Links for Learning
1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and
This months Links for Learners will support high school
- Religion - Christian life-styles; peace and justice; the meaning
- Social Studies - current events; media studies
- Psychology - aberrant behaviors; group psychology; violence
- Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
Look for connections for use in programs such as:
Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes;
seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find some of this material useful in initiating
discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities
or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions
or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from
the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.
|Tide of inspiration
Locus of community
Reflecting on the Media's Response to Littleton - Who's to Blame?
The public outcry and, indeed, our own shock and horror that followed
the shootings at Columbine High School highlight one aspect of the
event: a tragedy we will not soon forget. This month’s author turns
our attention to another view of the event: out of the tragedy, she
hopes, will rise a "tide of inspiration" for today’s youth.
The media offer us a deluge of commentary and opinion. You can search
the recent archives of your own local newspapers as well as those
of the country’s major cities. National news magazines, broadcast
news stations such as MSNBC and
online resources offer still more on Littleton. Much of the material
focuses on blame: blame the entertainment media; blame the teen cults
and cliques; blame the lack of gun control; blame schools that are
too big; blame our violent adult society.
If you are part of a group discussing this topic, you may want to
divide into smaller teams and each research one aspect of the media
finger-pointing. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started
talking about possible causes for the shootings at Littleton.
- Blame the entertainment media. In the May 30, 1999, issue
of the Los Angeles Times,
screenwriter Robin Swicord says ("Youth Must Be Served – With
Respect") that filmmakers and television producers are the
dominant cultural force in this nation. More so, adult society,
she says, shapes every aspect of a teen’s life. Adults are the ones
who produce teen music; design teen clothes; create teen video games;
turn out the movies, television and ads they view; manufacture the
guns they use to kill. For full text, search under archives in the
Los Angeles Times site.
- Blame the teen cults and cliques. Are Goths walking examples
of latent terror? See MTV’s Web
site for Littleton teens’ input on the topic of Goths and the two
young shooters. Search under "school violence." Do athletic
and cheerleader cliques alienate other students to the point of
physical retaliation? Do large numbers of teens spend most of their
school lives alienated from fellow students?
- Blame the lack of gun control. The debate continues. The
National Rifle Association, a
powerful and popular force and a collective spokesperson for thousands
in our nation, opposes gun control. Legislators, parents, victims
of gun violence – all cry out for keeping guns out of the hands
of youth and criminals. See New York Representative Carolyn
McCarthy’s site for arguments in favor of gun control. Discuss
the issues of responsible gun use and collecting versus wounding
and death from weapons misuse.
- Blame schools that are too big. Adults build the huge high
schools that control so many hours of a teen’s life; the schools
house as many as 4,000 to 5,000 of our youth on a single campus.
Kirkpatrick’s article, "School Size – Bigger is not
Better," for a discussion of the effectiveness of school
- Blame our violent adult society. The novelist Barbara
Kingsolver, in a recent op ed commentary in the Los
Angeles Times, asked why we find the tragedy at Littleton so
surprising when we as a country continually celebrate violence as
a method for expressing disapproval. Witness Yugoslavia, Iraq, Waco
– situations all responded to with guns and bombs. "Children
model the behavior of adults," she states.
Regardless of who or what is to blame for Littleton’s tragedy, this
month’s author urges us to see the good in the responses of so many
Reflecting on Littleton’s Prominent Themes – A "Tide of Inspiration"
1. Teens reunite with their parents
The author reminds us of what we all saw on television in the hours
immediately after the shootings: parents and their surviving teens
hugging in reunion. Imagine the relief when waiting parents saw their
children running toward them. Imagine the overwhelming security the
teens must have felt to embrace their parents after hours of untold
fear. To begin talking about these reunions, first recapture the feeling
of parents and teens reuniting after the shootings by looking at the
photos on several Web sites: a Columbine
Memorial site and a tribute
So much of the news coverage following the shootings focused on the
teens trying to get word to their parents that they were alive and
that they loved them. How would you have felt or reacted in a similar
situation? Talk to your own parents and stepparents now. Parents talk
to your children. Find the love (or the courage) in your heart and
tell them you love them. Not once, but every day. Don’t leave the
house in the morning without an expression of love and caring for
your family. If you’re not good with words, try buying or making a
simple card that says what you feel. Greeting card stores now carry
simple, expressive cards for only 99 cents. Or send an e-mail card
once in a while to your folks, kids, to a sibling or to a good friend.
As the teens in Littleton discovered, life can separate us from those
we love with a sudden and violent speed. And don’t forget to talk
about receiving love. It often takes just as much openness and courage
to let yourself be loved as it does to express your feelings for someone
else. Let your parents, siblings and friends love you. Don’t put up
walls around yourself. Adults, let your kids know that they are loved.
The heroism of the teen survivors and victims at Littleton occurred
on several levels. There were heroes whose selfless actions saved
others while they themselves paid dearly. Other heroes survived and
are celebrated. But everyone there was a hero in his or her own way.
It takes courage to comfort friends when you yourself are terrified.
It takes inner strength to find a way to get a message to your parents
that you are O.K., to say that you love them, even when you know you
may never make it home. It takes a moral resilience to get up every
morning following such a tragedy and still leave the house to go to
school, to face the reminders of friends who died or were wounded,
to gather together to support one another. It takes a feeling of hope
to pray together, to discuss what the whole thing means, to weep openly
at loss and confusion.
Talk about the situations you’ve experienced where you or someone
else has been a hero to someone, a part of the "tide of inspiration"
for your own generation. Use music to help you open the discussion.
Try Sarah McLachlan’s song "Angel" from her album Surfacing.
Compare "Angel" with Paul Simon’s song, "The Boy in
the Bubble" from his album Graceland. Simon sings of violence
and hope. Your generation has ordinary teens who are real heroes and
angels to one another, not just what Simon calls another hero that
this generation puts on the pop charts. "I Will Remember You,"
a Sarah McLachlan song from The Brothers McMullen soundtrack,
is another good song for getting talk going in a group. See Lyrics
HQ for the words to the Sarah McLachlan songs.
2. Teens turn to their community churches
In the hours and days after the shootings, Columbine’s youth gathered
in large numbers at their local churches. They prayed and hugged,
they ate together, they created memorials to their dead classmates.
Our author says, "The primary locus of community and healing
was area Churches, across denominations." This demonstrates the
faith deeply felt by many teens. And it shows the need for ritual
and ceremony, for signs that both display and memorialize the feelings
of pain and the desire for healing. Isn’t this just what our celebration
of liturgy is all about? We listen to stories of the heroic faith
of Jesus and his followers. We memorialize his life, death and resurrection.
We share a meal together. We support one another from week to week.
Talk about events in your own life that may cause you pain and difficulty.
What do you want to rise above? What do you hope to heal in your own
life? The grief and emptiness in losing a parent? A good friend moving
away? Breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend after a long relationship?
A feeling of isolation from classmates? A friend stabbing you in the
back? Fear of the violence that may prevail in your school? An addiction
to alcohol, drugs or other destructive behavior?
Where can you go for healing? Do you agree that teens can
turn to their Church communities for healing? Do you turn to your
Church to restore your sense of balance? What are the rituals/signs
that help you deal with your pain (and your joy)? Do you write in
a diary or journal to give word to your feelings? Do you create a
collage or scrapbook to keep memories alive? Do you have a trusted
discussion group in school or in your Church that offers you an opportunity
to express feelings? Is there a youth liturgy or prayer service that
gives you a chance to pray and sing in hope? Can you work with a youth
group to find ways to offer service and healing to the community?
For adults, how can you help teens to heal? How can you be more welcoming?
To help you talk about the healing process, research how others find
support in time of need. The Red
Cross, for example, not only responds to disasters and tragedies
with on-site emergency aid. Their Web site, in conjunction with the
American Psychological Association, offers advice on how to recognize
warning signs and how to deal with the aftermath of a tragedy. See
their helpful "Recovering from Tragedy" and a list of nationwide
You may find helpful the government publication, "Early Warning,
Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools." Download and print
the full 40-page text from the U.S. Government
Look at the Columbine tribute site.
You can add your name to a "Caring Wall," write a message
from you or your group/school and find a list of suggested things
to do as a response to the tragedy. At the Columbine
Memorial site, you can download a banner to your own computer
or Web page that says, "Columbine: Stop the hate, start the healing."
MTV has created a television campaign,
"Fight for your Rights: Take a Stand against Violence," to alleviate
the school violence situation. Their first segment, "Warning
Signs," first aired right after the shooting spree in Littleton
in mid-April of this year. Your local listings will tell you when
this will be broadcast again.
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference.
Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading
articles contained within the site’s archives.
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Pathfinder - Access site
to a number of online news publications
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
The History Channel
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation
– Washington, D.C.-based organization
Channel One’s online resource