Catherine Driscoll catherine.driscoll at
Sun Apr 25 08:49:48 PDT 1999

Doug wrote:

>>Freaks. Outcasts. Weirdos. These words are now casually thrown around by
>>Columbine High School students in reference to the two boys who opened
>>fire, killing 12 of their classmates and one of their teachers. One girl
>>dismissed all the taunting and name calling they endured as "just stupid
>>teenage stuff."
>How intense are these pressures to conform in countries other than the
>U.S.? The American self-image is one of rugged individualists marching to
>their own drummer, but it's hard to see it in real life. What about other

I'm currently teaching a course on 'The Idea of Youth' to undergraduates -- most of them aged around 18 to 22. I've just now raised the coverage of the Littleton shootings as a topic for discussion. If they say anything relevant to this set of questions I'll pass it on (with their consent of course).

>From my own perspective, significantly further from highschool, there are
pressures on boys and girls in highschools to conform, yes, but this kind of event would be difficult to imagine in Australia. I do think it's more about guns than it is about 'teen pressures'. That is, the pressures on young people can be severe and can demand outlets which can be violent, not only within schools. But this is a simplistic way of thinking about 'peer pressure'. What will be pressured and the forms that pressure takes and how that power and the hierarchies it enforces and produces are to be understood are very complicated. They are not the same between any two groups in my experience and the idea of peer pressure has become I think somewhat self-perpetuating.

The fact that these boys (and the boys of previous school shootings) had such access to and uses for guns would seem to me to be the bigger crisis in terms of how not to have this happen again. The power produced by and in relation to guns may not be simple either, but it doesn't have to be when the effects of shooting are so decisive.


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