Littleton: "Geek" Witchtrials

Brian Basgen musides at
Thu Apr 29 16:53:46 PDT 1999

Since Littleton, the cost of being different has gone up. Thousands of powerful e-mail messages have chronicled an educational system that glorifies the traditional and the normal, and brutalizes and alienates people who are or who are perceived as different under various names -- geeks, freaks, nerds, Goths and oddballs. One of the powerful messages coming out of Colorado is

that so many of these "different" kids say they find school boring, oppressive, and utterly hostile, feelings echoed by educational survivors, many of whom are now parents. The hysteria over Littleton has only made things worse. It's time geeks defined and lobbied for some new rights. From their own messages, here are some places to start.

Joan McDonald has been a teacher in a New York State suburban public high school for nearly three decades. "While deeply saddened by the tragedy in Littleton," she wrote Tuesday, "I am appalled at the resulting backlash our students are forced to suffer" in the wake of the Littleton massacre.

The last thing we need in the 20th Century, she wrote, is another witchhunt.

But that's what we're getting. McDonald described what hundreds of other teachers, administrators and students have been reporting all week - an assault on speech, dress, behavior or values that the media, politicians and some educators deem uncomfortably different a/k/a geek, nerd, Goth, the usual labels.

In a Gallup poll this week, 82 per cent of Americans surveyed said the Internet was at least partly to blame for the Colorado killings. And schools across the country were banning trench coats, backpacks, black clothing, white make-up, Goth music, computer gaming shirts and symbols. They installed hotlines and "concern" boxes for anonymous "tips" about the behavior of non-mainstream students. Kids who talked openly about anger and alienation, or who confessed thoughts of revenge or fantasies of violence against people who'd been tormenting and excluding them, were hauled off to counselors.

Thus the students already at risk, already suffering, have become suspects, linked in various thoughtless ways to mass murder and - consequently - more alienated than before.

The Price of Being Different

The number of incidents involving disaffected kids and schools is growing. In Canada, a 14-year-old boy shot two students at a high school in Alberta, killing one. In Brooklyn, five boys were charged with conspiracy after allegedly compiling a list of people to be killed in an attacked planned for their school1s commencement on June 26. In Oak Lawn, Illinois, a 15-year-old boy was charged with assault and disorderly conduct after an ax, knives, a rifle, shotguns, and 150 rounds of ammunition were found in his home. In California, one student was arrested for threatening to burn down a middle school and another for threatening to blow up the high school. In the city of Chicago, a 15-year-old was caught with a .22 caliber gun taped to his ankle. Pennsylvania officials reported at least 52 bomb scares and other threats at schools in 22 counties. In Washington, more than 12,000 high school students were evacuated after a caller said he1d placed a bomb in one of the city1s 13 public schools. In Longwood, Florida, a 13-year-old student was arrested after allegedly threatening to place a bomb at the school and kill eighth graders who had tormented him. A note on a map he had supposedly drawn included the phrase "revenge will be sweet."

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================================== "If we plan to redistribute wealth of those who have too much in order to give it to those who have nothing; if we intend to make creative work a daily, dynamic source of all our happiness, then we have goals toward which to work. And anyone who has the same goals is our friend. If he has other concepts besides, if he belongs to some organization or other, those are minor matters."

Che Guevara 19 August 1960 ===================================

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