Just pay attention to them fer christsake, instead of ignoring and berating them... instead of joining along with the kids you're supposed to be leading.

    These are the people we need to drag this sorry ass culture from the depths of fossil fuel addiction. These are the future researchers who will find cures for aids and cancer. These are the future entrepreneurs who will raise this economy from of the ashes of depression when our paper tiger economy burns up. Wouldn't it be wise to nurture them instead of the future Anchor Bimbos, Housewives, Lumberworkers, and Linesmen?

    Maybe it would be a start if we began to place a little more value on the teachers and administrators themselves. We don't exactly attract the best people to these jobs - I can count on one hand the number of teachers that actually taught me something. I acquired an education in spite of the rest. And the administrators... well, I won't repeat cliched jokes.

    But consider - when your principal and dean were in high school, which group did they belong to? It's a self-perpetuating system...

  • Hi,

    with apologies to Matt Groenig, but High school is Hell. Mine sure was!

    To make matters worse I was going from French school to English school, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and even as a puny, four-foot tall kid, I got into way too many fights, until some kind soul took me aside and taught me how to swear properly in English. (Oh, and I grew a foot, put on sixty pounds of muscle and stopped pulling my punches...)

    Kids are cruel, conformist, slaves-to-fashion and God help anyone who doesn't fit the mold. And you're never told what the mold-of-the-week is either. High school was a hemorhoid and I often dreamed of making the evening news: ANGRY YOUTH SLAYS 330+ NO SURVIVORS!

    The diference is that in Canada, guns are a real pain-in-the-ass to get a hold of so I'm not currently doing a whole bunch of consecutive life terms. (Legalized murder, sorry capital punishment, not being de rigeur there either.)

    Too many guns, too many hormones, to many stupid students who fake being too bright and you end up with shools with too many dead students.

    Its sad, its sick and the Weapons Manufacturers clearly share in the blame. Weapons without concience have caused multiple tens of millions of deaths in this century. Until we learn how to make them not to act without cause, we'll keep the worms fed.

    -Charles-A.
  • by Dast (10275) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:08AM (#1915560)
    The social hierarchy that exists in today's public education system determines an individual's status based on the wrong set of criteria. Rather than rewarding intelligence and free-thought, people are segregated by "popularity"--and popularity is a balance of good looks, money, and lack of thought.

    Now, I'm not saying that the members of the TCM didn't have serious problems. I certainly think the whole "Hitler's birthday" thing was very odd. But I do sympathize with the reasons they feel the way they do (just not with the way they choose to express it).

    On one hand, I think that the increased exposure of this problem may help. On the other, I hope that this backlash against free-thinkers in school doesn't make things worse. It is disgusting how school administration seems to beat down anyone who feels like the TCM did. They might as well call in the thought police and eliminate crimethinkers. Sheesh.

    I am surprised that I didn't explode and spray automatic fire all over the schools I went to. (Everyone expected me to.) The reason I didn't was because I was brought up by good parents who took interest in what I was doing, rather then letting me make bombs in the garage. Take away good parenting and you will have a lot more kids who kill.

    But that is just me.
  • I'm sorry, but the last letter in Katz' article just broke my heart, both for the young boy or girl who had their computer confiscated, and for the parents, who obviously don't have an active relationship with them. And that, I think, is the heart of the problem. :-(.

  • by PsychoSpunk (11534) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:55AM (#1915586)
    Yeah, it may sound strange but I wish that right now I was still in high school. That way I could effectively fuck with the administrators minds.

    I was the "popular loner" in high school, a term that it took me years to create, but none to recognize. I was in all the "nerd classes" and I loved them, but even more importantly so were many of the "preps, jocks (shocking, huh?), and other popular people." I got lucky, as I was held with esteem by classmates for my intelligence. But then again, I didn't have a real girlfriend until I left high school. It is a stark dichotomy, and I imagine had I written my first poem this month rather than in '92, my english teacher would have sent me for counseling.

    What hasn't been written is the other "escape plans" that students have available to them. My sophomore year, I was selected to attend the "Texas Governor's Honors Program" (btw if you're a TGHPer from '93 or later, send me a line at this email [mailto]) and it was a pure joy that changed my life forever. A year later, I left for college before graduation at a program held at the same school as TGHP called the Texas Academy for Leadership in the Humanities [anapraxis.cx]. (That link goes to our reunion planning page for those of you academy kids who run across it.)

    Texas has two such programs, TAMS @ UNT and the Academy @ Lamar-Beaumont. It let me leave an atmosphere that was stifling to go to a program where I was not alone in my desire for REAL EDUCATION! Unfortunately, public schools don't promote these opportunities because they would lose federal aid if they did. The government gives money for attendance, that's why these programs are hard to find. They exist, probably in abundance, but they are hush-hush.

    I urge anyone who is a high school student who is a geek, nerd, dork, or "popular loner" to investigate these types of programs. Invest in your future and your pleasure. And for those older geeks with kids, help them if they don't fit in. I know I'm preaching to the choir because I imagine that parents who love learning support their children, I know mine do.

    Please for the sake of everyone, do the Right Thing and give these kids what they really need, and that is not counseling, it's respect.

    Mike Ford
  • by johnus (11641) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:02AM (#1915590) Homepage
    > I have zero sympathy for the TCM.

    You are missing the point here. As other people have said, the media has totally latched on to the wrong thing. This wasn't the actions of the whole little group, this was the actions of a couple (maybe few) totally messed up individuals.
    If a Slashdot poster goes out tomorrow and guns down 10 people and the media gets a hold of the knowledge that he's a member of slashdot, what will happen? You better believe that everyone here would be shunned by the media. Not because we are all bad, but because we had one bad apple. The media would do the whole Slashdot = EVIL, geek = dangerous, smart people= bad people. Just like they have in CO. Look at some of the discussions here! Insults abound. Some people hate Katz, some people hate Star Wars, we generally say what we feel (and sometimes it isn't very pretty at all).

    In the article above, people are being shunned and mentally evaluated for saying things like we say here every day. Now that is sick. And people here with no clue just say the whole group is bad, i don't feel sorry for them... You should. Because once people start losing freedoms for wearing a trench coat or listening to MManson or playing Doom or Quake, we've started on a long slippery road.

    When you stop defending other people's freedoms, where are you going to be when they start restricting yours?
    You're going to be up a certained un-named creek, because there are no free people left that want to defend your freedoms.
  • And yet, do other countries have the same problem with school violence? A friend from Canada claimed the only random act of violence he remembers recently was someone breaking into the house of some high ranking official while armed with a butter knife.


    Violence happens up here all right; it's just knifings more often than shootings, as we have a scarcity of guns (thank goodness, IMO).


    I survived elementary school and high school by making friends with the teachers. Most of them were nice people. I avoided elementary school recess by going to the office and helping with filing/checking purchase orders/etc. (which I find enjoyable and relaxing, twisted soul that I am O:)).

  • by awrc (12953) on Monday April 26, 1999 @01:10PM (#1915616)

    I would be interested to hear from any UK posters whether this atmosphere has developed in schools there - it certainly didn't exist when I left school (12 years ago)

    Maybe you were just lucky? It was certainly there to some extent when I was at High School, and I left 13 years ago. I was fortunate in escaping most of the casual humiliation (never did figure out why, to be honest, but I suspect it's because that while a nerd, I didn't diverge too far from the norm in appearance) but still had a hellish time, largely due to a value system that strongly valued athletic achievement over scholastic. So, while I was a very good student (typically in the top two or three in the year right through high school) the fact that I couldn't kick a ball to save my life made me a 2nd class citizen behind those who could.

    There were a number of inconsistencies in school policy that made it worse. The school streamed heavily, which generally meant that you ended up in a class with people of similar ability. Not so games class, where everyone was thrown in together in the name of "team spirit", and folk who tripped over their own feet like myself were expected to compete against people who, in some sports, played at a national level.

    Needless to say this was seen as "payback time" by some ("hey, it's kick the nerd time!"), and the teachers encouraged rather than discouraged this (in most cases, I suspect, because they'd done this themselves when they were kids - sorry, but at my school the P.E. teachers did nothing to dispel the usual stereotype). Just to make it more fun, P.E. was the only subject that was compulsory right through all six years of high school - the only way I escaped this particular torment was a nervous breakdown and suicide attempt at 16 after I couldn't take the combined taunting and verbal abuse of kids and teacher. Thereafter, while my grades stayed good, life became increasingly unpleasant as I was passed over and to some extent ostracized by the school itself - the P.E. department had a lot of influence in the running of the school, and anyone the P.E. department didn't like (I heard through a teacher that the department considered me "unstable and unsuitable for positions of responsibility" because of what happened) got ignored. Cue standard teen "school razed to ground" fantasies (although I'd like to stress that while the physical structure of the school was oft reduced to rubble in my dreams, I didn't harbour similar feelings regarding my fellow students - the worst offenders tended to drop out at 16, and the teacher who'd induced my breakdown seemed to undergo a change in attitude after realizing that his little games had caused a student to try to kill himself)

    This sort of thing coloured my entire experience of high school - you'd think that a "good student" would miss leaving, but on the day I left I (quite literally) jumped for joy as I passed through the gate for the final time, and I've never had anything to do with the place again, and never will. Bitter? Twisted? You bet! In fact, it was an "I'll show them" mentality that propelled me through the last two years of high school, directing my bitterness and resentment into work to make the disparity between recognition and achievement all the clearer.

    To those who're going through it now, I know it's no real compensation to know that it'll end eventually when it's hell on earth right now. All I can say is to try holding on and putting up with it as long as you can, and when you make it to the end, the reward is worth it. My experience at university couldn't have been more different, and while the smarts that were so undervalued then are of use to me daily in my work, I can safely say that my inability to kick, hit or catch a ball hasn't proved relevant in real life.

  • First, I'm touched by much of this article. I recognize all these adolescent voices in myself 20 years ago ...

    Second, I'm appalled to hear that this tragic incident in Colorado has, apparently, led to more, not less, marginalizing and ostracizing of today's misfits ... of which, in each generation, there are many.

    The bad news is that this tragedy has got the talking heads jumping on all the wrong "solutions" in the hope of appearing concerned and serious (rather than merely exploitative). Ban guns. No, make teachers wear them. Ban trench coats. Ban Quake. Run Net Nanny. Throw the misfits into counseling. Throw the misfits out of school. Throw the misfits in jail, just in case. See, if you're a misfit ... if you don't fit in ... it's your fault. You're different. Perhaps you're disturbed. You've got a problem, and we can solve it by making you conform.

    The good news -- as Bill Maher pointed out [go.com] the other night -- is that high school is not the map of adult life that many believe it to be. The jocks will end up selling cars, and the geeks will end up building the systems that run the robots that make the cars. Bill Gates. Linus Torvalds. John Carmack. Thresh. There's life out there, kids.

    If only all geeks, nerds, and misfits knew this simple truth: for too many people, high school is the high point of their entire lives. How sad!

    Conformity is not the answer. Why join the masses in their hagiographic awe of the vapid period that is high school? But we need to work on treating depression and isolation in our young people. It would be neat if this incident led to all the halfwit jerks in high schools across our great land realizing what their harassment has done and stopping it ... but there's always next year's class, and this will be forgotten. Rejection and social pressure are normal parts of adolescence; dealing with it is something we don't often teach kids. And individual misfits often bear the brunt of several insecure, mainstream teenagers' harassment.

    If only I'd known that life would get better! If only I'd known how insecure my tormentors were! If only I'd known how to build my own self-esteem through personal challenge and risk-taking! Instead, I struggled with inner pain for another twenty years. I can never get back those lost days. But maybe, maybe we can keep some other kids from ending their lives, or from becoming killers.
  • Spot on, Jon! Great job catching the rebound. I bet you saw it coming a mile off, too. I did.

    Remember the movie _Die Hard_, where Alan Rickman has every move the authorities make plotted out to three decimal places? That's what this society is like. I'd like a volunteer from the audience: Someone who is surprised that the Littleton tragedy resulted in massive scapegoating. Hello? Anyone?

    The problem is, our society loves to take the easy way out. Right-thinking is SOOOO much easier than thinking! Looking for any place to lay the blame rather than taking responsibility is so deeply engrained in American society, it makes me sick. I'm sure it's not healthy for me to have such low opinions of my fellow Americans, but I can't help it. It's all because my mom fed me homemade yogurt when I was young.

    It's not that simple, of course. You can make a bunch of individually brilliant people into a committee, and that committee will come up with the most asinine ideas you ever heard of. Society is like that too, and when kids enter the equation, all rationality flies out the window. Hey, at least their heart is in the right place. But that's no excuse for throwing out the baby (and the Constitution) with the bathwater.

    So this time, let's not let it be like every school shooting in the past. Let's not let society write off all the other victims, the ones who weren't shot, or even at the same school.

    Jon Katz, please be our spokesman! Send your stories to every "conventional" media outlet you can and keep at the until they acknowledge in print and in prime-time that innocent kids are being victimized and violated McCarthy-style (or KKK-style, not that there's much difference) by the people who are being the most self-righteous about Littleton.

    Don't let our "leaders" off the hook! Force them to recognize their own culpability, their own hypocrisy, and their responsibility. Make them change their ways!

    Readers, you can do this too. Okay, the trick is to speak your mind without getting thrown in the clink (or out of school). Start with your friends. Engage them in an intellectual/philosophical discourse about how society is letting its kids down, about how innocent kids are getting hurt in the authoritarian "crossfire", and what should be done to correct matters.

    Once you have a watertight argument, try it on some "adults", like your parents. If you can convince them, or at least make a case that they can't shoot holes in, then you're ready to write letters to the editor of the newspaper and TV stations, and finally, that most unreasonable body of all, the School Board!

    Can I guarantee that you'll have any success? Can I assure you that you won't get kicked out of school? Of course not! Free advice is worth what you pay for it. Have I ever done anything like this myself? No! I'm a coward. Well, I have been published in letters to the editor, but never mind that. My point is, if you don't like the way things are headed, start doing something _constructive_ to change it! And that starts with making yourself heard and respected. You can gain respect by making your statements intelligent, well thought out, and well supported.

    Sheesh, did I just write all that? What gives me the right to suck up your bandwidth like that? Who is this guy, anyway? Who cares? Does my message move you? I hope it does.
  • I know exactly what the other posters are talking about, because I go to Arapahoe, another high school in Littleton near Columbine. The first thing the administration did was ban trenchcoats, certain kinds of jewelery, and other acts that suggest they really don't see what the real problem is.

    However, I am also noticing a superior tone in some of these posts - especially Katz's. The /. crowd seems to consider their lifestyle the 'best', and I don't think that that is necessarily true. I agree that there is no reason why a lifestyle should be forced upon someone that doesn't want to subscribe to it, which seems to be what schools are trying to do, but both sides of this 'culture clash' are acting like one side (of jocks/nerds) is good, and the other evil.

    I understand where the mainstream is coming from - they see the 'oddballs' as dangerous, because they don't understand them, and the oddballs are usually smarter than them.

    But some nerds, both here and people I meet in person, seem to see mainstream activities - especially sports - as indicators of shallowness.

    I often find myself in the middle. I am a nerd, but I also play sports. I have been programming since 4th grade, and have been in accelerated classes since 1st. I have a whole group of friends that fits the "trenchcoat mafia" description. My interests fit the nerd profile too - I HATE school material, even though I do well at it, and I spend a lot of time online.

    But I am also kindof a jock. I often wear a letter jacket with 12 pins on it and I have a group of friends from the wrestling team. The thing is, these two groups of friends wouldn't like each other AT ALL if they met, and I can get along fine with both. I get just as much of a rush from sports as from anything else - it's fun working out, motivating each other, getting in shape, kicking some ass on game day, or just going and yelling for your school. I'm not into the self-punishment kind of lifestyle. Why pick one when you can have it both ways?

    And by the way, the killers did not really belong to that clique - just a vague association. They were not in the yearbook photo or the list of names, they did not sit at the same lunch table, and they did not wear trenchcoats, except on the day of the shooting to hide their guns- they wore nazi stuff. And they were actually austrialian dusters. The trenchcoat mafia group really got screwed by this thing. The kids that did it were loners among loners.

    Basically I'm preaching a message of TOLERANCE here - from both ends. This shooting that happened five miles or so away has increased the rift between cliques in this school (and many others I imagine) by a lot.

    But boy, I can definately feel for most of you guys when schools take the kinds of action they do. Grrr... it makes me SO MAD when administrators just don't get it.
  • by Mindwarp (15738)
    I'd just like to add my comment to this ever-growing list.

    I went to school in England, and suffered much of what I am reading about now. I loved the sciences and loved learning while most of my class-mates did not; Was I a target? Hell, I may as well have painted a bullseye on my head! I can still think back to the seven years I spent at that school and shudder.

    For anybody currently going through this sort of torment, I would like to add this:

    My college years were the best of my life. I met many wonderful people whom I remain in contact with to this day. I had a fantastic time learning about subjects that I found fascinating, without the hinderance of having a group of morons surrounding me trying to look cool. I have a great job, and a loving fiance.

    No matter how far away the light at the end of the tunnel seems, don't give the journey up. You'll become a better and stronger person than ANY of your tormentors will ever be. Life WILL get so much better for you. It's yours for the taking.
  • by swerdloff (16397) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:30AM (#1915673) Homepage
    As with every democracy (even the representative democracies) the US has a problem on its recently re-bloodied hands: how do you serve the minority when majority rules? The short answer is: usually, you don't.

    In high schools across the country, students are ritually ostracized, ignored and avoided by their peers, supposed mentors and potential friends, because they dress differently, they listen to different music or they have the wrong color skin. This is not news.

    The Slashdot community (can I call us that?) is in a bit of an uproar, because "Hey, those guys over there in Colorado, that's us... or could be if we lost it... not saying that we'd blow people up or anything, but jesus, it'd be nice to get some revenge on these jerks who've been mercilessly picking on me since they developed muscles and I learned to code." Not that slashdotters would actually go out and do anything violent. We've got better things to do. Like watch freshmeat update. Or daytrade. But still, we can understand.

    So teachers get worried. Because, after all, many of their middle school students are already more intelligent than they are. Not in all cases certainly, but after all, those who can, do, those who can't teach, right? Obviously overgeneralized, but you get the picture. When you have to send your eigth grade student over to the local college to get math tutoring, you have to worry that maybe the kid, without guidance, will be a bit of a danger. Because it's not a far jump from learning math to learning physics to learning chemistry to making bombs. Especially with such easy access to violent images in the media, not to mention the sex and violence they learn in Sunday school from the bible.

    So teachers run scared of their students, who can, in many cases, out-think them, certainly outnumber them and with a bit of weaponry, could destroy them. Small wonder that that they trample students civil rights in the name of protecting themselves and other students. Small wonder that they pawn intelligent students off on psychiatrists, guidance counselors and the schools principal (Remember, the principal should be your pal... or treat him like a member of your family... an older brother...) when any student shows promise, or interest in something not specifically in the curriculum.

    A fascination with war could be interpreted in two ways: if the kid is a jock, he's a West Point cadet, if he's abnormally intelligent, he's Oppenheimer, pursuing a "sweet technology" at the Trinity site.

    How do you balance your fear of those who are more able than you with your duty to them as a teacher? Here's a thought: punish students who pick on other students, instead of ordering the students who get picked on to go to counseling.

    You want solutions: don't turn to parents, who have turned absentee-landlord. Maybe it's time to up teachers salaries, so we can get teachers that are more able to cope with gifted and ostracized students. Perhaps looking to a President nicknamed "Bubba" is the wrong thing to do when dealing with the rights of the oppressed? Maybe it's time for corporations to send their techies out to do some one on one, or one on groups with gifted students? Show them that at the end of the tunnel is a paycheck, if not a light. Maybe it's time to stop handwringing and ask the "misfits" what it is exactly we'd like, why we hate four years of life and how we could make it better. Because you certainly won't see teachers reproaching the football team for locking the chess club in lockers and setting fire to the swim teams clothing. But you will be sent home for wearing a trenchcoat.

    Because many of us can understand the hatred that wells up in the pit of the stomache when the opposite sex laughs at your advances, the media gives you no voice and your peers and mentors all view you askance because you have been cursed with intelligence, or view the world slightly differently, or have acne, or god forbid, are of a race not the majority. Those of us who have made it through the gauntlet of high school, getting marginalized, ignored and offended, could take some of these marginalized kids, and help them.

  • by pinko (18911) on Monday April 26, 1999 @11:12AM (#1915705)
    does anyone notice how no one in america is responsible for their actions anymore? instead it's the fault of the media, of the violent video games, of the dark role playing game, of the music and/or of the kids friends. a parent ignores all the warning signs that they have a troubled child. the child finally lashes out. whose fault is it? of course it can't be the parents! it has to be those violent video games, violent movies, or offensive music. bah! so since it was the video games fault etc... anyone who plays that game is a suspected killer. heck, them geeks in their trenchcoats are weird anyway. they gotta be up to something.

    america today is ripe with hypocrites. we have politicians who make big deals over other peoples affairs, when they've done the same themselves. we have people who under no circumstance should be allowed to raise kids raising them (or letting tv do so). after they've made a mess of their kids and the kids do something stupid, it's the media's fault. i'm so sick of people blaiming the media. GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEADS. IT'S BAD PARENTING, NOT THE MEDIA THAT IS TURNING YOUR KIDS INTO KILLERS.

    I want to know how 2 sets of parents didn't notice their sons stockpiling weapons for a year. that's a dilly for you america.

    so now the counsellors and school officials want to pick up the slack. great. last group you want to do that. they deal with so many kids, they cannot possibly know them all. so now were dealing with the results of their knee-jerk reaction to this all. trying to find their own trenchcoat mafiosos.

    i know if any of those things in the article happened to me in school, my parents would have been at the school in 5 minutes to give the school official the third degree. they might have even brought a lawyer. that's what you're kids from the article need to do. the officials at their schools need a whack with a clue-by-four. just bring the lawyer and make it legal.
  • Yes, high school can be hell for those who are a couple of sigmas beyond the mean -- the very people from whom ultimately society gets most of its advances. And also some of its most dangerous psychos, if too alienated.

    As someone else mentioned above, HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT THE REAL WORLD, DON'T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY. And it's only temporary. After that, the geeks who were outcast by the average majority in high school will go on to thrive in college and beyond.

    There's a saying, "the best revenge is living well". There's certainly truth to it.
  • Just wanted to comment about fraternities and sororities. I'm a brother of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at The George Washington University. In my experience, a few fraternities on this campus are the conformist cliques you described. But, in this respect, the non-Greek students are worse than the Greeks are!

    I'm about as individual as it gets -- I'm a typical MIS geek. Our chapter prides itself on having a diverse group of individuals. I've gained far more out of the fraternity than I ever expected: leadership opportunities, a social outlet (as a typical MIS geek, social settings never used to be my strong suit), and most importantly, long-lasting friendships. The freshmen at this school are far more judgmental than anyone in my fraternity. I quickly realized that I had little in common with them, and luckily found the friendships in my fraternity just at the right time. Also, our chapter truly has no hazing, forced drinking (I still don't drink at all), or any of your other stereotypical frat images.

    We shouldn't stereotype ANY groups as being "cliqueish," because it's the same thing as stereotyping juveniles as "prone to violence." Similarly, it does us no good to blame the "jocks" for the Littleton incident. The blame should go to anyone who treated them as an outcast. To do otherwise simply increases prejudice and stereotypes against the groups we happen to dislike.

    Any LCA brothers on here? Drop me a message.

    In ZAX,
    Ryan

  • by NecronomiconII (22006) on Monday April 26, 1999 @12:58PM (#1915747) Journal
    The following is my response to the Littleton massacre. A horrible event that could of been prevented. But the public system was too blind to see it coming:

    I am 22, and since the age of 4 I've been a Geek. All through grade school I was considered a thug because of the people I hung out with people who
    liked to think, rationalize things, and for that I was an outcast along with them. I developed a horrible temper, and was sent to the principal on
    a regular basis because I wouldn't take the insults. And this was just 4th and 5th grade.

    Then came middle school, I saw the anger I had, which was the same anger my father had, was killing him, and would kill me too if I didn't
    try and control it. It took months of work on my self to bring myself to a level where the insults and ridicule wouldn't trigger the rage against people who saw me as a freak because I like chemistry, math, computers, and Star Wars.

    But this if ofcourse didn't stop anything. In fact, it only made it worse because now I would "take it". In the 7th grade it got to the point
    where I had to switch schools. My father had divorced my mother and moved to the suburbs. I can't describe the nightmare of that year.
    In a world where you had to be a jock, or cheerleader in order to not be slammed as a nerd, it was straight out of the movie "Disturbing Behavior". I was supposed to go to the local highschool after that, but I moved back with my mother in the city, where there was at least
    more people who thought on my same level. I would of rather died then stayed in the suburb where I was. They threaten to take me back, I threatened
    to run away, never to return, and showed them the bus ticket to prove it.

    Ah yes. High school. The most patheticly egotistic and superficial institution I know of. My freshman year was just as bad as 8th grade, only at least here I had a group of fellow geeks to lean on. Nerd, Geek, Dork, you name it I was called it. That was until an honest accident in high-school.

    I was mixing two chemicals to study air pressure in a contained blast, for a science project, the teacher knew about it. I forgot that the vent fan wasn't on so it was basicly a big contained
    box. I blew up the chemical shield that the compound was contained in. In a full class of 40 kids, the room was cleared in 10 seconds. They refused to come back in with me in the room. I was given a suspension, and was told that if anyone wanted a bomb from me, I was to report them immediately.

    After this I was never ever bothered again. The people who once thought of me as a freak, thought of me as now a dangerous people who could snap
    at anytime. They left me alone, and my friends and I who knew that I wouldn't hurt anyone, laughed, and were also saddened that it took an accident and the fear of me the "Crazy bomb making psycho" to finally make the cruelty stop.

    My sophmore year I met my wife, online, and she supported my "crazyness" my irrational "curiosity" and now I'm a programmer and system administrator
    at the midwests largest private ISP.

    What the Littleton kids did was horrible. But not surprizing. My hearts go out to the families of the people who died. But we need to look at the
    social struture of our schools. They can be segregated and twisted environments, which lead to twisted individuals who no longer see the value in life. Individuals who won't control the rage, and have no support system to vent it.

    And then you have Littleton.

    To those in school who see this situation as their own, you have to take heart. With places like Slashdot, you have a vent. You have a culture that accepts you are on the net. Life gets much better
    after high-school. Find people who you share the
    same ideas with, and who you can be creative with.
    Don't get isolated. Find your kind. They ARE out there. The net makes it much easier for us to find eachother. And when the Jocks the people who find our curiosity dangerous and offensive are 30 years old with beer guts, watching re-runs of "All in the Family" wondering why the NFL hasn't called, you can laugh from your leather chair in your office knowing that for all your suffering, it paid off.



  • You said: "Once my parents found out, they tested my IQ (it was high) and put me back in the regular class, but the teacher resented it - she took every opportunity to tell me, in front of other students, that I was retarded and that I didn't belong in the class."

    There are some teachers who are just as much bullies as the worst bullies in the student population. Unfortunately the teaching profession doesn't seem to have a way to screen them out.

    I went through some of the same stuff; my second grade teacher seemed to resent me greatly though I'm not sure why. I was already reading at a 9th grade level, but she put me in the lowest reading group, and wouldn't allow me to work ahead. I was punished for reading independently.

    In fourth grade, when I was nine, it was even worse -- we had a teacher who, two weeks into the quarter, split the classroom into a "good side" and a "bad side" and assigned us to the sides based on his perceptions of our behavior in the first couple of weeks.

    One of the kids on the bad side wasn't bad at all; just quiet and artistic. He got in trouble because his handwriting (which was beautiful) was faint and light, and a bit hard to read because of it. That alone got him assigned to the bad side, and the teacher constantly kept after school, yelling at him to press harder when writing.

    Other things this teacher did were just as twisted. He threw chalk at a student who couldn't get the right answer to a question, and hit him directly in the eye. He told us we couldn't have art class (he was the art teacher for all the fourth graders in the school) because we were bad kids who didn't deserve it. In December, he put me out on the porch (our class was in a portable building) for some transgression, and locked the door from the inside. I wasn't allowed to take my coat. It didn't take long before I was freezing and knocking on the door, but he wouldn't let me back in the room. I was scared to go in the main school building because I knew I would get in trouble. But finally I went to the principal's office and told them what happened, and they called my mom because I wouldn't go back to class. I think that may have been the day that my mom pulled me out of school. I stayed out of school for about three weeks until I could start at another school.

    During that fall semester I was having horrible stomach pains every school day. I dreaded going to school. I would cry and scream, begging my mom not to make me go. She took me to a doctor who said "If you don't get her out of that school she will get an ulcer." I couldn't just change teachers, because all fourth-grade classes spent at least a little bit of time every day with the bad teacher.

    We ended up requesting a transfer to another school. In the pre-busing days, this meant we had to have a doctor's statement, and a sponsor on the School Board. Four of us ended up transferring to various schools around town, and the teacher -- who should have at least been put on leave for the rest of the year -- continued teaching. His defense? He said he was having family problems that made him a little crazy. And he was the vice-principal, and had tons of seniority.

    Anyway, when I went to the next school, the teachers were a little better but the students were far worse -- that was the school where I was beat up and otherwise abused on a regular basis. Out of the frying pan, right into the yawning pit of hellfire, as it were. But I posted about that in "Kids That Kill" the other day, and I won't go into it here.

    I think that bullying teachers can be even more damaging than bullying kids -- they are the authority figures, after all. If you can't go to the teacher for help, especially at an age like 7 or 9... well... that's a really frightening place for a child.

    I'd honestly like to see a no tolerance policy for school bullying. I don't know if it's possible or how it would work, but whether the bullying are students or teachers, it must be made clear that we don't accept that behavior in schools. There are far too many teachers, parents, and administrators who are willing to call the bullying a normal part of growing up and just pat the bullies on the head with a minor punishment, if any. We cannot and should not tolerate this.

    What can we do about it?
  • Perhaps some form of martial arts could be something if he is interested?

    I've learned one thing from growing up, though Swedish schools are better, kid's can be cruel regardless of gender/race/nationality. And sadly many of these kids only understand naked force.

    I'm not suggesting that you teach your kid to maim others. Anyone who has trained martial arts know that it's very soothing for your personality and is good for many mental activities as well.

    Personally I've never been very interested in sports, martial arts is much more about "personal advancement" than most sports. Which appeals to me. If the kid is interested (perhaps he should get a little older.) then Judo or similar is a good one get into. It's really extremely defensive if you (or SO) have problems with "teaching your kid to fight". I'm no expert on the subject though. However I bet many /.'ers are martial artists as well. (And then it can't be all bad, can it? ;-)

    //Marcus Hast, Lund, Sweden
  • One interesting note about the reaction to the shootings is how few among the media seem able to understand how anybody could hate high school.

    If you think about it, the reasons are pretty obvious. Your average TV reporter is likely the type of person who was popular in high school.

    Many studies have been done that show that when people are applying for jobs, better looking candidates are more likely to be hired than technically superior, but not as good looking competitors. This applies to jobs where appearance is not relevant to the job in any way (back-office, techs, etc.). It applies more when customer interaction and charisma plays a part of the job (sales, reception). And of course it plays a very big role when appearance is central to the job (acting, modelling, and of course TV reporting).

    So should be no big surprise if your average TV anchorperson loved high school.

    It has often been the case that the popular people in high school become the leaders of society. This is not through any particular skill, other than people skills, but rather from charisma, contacts, and good looks.

    An interesting supporting statistic is the average height of US presidents. On average they are giants. It isn't the only reason they're hired, but this imposing presence is something people find attractive when choosing someone to lead them.

    The interesting thing is that this power structure seems to be shifting. Since the early 1990s there has been a shortage of skilled computer professionals. This is one field where looks matter less than competence. There has always been a need for technically competent people. But that hasn't always translated into power. Now, the combination of omnipresent technology, an extremely fast-moving technological environment and a communications medium to tie these people into a sense of community has started to give "geeks" true power.

    It used to be that successful chief executives didn't need to really understand technology as long as someone beneath them did. These days things are changing. The CEO of IBM can't run the company like it sells typewriters anymore.

    Since the very things that make someone an outcast in high school are the very things that tend to make a good geek, how long will it be before high-school changes to accomodate this new world?

  • by scotpurl (28825) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:50AM (#1915807)
    I was both jock and nerd in high school (14 years ago). Worst time of my life. I needed anti-depressants, 18 months of counseling, and strong support of my parents and my few friends to make it through without killing myself. Life has improved by magnitudes since then.

    If your parents abuse you, Child Protective or Social Services steps in. If your co-workers harass you at work, The Law protects you. If some stranger harasses you, there are restraining orders, and stalking laws, and such, to use as a remedy.

    But if your classmates treat you in a manner that is not acceptable in _any other facet of society_, it is called "part of the growing up process," or "all part of high school." I have never again seen the callous viciousness that permeated high school.

    I do not, in any way, condone or sympathize with any violent actions. I do not condone, nor understand racism (especially because I am of mixed race).

    But this national search for scapegoats must end. If the Internet and violent games cause behaviour like what has surfaced in Colorado, then how do we explain the actions of Ted Bundy and Ed Gein, whose killing sprees were far, far more sinister?
  • by Jimhotep (29230) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:35AM (#1915813)
    Sounds like "they" want to arrest
    people "before" they act.

    About school uniforms.

    My son wears uniforms to school.
    His school has taken the lead in
    arrests. How many of you knew
    anybody that got arrested in the 7th
    and 8th grade? I didn't.
  • by DonkPunch (30957) on Monday April 26, 1999 @10:50AM (#1915830) Homepage Journal
    I have one thing to say, and I can't say it loudly enough:

    The talents and values which are rewarded in high school have NOTHING to do with the real world.

    HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT THE REAL WORLD!

    I get up every morning to go to my over-paying job GLAD that I made it through without killing myself. Eveyone I know who is happy as an adult HATED high school.

    HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT THE REAL WORLD!

    If you're an outcast in high school, it's probably because you have values more meaningful than sneaking beer and attending pep rallies. I'm sorry it sucks, we "adults" aren't doing a very good job making it better.

    People used to tell me it gets better after you get out. They were wrong. It gets fscking GREAT after you get out.

    I can't imagine why adults are fascinated with high school. Every day I put between that place and myself is an improvement.

    HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT THE REAL WORLD! DON'T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY!

    Hope this helps.
  • Why are we so narrow minded to think that only kids in the US have problems in late grade school and through high school? There are pleanty of non-conformist kids in schools in England, Canada, Australia, and (insert any non US country you like here), aren't there? Don't they go through the same difficulties of having friends, not being part of the "in crowd", and authority figures being in their face about being who they want to be? What the "heck" was the Pink Floyd album "The Wall" all about then?!?

    And yet, do other countries have the same problem with school violence? A friend from Canada claimed the only random act of violence he remembers recently was someone breaking into the house of some high ranking official while armed with a butter knife.

    So do the other countries teach values? If so, what/whose values are they? What about countries where the children grow up carrying weapons as part of 'civil' war or other strife?

    I won't claim to know what the fix is. I can knee jerk a few things I think are to blame but _none_ of them are all inclusive. I'd just really like to hear opinions and maybe some stories from non-US kids that show the same understanding of the situation as those quoted by Katz.

  • by PovRayMan (31900) on Monday April 26, 1999 @01:03PM (#1915863) Homepage
    Heya,

    I'm just going to tell you a quick story about my first day back in school after my April Vacation. I dress weird, you can say I'm a freak, or just weird. This [gis.net] is what I look like just about everyday at school. Because of this, I was assaulted. For many many years since about fifth grade, i've been the object of ridicule because i'm very defenseless. I'm now a junior in high school, everyday I get made fun of or joked about. I've got the reputation in my class for the mostly likely student to bring a gun to school and kill people. This is very untrue, I wish to harm no one. In fact i'm a real peacefull guy. I just don't get treated as a human being. Since i've been through all this ridicule i've learned to ignore it. (BTW in my picture, i'd like to explain that i have a very serious "ANTI-TREND" deal going on. I hate dressing like anyone else because $50+ for a pair of pants that has the name "Tommy" on my ass just isn't worth it.)

    Anyways here's what happened today. A fellow student noticed me standing in the doorway of an empty room, he began shouting at me saying stuff like "Hey! Here's that psycho kid!" and "He's in the trench coat mafia, watch out he has a gun." I know he was just messing around with me, but it was just getting ugly at that point. I told him to back off and he began to grow violent with me. It all went off when he first spat right in my face. I stood my ground and didn't flintch, I grew angry myself at that point. He then demanded that i appologize for being disrespectful to him. Just right there, that's BULLSHIT! One of the most disrespectfull thing one can do is spit in another mans face. Yet I still stood my ground.... After a few more mins of him taunting me, I was fed up and told him to "Leave me the hell alone." Being the punk he was, he quickly threw his hand to my throat and began choking me. I could tell he wasn't 100% serious about choking me to death because I was still able to breathe through my nose. After about 4 seconds of this I immediatly ripped his hand off my throat and once again told him to leave me the hell alone. I guess he grew tired of me and so he left. Before leaving the room he walked over to me and punched me in the side of my throat/neck area. I was very lucky he didn't get a HARD hit on me, or else I would have died right there from a colaspsed windpipe. He then walked out of the room. I was left in the room with saliva running down my face and finding it difficult to swallow anything.

    Now let me ask you this. At what point did I do anything wrong?

    BTW... this guy can be labeled "A jock."

    -----
    prm@alignment.net
  • Seems to me that a prerequisite for being a geek is having a thick skin. Even on this forum, imagine if you felt the freedom to reach for your gun everytime someone called you a moron. This place would be a virtual bloodbath. In order to keep a proper perspective, I think it is important to focus and keep focused on what is wrong. Some of these things I learned in kindergarten.

    It is not ok to kill people. No matter how much you hate them, feel ostracized or rejected by them, etc. (I realize there are reasons such as self-defense, country-defense, etc)

    It is not ok to be mean. Making people feel like they are sub-human, worthless, lower form of life, etc. is damaging to both the reciever and the giver of such treatment. EVERY person has incredible potential. (Used to be a teacher, guess some of the paradigms stuck around)

    It is not ok to force people into a mold. Any kind of infrastructure or environment that inhibits intellect and/or creative powers is dreadfully wrong.

    It is not fair to generalize. If my brother were to rape and kill someone, I would not want people thinking that I was potentially dangerous. Everyone has the power of choice, and they alone are responsible for their choices.

    Sometimes we can get caught up justifying or condoning wrong behaviour just because we can understand/empathize/abhor the causes of it. But as my mother use to say, "Two wrongs don't make a right..."

    "Know Thy Ignorance"

  • I have two sons who got their GED certificates after suffering through various school systems. If I'd have thought about it earlier, I would have encouraged their sister (who made it all the way through graduation in a school where she wasn't happy) to do the same, and have all three of them do it sooner.

    If you're of high school age, sit back and discuss this honestly with yourself and maybe with others you trust. Are you really getting anything out of school? Does it facilitate your education or interfere with it? Don't factor friends into the discussion -- you can stay friends with people even if you decide to leave school.

    If the plusses for school outweigh the negatives, by all means stay. Maybe you have an awesome math teacher, or you're heavy into things like drama that you can't get outside school (assuming schools still have drama -- that was my escape in high school). But if it's intolerable, you're miserable, you're going to school out of a sense of duty or because your parents are forcing you to go -- quit. Get your GED. Don't walk, run. Don't wait. Then you can start taking classes at the local community college, or learn to hack, or flip burgers or rebuild engines or hitchhike through South America if that's what you want to do.

    As one poster said earlier, high school is not the real world. Come on out. And I guaran-dam-tee you, after about 10 years you'll be in much better shape than the kids in the "popular" crowd. Occasionally I look back on my high school days, 25 or so years ago, and think about all those people who tormented me -- and I just sort of smile and give them a little wave.*

    Caw caw

    * Babylon 5 fans will recognize the reference :)
  • Five comments, five "no sympathy" responses. As if , enemy #1 had written these posts.

    Now, I will go on the assumption Jon did not fake any of these letters. If he did, my judgement would be pleasant compared to those who "supposedly" represents.

    Three years of my life will go down as the worst ever: 1987-1990 (7th-10th grades). During this time I eschewed the social game of life, was excluded from practically every party/event (even some classes for which I was considered "too curious"). I aimed for perfection, and, given the skill level required for things, quite often met it...with disasterous results. I thought (and was constantly taught) that success and perfection was the goal. Yet everytime I did well, it was yet another "beating", another time my books were stolen and burned, another time I was locked in a bathroom. Why?! I was different. Due to a very healthy family life, I never was seen as different at home. I entrenched myself into computers, but my parents believed that this was where things were going and that it should always be encouraged. Lessee, I have a CS degree and am a working programmer...imagine that, encouragement and acceptance at home actually did something.

    What really irritates me about these first few posts is that they do not see the obvious lack of acceptance and understanding these people deserve. Especially during this fearful and paranoid time when every parent worries for their child (I know, I have 2), it is a shame that the response be even more oppression, even more alienation. Not NERD news? This is NERD social studies. It's NERD history.

    I want so hard not to lower myself to the level that so many of my classmates did. Call names. Tell people to get a life/clue. And I will succeed, because I learned to be accepting since I learned the lesson the hard way.

    Age is supposed to grow experience, and experience wisdom. If people do not learn from this, we have lost all chance for wisdom...and will suffer its repetition.

    Jesse

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

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