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Hope In The Hellmouth: Looking Ahead

JonKatz posted more than 15 years ago | from the best-of-times,-worst-of-times dept.

News 321

The bad news was that countless geeks and nerds were hassled, "counseled" and sent home from school last week for looking odd or saying what they thought. Geek Profiling was epidemic. The good news was that there was an extraordinary sense of community on the Net and Web last week, and that the word got out, big time. The "Voices From The Hellmouth" were heard and quoted on some of the country's most influential mainstream media, just as many of you had hoped for. You did good. And a whole new stream of messages came in, many hopeful, positive and looking ahead Beyond the Hellmouth. They ranged from starting a Geek Church to offers of help from kids, parents, and teachers.

There was bad and good news from the Hellmouth last week. The national hunt for oddballs did, in fact, become a hysteria. Many journalists, parents, educators and politicians chose to blame the Net and computer games rather than face the much more complex and unwelcome messages coming from Littleton.

Things turned increasingly ugly, for geeks and oddballs, as teachers, administrators, reporters and peers sometimes made them feel like potential murderers.

Kids by the hundreds were sent home, ordered into counseling, sent to special classes, lectured, suspended, expelled and ostracized for thinking differently and being different. Many of these messages are harrowing.

" My school has locked down," e-mailed Josh late last night from Colorado. "The four days that I wasn't too depressed to go to school I was patted down by the police and was taunted by the "jocks" and faculty! The morale of my friends and I were so low that you couldn't get a worm to crawl under it. The counselor called me to her office. She asked me If I had ever played Doom or Grand Theft Auto, and I told her that I had. Then I was sent home. Crazy man, this just shouldn't be happening to a normal nerd like me."

It was happening to lots of normal nerds.

But there was good news from the Hellmouth, too.

The Web suddenly became a place, not just for software and start-ups, but for testimony. Educators and pundits kept telling us that schools are fine, that the real problem was violence online, on TV and film, in games. But geeks used the Internet for the first time to speak over the heads of institutions in a powerful, unfiltered way. Their stories were irrefutable.

On the usually diverse and quarrelsome Internet, there was something approaching unity and a sometimes enthralling sense of community.

One reporter asked me if I had any messages for parents. I didn't, but the thousands of kids and former kids e-mailing me did: instead of blocking computer games or the Net, support your kids and their culture, and work to make your local school more humane, creative and responsive to the many students who chose individualism.

Oddballs, nerds, Goths, geeks and other so-called misfits seemed to ground one another after Littleton. They told and traded stories and seemed to take some comfort in the realization that they were a new kind of nation.

And while most mainstream media continued to bombard the country with disturbing images of grief juxtaposed with wildly irresponsible finger-pointing, and to disseminate the most thoughtless and inaccurate stereotypes about computing, gaming, the Net and the Web, and Goths, a growing number of journalists showed that it's also simple-minded to stereotype all reporters as hostile and clueless.

My apologies to those reporters -- especially some working for National Public Radio, the San Jose Mercury, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, Charlotte Observer, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle - who looked beyond the hysteria. They worked hard and rooted out and exposed some of the worst excesses of "geek profiling" going on all over the country.

Defying conventional wisdom and sometimes risking their editors? wrath, these reporters - many of whom were young and are online -- gave voice to geek kids under siege. In dribs and drabs, the other side of the story began to trickle out, filtering not only through the press but through the stunning, rapidly evolving connective power of the Web itself. Your stories made their way into homes, schools and media offices all over the country.

So congratulations to those of you who had the courage and good will to post messages to me and the site, and to begin writing a new history for geeks and nerds and for the Net.

Some of these stories from ultimately were broadcast via, and and NPR and are being quoted in influential newspapers; they continue to circulate. Sunday, the San Jose Mercury reprinted "Voices From the Hellmouth" on the front page of its opinion section. You were heard. You did some good.

I heard from dozens of teachers and school administrators whose students asked them to read your (and my) Slashdot writings. Some parents were surprised as well.

"What a stunning experience," e-mailed Kathy, "to read these very painful messages on Slashdot - my son gave me your columns to read -- and to suddenly really that one of them was from him. May he forgive me... I knew how unhappy he was, but on some level, I guess I just didn't want to face it. I bought the notion that it's just part of life in high school. What a strange new world that I should get this awareness from a website. Monday, I have an appointment with his principal. It's time for somebody aside from Jason to feel the heat."

"These kids are heroes for speaking out," wrote Mr. H, a school principal in San Diego, California. "For what it's worth, I passed these columns and the responses out at a faculty meeting. The teachers were shocked, but they also - unanimously - agreed they were reading some painful truths and were determined to respond. We all went home and got on our own or our kids? computers to read these stories from the Hellmouth ourselves. Speaking as one school administrator, I want to say lots of us got into this business to help, not hurt kids. I hope you can make that point.

"We have work to do.

"But some of us hear you, loud and clear. Kids, if you have suggestions, make them. The good administrators and teachers will hear them, even if they don't seem to. The bad ones'well, you'll be no worse off."

By this weekend, my personal e-mail had probably topped 6,000 e-mail messages chronicling a tide of misery, alienation and exclusion in the country's schools. Slashdot received several thousand more messages, many of which were posted on different threads, but the site had to cut off some posts each day due to the volume.

Meanwhile, scores of sites popped up where geek students and survivors could tell their own stories. The tales could go on forever, here and elsewhere, but they've made their point.

While horror stories continue to pour in, a number of these messages were positive, helpful and forward looking, evoking a world beyond the Hellmouth:

From "Youth Cry", from Lord Kinbote:

?I have decided to start a Campaign towards fighting for the youth to be heard in the world as individuals:

Youth Cry.

Every day I go to school wishing for it to be different. Wanting a place for hope, a place to learn, a place without hate, and a place where being different isn't so wrong. But instead I find myself trapped in a prison of conformity. They tell me how I should be just like everybody else, how I should play their sports, how I should join their clubs, and how I should give up everything I have to be like them.

?it's time to let our ideas run free in the world and not be scared of the ridicule of being different. I ask you to stand up and shout your cry now, the cry you've held in all your life, but never let out because you were too afraid. Wear this ribbon on your sites around the world to help put out the blaze...

(The banner may be obtained from for use on pages.)

The Church of Geeks, from Mark:

Surely if [you] founded the ?Church of Geekdom, geeks in schools will be protected by the existing laws? Hardly practical but maybe another stick to beat the administration with, and a way to underline the fact that it's a (peaceful) way of life.

Call To Arms, from Bojay:

With all the commentary and what-not surrounding the whole debate, I think the time might be right to issue some kind of call to arms for geeks. Most of us are pretty, well, non-political about issues. I think if we're going to be running this country's infrastructure, and building communications world-wide, we ought to have a say. Which brings me to my second point - why can't we form a special-interest group? Over 1500 people have commented (some fiercely) about this. 99% of them think school was hell. Why not form a SIG to address "geek rights"? If you have any pointers, or some people you know who think like-minded, let me know. I'd like to start working on something that /will/ make a difference, not just a stir.

I'm Going To Speak Up, from JD:

There's a school board meeting next Wednesday, and you can bet that I'm going to be there, speaking on this very subject'I wish they had the Web when I was a little younger. A community is a good thing.

From Turned In:

I can understand where a lot of people are coming from on this. I am a 'freak' and 'goth'. I don't even know how I got the Goth label since I never wear black (I usually wear colorful outfits), don't like Marylyn Manson, and am an overall happy person. People seem to think I'm weird because I listen to Bjork and like Linux. Also, people (wrestlers, so I don't give them much credit) think I'm going to blow up the school. Why, you might ask? Well, because I am taking French, I dyed my hair, and (here's the clincher) I have a unibrow! So now unibrow = unabomber. Everyone watch out for that extra hair, it could be the difference between normal and serial killer?

Again, thanks for giving 'freaks' a place to be heard.

Fight Back With Jedi Mind-Tricks, from Geek Girl:

I am one of the misfits- a Girl Geek, if there was such a person. I got abused horribly by the jocks like the guys did, but it was worse in some ways as a woman because of the sexual element. ... I never considered doing violence to my tormentors- although my desire to defeat them led me in a roundabout way to the study of the occult- where I learned instead to rule myself. (Yes, there is a good side to the occult, if you can get past all the BS.)

Now, I understand how Jedi Mind Tricks really work, and when I have to have a run-in with a jock sort (they live in a time warp, growing potbellies and kids, but never truly maturing) I remember how weak-minded they are, and whop them with a bit of good old verbal and mental Aikido.

I AM ALONE, by Robert Sterling:

I am alone

beholden to no one

I need no one

I do not care

if I or anyone else


Nor do I care what

others think

what they want or

how they feel

I am alone

And now I can laugh

and that is good

for I was not



to do so

Copyright 1999 Robert Sterling

Queen of Peace seeks Doom Club Competitors:

Hey guy,

Queen of Peace HS in North Arlington, NJ, already has a DOOM club - they can't find anyone else out there to compete against. Are there any others? (do they dare announce at this time?), the contact name is ( Ms. Crocco at Queen of Peace )

Don't Go Back, by Janus:

I'm a freshman at a California high school, and a geek, and a Goth, and I don't have to tell anybody reading this what a Hell-week this has been for me - to the principal's office three times, and my parents have grounded me for the rest of my sad life, taken Doom, confiscated my Marilyn Manson CD's?oh well, no point in complaining. I will never quit or be beaten. I narrowly escaped counseling by bringing in a note from my minister.

I just want to say to all of you that for all of that, this has been one of the worst weeks of my life, but also one of the best weeks of my life, because for the first time in my four-year career as a creative and hard-working geek, I felt I had some help out there, that there were people I could go to. And there were actually stories and columns about me and people like me. I thought for sure nobody cared. So that was awesome!

Geeks will always fight, because it's their nature, but please don't go right back to all the flaming and arguing only... For me, and for all of the young geeks out there, how about it? This could really make a big difference in my life, and while I'm writing this, five wretched geek friends are standing right behind me while I type this in... Okay?

I Want to Listen, From a Teacher:

I am a teacher of high school; seniors in San Jose at Santa Teresa High School. Many students seek my time as a listener who makes no judgements. My age [68] may be a factor. Perhaps they look on me as a surrogate grandfather. When they seem to feel the need of someone to talk to in confidence, they ask, I listen.

I am worse than novice on The Net. I guess its a hangover from big telephone bills. However, if you think I can be of listening assistance for the loners, I will volunteer through you.

I want to be a listener for these kids. Please let me know if I can assist.

The Quiet Revolution, from JD in Chicago:

I feel strangely optimistic about this week, as a veteran misfit with many ribbons and scars. If I hadn't learned how to stand firm while avoiding confrontation, they might have driven me crazy too. We are making a quiet revolution, the geeks. You can call it open source or open music or open whatever'it's unstoppable. All we have to do is not quit, and eventually, time will come around to us. Or maybe, a better way of putting it, is our time is coming. Then all of the things we've suffered won't be in vain.

Was it my imagination, or is the new story that things are looking up in the Hellmouth even, as Janus suggests, when they seem to have been worse than ever?

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Re:Doom? What about Quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906236)

Because "Doom" is a game that is well known to parents/teachers since its been around longer.

Personally if i was the game industry, i'd sue for media harrassment. I'd also have all major owners in internetbackbone sue the media as well for harrassment.

That'd be the only way they'd stop fucking around and concentrate on real issues

Just an experiment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906237)

We're seeing how much beating a dead horse can take.

Seriously though, it appears that people need to talk about this and I'm not going to begrudge them that. I am beginning to think this could use a permanent page of its own, seeing as how even the super-powerful /. is having trouble fitting it in with all the other services.

Jesus Katz, enough with the self-promoting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906238)

we can already guess at your next book. so stop pushing this crap on us already. you've already overdone the subject. by now the dead horse is nothing more than a stain in the grass.

geeks get singled out at school. WOW shocking revelation. just like every other clique out there that gets singled out at school. i'm amazed at how perceptive you are to the youth of america.

you do realize that you're only feeding the media on the subject matter. Kosovo is old, nothing new and exciting out there, so HEY, let's milk this high school angst crap for all it's worth. it's already at the point of over-analyzing, katz. and no one seems to have analyzed it correctly. so for now it's time to just drop it all, let the next one step up to the plate, mow down a bunch of students and teachers, so that way we can all sit back, AGAIN, and analyze what's wrong with the world, and finding no answer, milk the subject matter so that laws get passed, tv stations get ratings, and kids are still living a fucked up life down in the school system. being used by the cockroaches of society called the media. and yes katz, you are the media.


Re:Doom? What about Quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906239)

I have heard the media spout off about DOOM numerous times now over the past couple of weeks, and I'm really wondering why I haven't heard a single mention about Quake.

That's because the name 'DOOM' sounds more violent than the name 'Quake' - some non-computer people would hear 'Quake' and think "You mean like those Quaker people that make the oatmeal? Aren't they non-violent or something?" And the horror that sells papers wouldn't hit them. Meanwhile, they can hold up a name like 'DOOM' and it has more impact on the people who don't know what it is. It's a relative of the easiest scapegoat problem you mentioned.

They don't know any better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906240)

It's funny, the only id game I have is Quake2, but my wife thinks I play DOOM because she heard about it in the newspapers. She says, "I read all about it - you go through caves and find different weapons to kill different monsters - that's that game YOU PLAY! You've been playing DOOM! You're not secretly planning to kill everyone at your office, are you?"

When I tell her that the game I have isn't DOOM but a more recent game by the same people, she won't believe me.

Whoa, it's not that bad!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906241)

My wife listens to me in general, she just has no interest in computers and thinks that games are pretty juvenile (and seeing that I'm a 38 year old husband, father, and physician, she may have a point there ;-).

My point was just that people really do latch onto the name "DOOM" because it seems so evil and ominous.

Re:I never felt this bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906242)

Going to Murrow helped keep me from possible suicide or some other personal ruin I think (my neighborhood school was Canarsie High School, which is even worse now than it was a decade ago).

Re:Thank god I'm finally free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906243)

>Thank god I'm a university student now, where
>everybody is judged to their ability and not to
>their appearance.

hahahahaha! Oh, you were serious... I'm a university student, and the situation is, in many ways, identical to high school. Don't get me wrong -- college is great; college is to high school what high school was to junior high, only more so.

Generally speaking, people are always going to judge you based upon your appearance -- such is human nature. The nice thing about college is that frat boys (or jocks or whatever) can more easily be ignored since there is FAR more acceptance of social diversity.

Now if there were only more acceptance of a diversity of ideas, we'd be getting somewhere. But since that leads us to the hoary brink of the nether-realm of "off-topic-ness," I'll leave that for another day.


Re:Different != good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906244)

Being different isn't a bad thing. It's all about your morals and your core values. And, it's not about societal norms, it's about a respect for others and a responsibility for your own actions. Somewhere in America, these are being corrupted. It's not the media's fault, it's not a computer's fault, nor is it online gaming, Dungeons and Dragons, or any other outside influence. People need to stop blaming society and take responsiblity for raising their kids. And why doesn't anyone realize this starts out early? If you haven't instilled a set of values in someone by the time they reach high school, I'm sorry, but you're not going to do it then, no matter how much time and money you throw at it.

Think Diff'rent Strokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906245)

Willis, Arnold, and what was that girl's game? They were all Diff'rent. We KNOW what happened to them. Steve Jobs is a different sort of guy (Think Apple!) and the jury's still out on him... but I recently heard on TV how he admitted to making calls that were looped around the US several times to a payphone that was right next to him. He would should on one phone and hear it on the other 53 seconds later. Hmmmmm.... FUD for thought.

So can the demo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906246)

You have a good idea, possibly even a GREAT idea.

You just have to fix it up a little bit with your group. Come up with a plan to convince the local politician/bigwig/pastor that what you do isn't all that bad. Just make a canned demo like every sales critter does.

Agree in advance with your entire group of a list of games you can play on that day that look good. Instead of TFC, choose something like Ages of Empires. And instead of conquest mode, choose a nice, peaceful ending goal like building a wonder. Then agree in advance to set up your game so you are all allies and work together. There's a lot of networked games out there that don't look like doom. Practice on some of them a weekend before you try this.

And for heavens sake, don't have any copies of doom/quake/TFC lying around. If you get asked about them, tell the politico that you have tried them, and they were boring/too bloody/antiquated and that most of the geeks LIKE playing simCity 3000.

Then the clueless ones will go away with a slightly distorted view of networked gaming, but its no more distorted than what the media is blasting them with.

for bonus points, no one should wear trenchcoats or all black. Tell them its just a fashion statement for when you go outdoor or to school, but that even the most extreme geeks are just normal kids with an extra dose of creativity. Pile on the bullshit.

Nah, Elway retired yesterday too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906247)

All the newsworthy stuff seems to be taking place in Colorado...

Re:Streamed Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906248)

Do you want to go a Microsoft supported school?

Bleh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906249)

Indeed. The inmates have many concerns. Ask any parent. They are not being addressed. Ask any inmate.

Nothing ever changes.

Slashdot Channel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906250)

Maybe we'll start to see a shift here as Slashdot slowy starts to become a first tier news outlet.

If the Slashdot Channel is not available in your area, call your cable provider and request SC: TV for Nerds.

Schools freaking out. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906304)

You know. They ran an artical in our town paper saying how our town was just like the colorado town. I thought FOR SURE the school would freak out. I must admit, they handled it very well.

I got to talking with a school consolor about the issue, and she agreed that Games, TV Violence, and the internet arent to blame.

My school distirect is pretty screwed up, but It humbles me to see how well they are handling it. But it saddens me to see how poorly others are.

I think anybody that has been screwed over by either there parents, or the school should show them the slashdot stories. It could open some minds onto whats REALLY going on.

Doom? What about Quake? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906305)

You know, I was just wondering....I have heard the media spout off about DOOM numerous times now over the past couple of weeks, and I'm really wondering why I haven't heard a single mention about Quake. I know that's a sidenote, but anyways. I think it is terrible how there is no longer such a thing as personal responibility in our society, and until that changes, those who are easiest to scapegoat will continue to be scapegoats. Sadly, us geeks fit into that category. All I can say is that we should all fight the good fight, and that they'll get my DOOM over my dead body.

Re:"wanted" poster? but be careful (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906306)

Great idea!

It shouldn't be too hard to make one of these and get a handful printed out. Just make sure you destroy all other evidence of doing it before you go out and post it.

Then go out and put a few of these around your school. See if it sparks any debate. If it doesn't, then start to worry.

If I had the time, I'd make each of those categories also reflect groups of other students, such as "hangs out with other students with similar tastes".

What Will It Take? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906307)

As one of the "over 40" regular /. readers, I've
found the Katz articles and reader responses quite
refreshing compared to the majority of mainstream
press coverage. Thus far school administrators
seem far more content to externalize the
conditions that lead to such erruptions as
Littleton. Externalizing the causes deflects any
consideration of how the subtleties of school
policies and administrative decisions impact

Having spent 7 years on a local school committee
in one of Boston's "better" suburbs, I can not
begin to adequately articulate how personally
frustrating it is trying to talk about ideas for
change and improving quality of school life with
administrators who don't even understand why your
bringing up such topics never mind act upon them.

Public schools, with their eyes focused backwards,
wedded to traditions of the past, and protected
from real change by unions, are terribly insulated
from the real world.

My hope for what emerges from the ashes of such
tragedies is that people don't let things "return
to the 'normal' routines." Doing so will only
prevent learning and true systemic change. We all
need to use this time as an opportunity for real
change in our communities that extends beyond the

Enough, it is too much for too long now!

Re:Different != good (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906313)

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

And how is society supposed to prevent future Littleton tragedies if they can't single out people who they suspect may have problems.

Where do you get that from? From what I have been reading on here, most people don't feel we are superior. I think most of us feel we just aren't inferior, as others seem to think we are.

While it may be prudent to look into those who may be more prone to do something like what occured in Littleton, it does not excuse the excesses gone to in the last week. People have had police investigations on them because of HOW THEY DRESS! Wearing a trenchcoat, black clothing, etc. is NOT probable cause. It does not warrent searching of ones belongings (or an investigation). If you allow them to do that, just wait till it's "wrong" to wear what you like. Then see how you like it. This is basic civil rights. Even the most vile criminal has rights. If you don't like that, move to China.

The correct response here is to talk with those you may think identify with the killers and find out why this REALLY happened. No, it's not just one thing, but if you talk to enough people you can get a broad base to look at. This isn't something that can be understood in a week, maybe not even a year. It will take some time, but to attack those kids in school now who dress, act, or play differently even more is just plain wrong and could cause another incident. The accounts here on Slashdot are just one part of the story. But it's an important part that needs to be heard.

Overreacting and passing a ton of new laws isn't the answer. There were plenty of laws that were broken leading up to the tragedy at Littleton. Persecuting the geeks isn't going to help either, and could cause more harm. We need to work toward understanding each other, only then can we see the real problems and work to repair the damage.

Aren't we milking this a little too much? (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906314)

Hey, I liked the first two articles on this, and it is an interesting issues... but aren't we milking this a little TOO far? If not, why don't we create a nerd in school icon for related stories so they can be filtered? (Or discriminated against!)

Profiling is BAD (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906315)

So now white geeks are learning what those of us with middle-eastern looks/names/religion have known for years:

It sucks when black motorists get hassled for DWB (Driving While Black), when black women are subjected to full body
searches at the airport by drug agents with NO evidence (and NO drugs are subsequently found) and when high school deans
and prinicipals start hassling people for dressing in a non-standard manner or for being interested in technology.

Oh yeah ... and it also sucks when I get hassled by airlines. :-)


A lot of empty words from various officials (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906316)

I've been listening to various officials on this topic. One school administrator said (of going back to school today) that it's time to "Get back on the horse." I always suspected my school administrators of being on SOMETHING, I just didn't know it was horse.

I hate that cliche' and I hope the previous kills it for good.

One administrator said that students WILL be safe and that they'll be there for them. Funny, isn't that what they said BEFORE? Call me a cynic...

One administrator said that they will not make schools a prison. Yeah. At least in prision you can smoke. And wasn't that what the schools were before? That's always what I thought when I was incarcerated. But then, we already knew I was a cynic.

AC's Predictions:

Nothing will change for the better. The system will be more ruled by paranoia than it was before. We'll probably see a few more metal detectors and security guards in the schools for a while, some more restrictive rules on backpacks and clothing and in general a much more oppresive atmosphere than we had a month ago. There will be a lot of talk and a few symptoms will be targetted, but you know what, the actual disease will still be there and it will not be addressed. Bummer.

AC's best bets for survival and keeping your sanity: Get out as soon as you can, get your GED and go to college. The younger memebers of the audience are SOL. Sorry. Pressure your parents into looking into home schooling. It ain't much, maybe someone else can come up with more.

School System. Thought it was just me. (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906317)

I'm now 25, but I went to school in a very conservative, very small Southeast Texas town. To make matters worse, my parents were not only involved in the school, they worked for it. My stepfather was my principal throughout my high school years. This may sound like a blessing to some, but for me it was a curse.

I too was a bit of an outsider (a popular outsider, but an outsider none the less). I didn't like what everyone else liked, I didn't listen to the same music, I didn't dress the same, I didn't really enjoy school activities. I preferred being on my computer, reading a book, or playing D&D with my friends.

I was a very foward looking person, and I saw right through the illusion that was High School. I knew that short months after graduation, I wouldn't be hanging around with the same people, and the things that I did or that happened to me would be of very small consequence. However, with my parents working in the school system, there was a large pressure to "succeed". I don't mean just academically, that part was easy and came naturally, but I had to put off a good example for all the other kids. I had to belong to all the prestigious school groups, and I had to either be in band or sports, I had to date the right girls, I had to be someone I was not.

Or, rather, I was expected to be. I did my own thing. But, it caused me no end of emotional pain. It seemed that everything I wanted to do or found fun was wrong. I had a lot of emotional issues because I was pushed into a lot of roles that I didn't really fit into. Luckily, I was fairly popular, and people realized that I was a genuinely nice guy, even if I didn't look or act according to the norm. I was fortunate that way. But, while I didn't get harrassment from my peers, I got it at home full force. Everything everyone's been writing about how school was so fascist and demanding and conformist, that's how my home life was as well. All the things I wanted to do were somehow "wrong" or "demonic" or just "deviant". Every month it seemed my mother was confiscating things out of my room that she didn't want me to have, such as computers, CDs, modems, books, you name it. They bought into all the hysteria on everything. Some kid went out and killed his friends, and he just incidentally happened to play dungeons and dragons? There go all my role playing books and dice. That's just a remote isolated instance. My parents never seemed to understand that I knew what was going on and that I had a vision that extended further than the next three days. There were girls I dated not because I loved them or because I wanted to spend forever with them, but just because I found them interesting. It was high school, for christ's sake, but my mother assumed that every girl I brought home was one that was a potential marriage candidate. Everything was all about appearance, not facts. I almost went crazy living that life. Why can't school administrators and parents understand that just because their kids want to be a little different, or experiment with things, it doesn't mean they are a bad kid. Not everyone fits into the societal norm. I really thought I got a warped view on how high school was because my parents were a part of the whole system. I thought that perhaps it was just me and I was the only one that got oppressed on a daily basis.

I still rememeber my parents yelling at me to "get off the computer" or "go outside and do something productive" or "why aren't you in more school activities? You sit around too much on that damn computer". I wonder how they feel knowing that this year I'll be making 20k more than the two of them combined ever did, and I'm doing it on "that damned computer".

Glad to see the silver lining in all this (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1906318)

Katz has found a medium where he excells, as a passive moderator of an online community. This series on the hellmouth is a great work of moving the ego out of the way, and letting the substance of a community shine through.

I am especially heartened to see all the others who, like me, are giving words of encouragement to those suffering through the hellmouth of school. The messages about it getting better all ring true, high school in America is truly a hellacious place for any type of non-conformism or individuality. It has gotten much, much worse in the 20 years since I was there.

I suffered through all kinds of official torment each time I showed a bit of being "different", once getting expelled for 3 days for playing 'punk music' (talking heads and blondie in 1979) on the school radio. I built the school radio, the transmitter and the studio, and just before graduating I brought many accolades to the school for some of my achievements. The school claimed them as proof of their ability, but I have always chafed at that, since everything I did was against school policy, and still is. Last week they banned Marylyn Manson and all goth music.

So, kids out there, don't despair. You'll make it through school, despite the administration and the cops and the councellors. And when you get out the other side, you will find there are rewards for being "different", and not all of them are financial. When your first art exhibit opens to good reviews, or your first computer game hits the shelves, or you get appointed to a human rights commission, then you will know that being different paid off. Persevere.

Thank god I'm finally free (1)

ESD (62) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906320)

This really frightens me.. I have had problems at school, but the way even *TEACHERS* are reacting to this as a way to get rid of the geeks scares the hell out of me.

Thank god I'm a university student now, where everybody is judged to their ability and not to their appearance.

Out of Context (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906322)

Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

On Sunday, when my network gaming group (the WPNGG) had our last meeting I brought up to the group the possibility of inviting a local politician or two ot see us game and possibly get a better understand of what video gaming is all about.

I was rapidly shot down by people who feared that the person(s) whom we invite might take one aspect of the gaming out of context, one of them said words to the effect of "Yeah, and if they see us playing Team Fortress Classic as soon as they see us trying to take out the president, it'll be all over."

I think that civillians just don't get what we do, and don't get what we are.

Maybe because they're not capable of doing so, maybe because they just don't care, maybe both. Over the years I have developed a sort of contempt for people like that. The "I can't program my VCR!" people, HEY RTFM AND LEARN! These people who expect machines to do what they want instead of what they instruct it to do.

"Why won't this stupid machine print?" Um, because you have to TELL IT TO PRINT! See under the FILE menu? That little thing that says "PRINT", yeah do that!

Sorry about the rant, but you know...


Re:Different != good (1)

demon (1039) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906340)

I don't think anyone's trying to say being different automatically makes you better. They're just trying to say it doesn't automatically make you worse.

I believe someone said it best with these words: "We are all born individuals - why is it so many of us die copies?" (paraphrased from memory)

Also, Littleton might not have happened if it weren't for the "conformists" who think you're not worth anything if you don't conform to their idea of what is good and right. Try that on for size.

Some of my favorite parts... (2)

Derek (1525) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906353)

"Many journalists, parents, educators and politicians chose to blame the Net and computer games rather than face the much more complex and unwelcome messages coming from Littleton."

Well said.

"Some of these stories from ultimately were broadcast via, and and NPR and are being quoted in influential newspapers; they continue to circulate. Sunday, the San Jose Mercury reprinted "Voices From the Hellmouth" on the front page of its opinion section..."

That's a refreshing change. Shashdot is usually quoting those sources, rather than the other way around. Maybe we'll start to see a shift here as Slashdot slowy starts to become a first tier news outlet. Then again, maybe not. (?)

Anyway, good luck to you geeks that are still in school. Been there, done that.


Other views I've encountered (1)

jd (1658) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906354)

These series of articles, and the replies on Slashdot are like a breath of fresh air!!!

Yes, there's some diversity in opinion (which is wonderful), but there's none of the spite, hate and violence I've seen on other boards discussing the same thing.

Places as different as Salonmagazine and MSNBC's boards are predominantly inhabited by people seriously advocating fixing the violence by being increasingly violent, abusive and discriminating against their own kids and other people's.

Kids learn what they're taught. If a kid is taught that might make right, that if someone disagrees with you that you SHOULD inflict suffering, that anger is best served explosively, then that is the behaviour they are going to show.

If you throw in verbal and physical abuse, isolation, neglect and blaming the victim, you end up with someone with a LOT of pent-up, built-up anger and hate.

Add easy access to weapons & explosives, toss in a pinch of Hollywood shoot-out glamour, throw in some questionably-prescribed drugs that those responsible are all but panic-stricken in their need to deny any possible connection, and there isn't the money in the world that could pay me to walk within a million miles of the place.

Frankly, it terrifies me that so many people WANT their schools, households and kids to be about as stable and secure as nitroglycerine ducks in a shooting gallery.

this reminds me of "the wall" (1)

Sasafras (1908) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906358)

This whole story makes me think about the pink floyd movie the wall alot. The poem up there is a perfect example. They have built up thier wall and are now "comfortably numb". The problem isnt the geeks are listening to the wrong music, everyone else is, they would have realised this would happen if they listened to pink floyd :)

another brick in the wall (1)

Sasafras (1908) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906359)

After all who really wants to be just "another brick in the wall."
I am propably going too far with this, but im wondering why you are saying it that way. Read the poem above, it seems like the people picking on that person were bricks in the wall. Also, maybe the people who pick on others, and try to be the same, just use this as thier own wall. If anyone is interested in talking about this stuff contact me (through efnet irc). There is so much in the wall that explains what happened here.

Re:Different != good (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906362)

Your followup is better, but...

...but what harm is there in having them talk to a couseler?

To what end? About the only thing a decent counseler can do is make it clear that with choice come repurcusstins: if you choose to be different, then you will alienate many with which you might otherwise wish to associate. If the freedom to be yourself is worth such a price, then there is nothing wrong with you. Some, however, are not quite ready or willing to pay this price for their individuality, and help understanding this consequence is welcome.

However, this i not what many counselers do: they try to force you to fit in. Worse, some may harass you even after you have chosen to be different and accept any resulting alienation.

Kids who are beaten do not need counseling - they need to have the same rights in the security of the person respected as any adult.

The counceler should be competant enough to sort out which kids merely "look different" and which ones are truly disturbed and need help.

And what form should this help take? Learning to fit in? Or, security from battery? You don't need a counseler for that, you need rights and the power to back them up, hopefully vested in a trusted third party. There is no such third party available to many battered kids, and, in such circumstances, using force, deadly if necessary, against their batterers, is perfectly justified. Where there is no law, it is perfectly acceptable to take it into one's own hands (and avoiding this is one of the reasons to have law in the first place). Unfortulately, abuse often leads to misperceptions about who one's abusers are. This does not justify simply countering the dangers of such misperception, but, if anything, is a stronger incentive to counter the abuse in the first place: you can't blame a crazy person for being crazy.

You are born a jew, you are born black, these are not lifestyle choices. One is not born a Goth, one is not born with body-piercings all over ones body, etc.

Ah, the old "nature vs. nurture" debate. Tell me, are some peopleborn gay, or do they become gay? honestly, I don't think we know. But, people are born with the capacity to choose, and the fact that they do should, by itself, not be a reason to deprive them of their rights.

Re:Different != good (4)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906365)

The point missed here is that while "evil and violent" does imply "different", the converse, that "different" implies "evil and violent" is not necessarily true. Unfortunately, the powers that be apparantly never took a course in logic.

The U.S. was built upon some pretty important principles, one being that one is innocent until proven guilty. Supposedly, before investigating and othewise violating someone's private life, one should have reasonable suspicion or, after the fact, probable cause. There's a reason why the police are supposed to get a search warrant before searching someone's property. Looking different isn't enough.

Your line of thinking is frighteningly close to how Hitler managed to strip Jews of their basic rights, and kill them by the millions -- with the help of Goebels (minister of propaganda), he innundated the population with true stories in the media of Jewish rapists, murderers, thieves. (We tend to do the same thing with non-whites, sadly) To simply be Jewish was now enough reason to "investigate" and act.

doing something (1)

joshua (2507) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906367)

I've seen a lot of people talk about doing something about this but not much action - I can't do much myself due to the joys of impending finals, but I do have time for one thing - if anyone's interested in a mailing list to discuss all this and plan a movement/church/web site/whatever I'll setup a mailing list (I'm talking peaceful action here folks, not mass murder, just in case that's unclear).
Mail if you're interested.

Group hug (4)

Ray Dassen (3291) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906369)

It's a pet theory of mine that the biggest impact of telecommunications, and the net in particular, will be cultural.

In the past, one's culture depended to a very large degree on one's physical place. The net is changing this, and allows us to find our own cultures (yes, plural), independent of our geographical location and "real world" culture. Not a global village with a monoculture, but a bazaar of cultures/communities.

This need not necessarily be a good thing (think of suicidal cults), but the Hellmouth discussions show that it can be. The net is a place where we can go beyond the grief this tragedy caused, and where we can force each other to search our souls, not just to ask "What went wrong?" and "Who/what can we blame this on" but also "What can we learn from this?".

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the Hellmouth discussions and thereby helped the "real" world show that the net is a home for communities.

Life, the Universe, and Everything (4)

[null] (4156) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906372)

I apologize for posting this now instead of earlier in the Hellmouth series, but it was terribly long and I didn't want it at the last page of 300 comments where few people travel. Yes, it's really long and just reiterates all the stuff you've heard until you get towards the bottom half.

As an avid Slashdot reader, former high school and now college) student, and self-confessed Geek I feel compelled to give you the my viewpoints. I have been mostly speechless as most of the articles and comments from my fellow Slashdot readers have essentially said most of what I feel. However I must express some of my own viewpoints.

The fallout of the shootings in Littleton have lead many to attempt to find any explanation as to how such an event could occur. Many are blaming anything that they can tie to the killers. Trenchcoats, Quake, Marilyn Manson, the Internet, Hitler, and anything non-conformist all are being blamed. This is very ironic. Let us examine these closely.

Trenchcoats: Now some people would have you believe that wearing a trenchcoat automatically makes you someone who will shoot up anything. This is ironic because if you examine it closely, your officers of the peace and armed forces have trenchcoats as part of the standard uniform. And these are people carrying guns as their job. I don't see them shooting up everything in sight without orders.

Quake: this is the classic "blame violence for causing violence" issue. Does this mean if I watch the news and they show a protest in Israel, fighting in Kosovo, or footage of the civil rights marches of the 1960's that I will go shoot people? I don't think so. Actually, the effect of so much violence being shown by the media leads to the viewers being desensitized.

Marilyn Manson: The same people who listened to rock in the 60's (who are now the parents of the children listening to Mariliyn Manson) are doing the exact thing their parents did to them. They blame the music for their kids being disobedient. How hypocritical.

The Internet: The Internet is at fault for providing the killers with bomb plans? Excuse me. I believe there is another place where you can find everything you need to know about building a bomb. It is your local library. I do believe Abbie Hoffman wrote one book with bomb plans in it, and there is the _Anarchist's Cookbook_ too, along with everything from chemistry books to books on the physics of the atomic bomb. The Internet only makes it faster to find what you are looking for.

Hitler: I believe it was reported by an NBC affiliate that one of the killer's mothers was Jewish, or at least had Jewish roots. Strange. Also, the people who are acting anything like Hitler are the people segregating anyone resembling a profile of the killers and forcing them to be ostracizied. They're rounding them up into internment camps and re-education facilities they call "counseling" and "therapy sessions", or they exile them from school to keep all the other "good" children safe.

Anything Non-conformist: The parents, teachers, school administration, etc. are mostly of the Baby Boomer era. They were non-conformists. They had Woodstock, they experimented with drugs, and they didn't conform to what their parents wanted. Suddenly the people who didn't conform to what their parents wanted expect their children to conform to what they want?

A Geek Life Story

I had a rough time in school from the start. Both my parents worked. My dad worked various shifts, and my mom worked mainly 3p to 11p 5 days a week. We lived in the bad part of the Port Clinton, Ohio. In the Port Clinton area, you can go from a $500,000 view of Lake Erie from a cliff to less than $300 apartments in duplexes built as temporary housing for troops in World War II that were meant to be destroyed after the war. My parents encouraged me to learn. We sacrificed cable TV, good clothes, and everything else for books and educational stuff. We got our first computer in 1990. Things got better for us by misfortune. My father was in three auto accidents, one in 1984 when I was 6, one in 1986 (IIRC), and one in 1989. From the total of the three accidents he is partially paralized, suffers loss of short term memory, has severe muscle spasms, thoracic outlet syndrome, and a host of other ailments. This set the stage for me to grow up with an even bigger division between my classmates and I. I had a father who was working to pay the bills, in constant pain, and unable to do the normal fatherly things like teaching his son how to throw and catch a football or baseball. My mother worked full-time to pay the bills. There were doctor bills, lawyer bills, insurance bills, everything. My parents fought to get the insurance companies to pay on their policies and pay the bills. They finally reached a good settlement which allowed us to move into a good neighborhood, wear good clothes, have a satellite dish, and live the "average" middle-class life depicted in the media and television. "Oh boy!" I thought. I had been a subject of ridicule since about third grade. I was always called "very bright" by teachers. I never fit in with the other students though, because I couldn't play their games (not knowing the rules and how to kick or throw a ball) and I would always get praise from the teacher, causing jealousy and anger in my classmates because it was demonstrated that I was smarter than them. I got ridiculed, but I actually got attention, something I didn't get at home. I seized on it. I became a class clown. They put me into a Talented and Gifted program where I had fun and learned things instead of being bored in class. I didn't get along well with the other people in there because I played class clown. I didn't know how to make friends. People learned my father was handicapped and made fun of him. I couldn't do anything. I was like this until high school, where I finally snapped and started defending myself. I had enough of a certain group of sophomores and older picking on me in gym class. I started poking fun of them when they started taunting me, and one day it came to a head where I saw the group enter the locker room in a mass. I just turned to ignore them, and they came around me and one of them punched me hard right in the back. I jumpped up on the bench and laid into the kid all over the head. His buddies drug me out to the teacher and told her I attacked this kid, and I told her he attacked and I defended myself, and please let's take this down to the principal. It went to the principal where I was told that I would be seeing ten days of out of school suspension. I told the principal that any policy where someone is punished for defending themself was unfair, and that I would gladly take it to the school board and an attorney if I needed to. Needless to say I wasn't punished. As a result of this though, people didn't mess with me as much. We would trade insults but not much else. However I wasn't still in the "in" group because by then I saw the "in" group for what they are: materialistic, superficial people with bad values and morals. I decided that I didn't have to get perfect grades or wear $50 jeans or cheer the school on. During this period I contemplated many different acts of violence against my classmates or my teachers or the administraton, or even myself. I thought regularly about suicide. I attempted it several times. I survived long enough to graduate. I did think about getting a GED; however, the even though you can't be discriminated for having a GED it still carries certain stigmata.

What Happened After High School?

I'm at a university in south-eastern Ohio reknowned for its party and riot reputation, surrounded by more of the same people. I realized that last quarter. I'm not doing too well in my classes either. The difference between the people here and the people in high school is that the people here realized whether I graduate or not, I will likely end up being paid and worth more than they are. They ask me for computer help, they actually try to integrate me into their social activities, and they respect me more than the people in high school did. I am still emotionally scarred from my time in primary and secondary school though. I have been to several counsellors, psychiatrists, and I currently take 20mg of Prozac a day. I had one brief relationship which broke up badly because I did not feel adequate nor was I actually adequate for my significant other, and I had nothing to guide me in the relationship, since I had no experience. I have only a few things in my life that make it tolerable. Right now my father is fighting to keep working, since his employer (an automotive systems coroporation recently made wholly separate from a large US automaker) and the union he is a member of (a union for people in the automobile indusrty) are discriminating against him because he wants a policy of their changed because it is discriminatory. Remind yourself that he is legally handicapped. (You may not like the term, but that's what it says on the blue and white tag that gets him front-row parking in most places.) He now has some idea of what life was like for me. He really wants to continue working there but the people there want him out because he didn't sit down and shut up and conform. If he loses his job, quits his job, or takes disability from them, he effectively can't make enough to help put my sister and I through college, and he doesn't have job skills for the current job market nor can he pass a physical to get a job. He takes his anger out on the rest of the family, and we understand why he does this. We're waiting for more information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to get back with decisions on how to handle these matters. That's where things are for now.

What's Ahead?

I am doing something that I want to do. I run [] (not the official site in case you didn't catch the .org) and while it's been a pain in the butt it's something that I have hope for. I'm doing it in part because I sort of owe my life to Sarah McLachlan and other singing women. It's kind of my outlet and my stress relief to listen to that music rather than rap, R&B, or a group of screaming boys jumping around. I'd like to get a job as an administrator for the summer at least, if not for the next year if someone offers. I'll be happy to take a year off from college. I'd like to be part of Lilith 99. I'd bust my butt for them in exchange for food and a place to sleep for 4-6 hours. Happily. (Okay so I'm weird.)

What the Heck Should I Get Out of This?

* Some people have it harder than you (I didn't intend this to make a flood of personal hardship stories, but just an example to try to cheer up some people who think they have it bad).

* Maybe sometimes hauling off and decking someone might be a Good Thing (okay this is debatable).

* Find something to have hope in. Find something to put your anger towards. Don't lose hope!

I'm not afraid to stand up and say I'm James Turinsky. If someone has a problem with it that's too bad. Feel free to reduce/recycle/reuse any part of this if you tack my name and my e-mail address [mailto] on it. Feel free to e-mail me. Feel free to ICQ me at #20441490. I have nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

Re:Different != good (1)

scenic (4226) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906373)

What you said above is entirely different from your original post. I don't think anyone is saying that there are "no such [things] as a destructive lifestyle." The point is that skin deep investigations don't help the situation. Also, many students are different without being destructive.

I know many Goths who don't do drugs or commit crimes, as well as geeks, freaks, and even jocks! I didn't interpret anything Katz was saying as condoning destructive lifestyles. But, as someone pointed out above, being different does not equate to being destructive.

Conformity is NOT the answer.


conformity does nothing (3)

flats (5097) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906375)

So conformity is a good thing? A one nation world? A one Operating System computing platform?
That is what your arguement is sounding like.

Einstein was "different".
Socrates was "different".
Jimi Hendrix was "different".
Linux Torvaldes is "different". (grin)

The problem with stereotyping the way people act with the way people look is that there will always be people who break the stereotype.

What does conformity accomplish? If everything is the same -- what changes -- where do new trends come from -- where do we evolve mentally and as a society?

There should always be a conflict , someone rocking the boat and changing the norm. Stagnation accomplishes nothing. If it was not for being "different", new ideas would not be as plentiful.

You can't single out "suspects" of who is going to strike next. It could be anyone, it could be an honors student who snapped because he didn't study for a test and failed it and it ruined his GPA. It could be a kid who has mental problems. It could be a teacher whose wife just left him. It could be a principal who just can't take it anymore. Looking for people because of how they look is making the innocent out to be guilty. Last time I checked in the United States the law was "innocent until proven guilty". (I can't speak for other countries)

I see the weak point you are trying to make that if you dress differently then you should expect criticism. And I think the problem here is lack of respect....if I dress differently why should you disrespect me? Because I am different from you? That is no reason to disrespect someone, that just causes more problems and seperation.

The attitude is not "people who look and act differently are superior" no one is claiming superiority, all anyone wants is equality. That's like saying defending women's liberation is being "anti-male and pro-female domination". We should have the right to express ourselves in any manner (which does not hurt others) and not be condemned for it. The attitude is not "we are better"; the attitude is "you are not any better/worse".

"It's so easy to defend the status-quo" -nofx

Thanks! (3)

Vertigo1 (5415) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906376)

Jon Katz is to be commended. I the recent past I have not always agreed with him, but this time I do. This has gone on long enough. Enough is enough and it's time for a change. A social revolution is at hand. The lurkers from down below have risen to the challenge before them, and are taking a stand at being themselves. Don't be a cardboard cutout of a pattern that was designed by someone. Be yourself and revel in your own accomplishments. After all who really wants to be just "another brick in the wall."

my two and a half cents....

Re:Different != good (1)

Chameleon (5810) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906378)

Actually, Hitler and his fellow Nazis believed in so-called "pure" genetics, as well as the murder of all those that do not conform to their ideals... ...just like the KKK, who all dress alike.
The Heaven's Gate cult encouraged prospective members to conform to their style of dress and worship.
But that's beside the point. That was a blatant troll. A really good one, too, if a little unreasearched. Congratulations.

Re:Different != good (1)

Phil Wilkins (5921) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906379)

"cultural value" eh? And just which culture's values are we talking about here?

There's a first time for everything (1)

Phil Wilkins (5921) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906380)

Do you understand the concepts of chain reaction and critical mass?

Re:Different != good (1)

JohnL (7512) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906386)

Adolf Hitler was "different". The people in the KKK dress "different". The Heaven's Gate cult was "different".

Jesus (if you believe in 'im) was "different". The signers of the Declaration of Independence were "different". Ghandi was "different".

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

I haven't seen that at all. I would say that the "attitude" is that people just want to be left the hell alone, to be themselves. Yes, there is the feeling that "Since I don't persecute and abuse you I'm morally and intellectually superior to you.", but I think that's quite justified, don't you?

What good is "expressing ones individual identity" if everyone else thinks you are a freak, and treats you as such?

Because it gives you your self-respect. It says "I am ME! Not a name, a number, another drone! ME!."

how is society supposed to prevent future Littleton tragedies if they can't single out people who they suspect may have problems.

They could make them wear a yellow, six-pointed star on their chests...

Psychotic Views (4)

chialea (8009) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906390)

Done what to ourselves? Yes, we chose to be different, but we did NOT choose to be abused, harrassed, or beaten. The reaction to our personalities comes soley from the environment. I am living proof of this. I am the same person, to a large degree, as I was in middle school. (except no longer depressed... and that grew from my treatment there) In one school I was made fun of and avoided because I could program, and far worse, I was female. What girl/woman is expected to program, let alone beat the guys at it -- or math or science or anything else? Several YEARS later I found friends -- people, almost exclusively -- who had moved from other states or countries where the rules that prevailed there did not loom so darkly. We weren't beaten like other geeks might have been, but we were humiliated. Luckily for me, they did not hit girls, but that did not prevent them from throwing my books to the ground or stealing my possessions.

Was I asking for any of this? Simply by being intelligent in unexpected areas, I was a misfit and worse.

My family moved to CA, after far too long of this hell, and I went to a school were people were TOLERATED. Had I changed in those short months of the summer? No. But my environment had. No longer was school a living hell. Yes, it took me years to recover, but at least I was able to.

So what did I do wrong? How was I asking for my treatment?


Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906392)

Adolf Hitler was "different".
The people in the KKK dress "different".
The Heaven's Gate cult was "different".

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

What good is "expressing ones individual identity" if everyone else thinks you are a freak, and treats you as such?

And how is society supposed to prevent future Littleton tragedies if they can't single out people who they suspect may have problems.

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906393)

BTW, I'm not suggesting that everyone look and act the same, when I say "different", I'm talking about the extremes. When I see people who get into lifestyles that glorify nihilism, death, destruction, violense, just what is the cultural value?

Re:Myoptic Views (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906394)


And if you can't figure out what the problems are, then you are probably part of them

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906395)

that "different" implies "evil and violent" is not necessarily true.


Your line of thinking is frighteningly close to how Hitler managed to strip Jews of their basic rights, and kill them by the millions.

I am not suggesting sending these kids to the gas chamber, but what harm is there in having them talk to a couseler? The counceler should be competant enough to sort out which kids merely "look different" and which ones are truly disturbed and need help

I had friends during high school who got into the Metal lifestyle (1980's), and they ended up destroying themselves (though they didn't really hurt others). One kid became an alcoholic and drug addict. He was divorced at 18! by 20 he had two children by different women, and he landed in jail several times. When I first met him, he was a clean cut kid. I'm not saying the lifestyle itself is to blame, but if someone had intervened early on, and saved him, wouldn't it have been worth it? Another similar clean cut kid I knew got into the same lifestyle, and ended up robbing a gas station.

population with true stories in the media of Jewish rapists, murderers, thieves. (We tend to do the same thing with non-whites, sadly) To simply be Jewish was now enough reason to "investigate" and act.

You are born a jew, you are born black, these are not lifestyle choices. One is not born a Goth, one is not born with body-piercings all over ones body, etc..

In short, I have seen friends destroyed by destructive lifestyles, and I can't take people like Katz seriously who seem to suggest that there's no such thing as a destructive lifestyle.

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906396)

If you are "so smart" than why don't you answer the question instead of resorting to name calling?

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906397)

What you said above is entirely different from your original post.

It sounds different because it's often difficult to condense all of your thought's into one of these posts. When I reread my original message, it sounded as though I was promoting blind conformity, which I'm not, so I had to post followups to clarify, unfortunatly I think I was a little late judging from all the messages. ;-)

True some people want to be different, but others adapt to extreme lifestyles as sort of a cry for help.

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906398)

What good is being (gay/black/other disenfranchised minority) if you are

But these are not lifestyle choices, they are not what I'm referring to.

Often the victim of lifestyle choices is the person who makes them. I've seen people destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol, and children before they are out of high school, and I just wonder, "This doesn't have to happen! Why do we glorify this stuff?"

Re:Different != good (1)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906399)

I am specifically referring to lifestyle choices, not the way one was born. I too fall in the "geek" (always hated that term because it was used as a pejorative in the 80's when I grew up) category, liking computers and stuff.

I too was ridiculed for it, however this is not a destructive lifestyle.

However there are lifestyle choices that lead people down the path of destruction, (I don't think the "geek" lifestyle is destructive), with drugs, excessive alcohol, crime, etc. I've seen this first hand with many of the people I grew up with, and my point is why do we make such lifestyles the moral equivalence of other non-destructive ones?

Re:Different != good (2)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906401)

And when you see these "different" kids, are they alone? No they are with a group of kids who look just like them, so they are conforming.

Re:conformity does nothing (2)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906402)

If anything, I'm for diversity in OSes, but I think you will even admit that not all OSes are ed equal.

In the same way, not all lifestyle choices are equal, as I stated in another post, I grew up in the 80s, and had several friends who became "non conformists", and ended up destroying their lives with drugs, alcohol, crime, etc. I believe that there are definatly negative lifestyle choices, and I think anyone who is intellectually honest will have to agree with this statement.

The problem is that our culture seems to be more and more buying into ethical relativism -- all choices are equal, there is no right and wrong, etc. I think this is going to bite us in the *ss more and more with tragedies such as Littleton.

Re:Way more than enough. (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906407)

I think the heart of this Hellmouth series is hardly Katz' writing. Indeed, Katz has been writing as little as possible. What he has said has mostly been superficial, but it's meant to be, because that's not the POINT of these articles.

The hundreds of posts that accompany each of these articles is the point of these articles. Katz is merely sparking a community forum.

Nice Job Katz (3)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906410)

After having read the "Hellmouth" series to date and the related /. discussions, I have to say this has been one of the most positive, refreshing uses of the net I have seen for some time. Aside from bringing back old, forgotten memories of just how difficult and painful high-school was (and thereby improving my own empathy for some of what kids are going through today), I think it has started us down the very necessary path of taking a hard look at some of the real dysfunctional aspects of our society.

Some additional points (not very organized, but worth saying I think)

* Things must change, else we'll see (much) more of the same. Children do not go mad in a vacuum, clearly something is very wrong, and it is high time we started looking at the causes with something greater than the hitherto superficial calousness and passing interest. Blame games and superfical pop-phychology are simply no longer acceptable.

* The fact that "that's always the way it's been" is no excuse for not initiating change. Until 70 years ago war had always been considered a pretty good way of expanding one nation's influence, power, or wealth at the expense of others. While we still make war even today, very few think of it as anything other than a trajedy. 30 years ago racism was institutionalized in the US at every level, now, while racism still exists, most if not all would be very emberrassed to admit racist attitudes today. Two lessons come from these examples: (1) real progress is possibe and achievable, regardless of the length of history or lack of precedent preceeding it, BUT (2) real progress is almost always slow and painful, as evidenced by just how much work still needs to be done (vis a vis achieving a society in which war is unthinkable, and skin color is of no more, or no less, interest than hair or eye color). This is both a cause for hope and excitement, as well as a cautionary note to not place one's expectations too high, and to not grow too discouraged if ones expectations are not achieved right away.

* The net has often been touted as a tool for social change. The "hellmouth" phenominon looks like the beginning of what could be a very powerful, very positive example of this, especially if it can bridge the communication gap between those of us who have suffered under the system as it currently is, and those who have the power to facilitate change. I find it incredibly reassuring that administrators, parents, and teachers are reading the comments on /. and taking them to heart. Maybe positive change will come during my lifetime, afterall.

* "Open Source, Open Music, Open Thought, Open Minds." (Not my quote, but I'm happy to adopt/pirate it) The scientific paradigm (the open exchange of ideas which are then subject to peer review, discussion, and improvement without -- ideally -- preconcieved bias) is I believe the catalyst for this phenomenon. The net has made this paradigm available, even fundamental, to many outside of scientific circles. Like the printing press bringing literacy to the masses, the changes this will spark are nothing short of staggering. But IMHO the net is simply the medium, it is the "open thought" paradigm, finally given the means to reach a large percentage of humankind, that is the real force driving change.

* Finally, please, please, if you're going to use MS Word, turn off "smart quotes"! Those non-ISO standard characters are displayed as question marks by those of us using non-windoze browsers, and they are really distracting!

Re:Different != good (1)

smileyy (11535) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906411)

Adolf Hitler was "different".
The people in the KKK dress "different".
The Heaven's Gate cult was "different".

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

I don't think it's being said that they're superior. Just human, too. And that non-conformity is okay. You cite a few examples of differences being "bad" -- ignoring all the non-events where "different" people or groups are neutral or even helpful. And also ignore all the events where "normal" people have done destructive things.

I've gotten the impression that there's an idea in our society that setting out on your own, being a leader, taking risks, etc. is a good thing. Yet nonconformists are mocked, beaten down, and dragged back in by the pack.

What good is "expressing ones individual identity" if everyone else thinks you are a freak, and treats you as such?

This is a cultural/societal problem with the people who thinks a person a freak, not with the "freak" himself. What good is being (gay/black/other disenfranchised minority) if you are mocked/beaten/killed? Why does a goth lifestyle threaten people, aside from forcing them to expand their mind? Why does any lifestyle, if it hurts no one, ridiculed/persecuted?

Re:Different != good (1)

smileyy (11535) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906412)

Often the victim of lifestyle choices is the person who makes them. I've seen people destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol, and children before they are out of high school, and I just wonder, "This doesn't have to happen! Why do we glorify this stuff?"

Honestly, I didn't know we were. And I don't think we are.

The metal/drug culture you reference in another post -- is it the cause or the symptom of a destructive lifestyle? Or is it somewhere in the middle? (I'd opt for that last option myself.

My point was that non-destructive lifestyle choices shouldn't be marginalized -- there's simply no reason, except that they take others out of their comfort zone. And, destructive or not, 'rebel'-type lifestyles are often reinforced when faced with being blindly squashed -- which is often the case, rather than a rational look at the person behind the lifestyle.

Nerd in school icon ? (1)

Augusto (12068) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906415)


ahem ... no probably not. These stories are popping up now because of the recent events, but probably they'll quite down in a few months ...

Would anybody be interested in a geek get together (1)

Neuroprophet (12311) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906417)

A geek church might not be the way to go because the media would just label it as a cult of some sort. Instead we could have monthly get togethers where we could discuss current issues, trade stories, etc. It would be more like a support group for people who different.

Does this sound like a good idea to anybody? If so email me.

Would anybody be interested in a geek get together (1)

Neuroprophet (12311) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906418)

A geek church might not be the way to go because the media would just label it as a cult of some sort. Instead we could have monthly get togethers where we could discuss current issues, trade stories, etc. It would be more like a support group for people who are different.

Does this sound like a good idea to anybody? If so email me.

Re:Some of my favorite parts... (1)

coldnight (12780) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906421)

Maybe we'll start to see a shift here as Slashdot slowy starts to become a first tier news outlet. Then again, maybe not. (?)

I submit that has indeed become a major force for news and, I would rate it much higher then CNN. For, in its design, CNN is still a single voice - a broadcast medium. Thier web presence is simpily thier telex feed and some scripting. The power of slashdot is the many voices, without pay, not looking for advertizer dollars but helping the membership learn and stay current.

I have slashdot as my startup page - I go to cnn every now and then. I suspect slashdot to have 2-3x more updates on slow days and more then 20x more updates durring high news days. The new media has arrived - its slashdot!


I never felt this bad... (1)

Stardate (13547) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906423)

...but I went to a relatively progressive high school (Murrow in Brooklyn, NY). It's good that the 'Net is providing a sense of community for these kids, because if I see one more kid shooting article or how DOOM is bad I'm going to go live in a cave (with a Linux laptop of course).

The Website At The End Of The Universe. (1)

red_one (14125) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906424)

There are no words I can offer to geeks, to offer reassurance. I can't say anything you haven't already heard. All I can say is there is hope.
And you underestimate your own power! :)

The Website At The End Of The Universe. (1)

red_one (14125) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906425)

There are no words I can offer to geeks, to offer reassurance. I can't say anything you haven't already heard. All I can say is there is hope.

And you underestimate your own power! :)

"You did good." (1)

breadf-n (14494) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906429)

Hey, Thanks JonKatz!

Can we name JonKatz the official mascot of geeks world wide?

He rocks my world.

Myoptic Views (5)

Bucko (15043) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906431)

For nearly two weeks now the search for meaning and the search for culprits in this terrible event has led to -
Well, where it's led has depended on who you read. And I find that "interesting" to say the least.
Read Salon, it's the gays who are being blamed. Read the W. Post and it's the Goths, the Marylyn Manson fans and the Hitler Youth who get the blame. And let's not forget gun owners.
Read SlashDot, and it's the Geeks who are blamed, except that they are blaming the jocks.
Yeah, right. Who's kidding whom? You hurt someone, you're part of the problem. You pull the trigger, you're a big part of the problem. You point fingers, you're part of the problem too. And that includes the Geeks here, who don't seem to notice that they're doing-unto-others exactly what they say is being done to them.

Yes, this is one big mess and the e-mails Jon Katz has shown all week us are compelling. But I can't help but think that those of us who ever saw ourselves as outcasts have done it to ourselves.


Re:Doom? What about Quake? (1)

Samurai Cat! (15315) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906434)

Probably because "Doom" has been around longer - it's more lodged in the brains of those people spouting off... and it sounds more, well, "evil" than "Quake".

"Quake? They play a game about earthquakes? What?"

It just doesn't have that same "Oh my god my kid is evil for playing it" sound to it.

Re:Nice Job Katz (2)

MikeTurk (18201) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906452)

Nice post...just wanna insert an MS jab here

Finally, please, please, if you're going to use MS Word, turn off "smart quotes"! Those non-ISO standard characters are displayed as question marks by those of us using non-windoze browsers, and they are really distracting!

I'm using IE5 in Win98, and they show up as question marks here too...IE5 actually uses ISO 8859-1 or ANSI 1259(? -- the Windows charset, but I'm not sure about the number), so the quotes don't work outside of Office. Consistency's for losers, I guess.


Re:Just an experiment... (1)

warpeightbot (19472) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906454)

What a good idea, give the topic (which needs a LOT more airing out, IMHO) a page of its own.

I just happen to be working on such a thing; a safe haven for kids to discuss things, sharpen their brains, and hopefully get some help if they need it; it could perhaps include a separate forum for those of us who have already been there and done that to hash on it.

Anyone who wants to counsel kids, or who knows something about running an IRC server, or would otherwise be interested in such a cyber-place, drop me a line.

Glenn Stone
Geeks Anonymous (Real Soon Now - watch this space!)

Re:Jesus Katz, enough with the self-promoting. (3)

warpeightbot (19472) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906455)

I didn't hear a thing about Himself in the what, four? articles he's posted so far on the subject. The reason he's posted so much is because there is, in fact, more to tell. The first was about how he thought it was. The second, about all the email telling us how it really is. The third, the "normal people"'s backlash. This one, about the anti-backlash.

Furthermore, this last one is the most important one, IMHO. It means we're not dead yet. It means that something good is going to come out of all this death and destruction. Katz has an ego, yeah. But this ain't part of it. For once he's being a good journalist, unlike the shlock we get on the street and the boob toob every day, and telling as many sides of the story as he can get his hands on. Tell me where the hell else I can go and get that, huh? Please, I'd love to get some unbiased non-nerd news once in a while. The ONLY place I know of to get ALL sides of a story is none other than right here [] . And Taco don't post politics.

Don't criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins. Then you'll be a mile away, and you'll have his shoes.

Who still.. (0)

Ellis-D (19919) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906458)

plays doom. I haven't played doom since 96.. I'm now playing Half Life and I don't think I would go back to the Doom engine..
"Windows 98 Second Edition works and players better than ever." -Microsoft's Home page on Win98SE.

The truth is out there... (1)

Ellis-D (19919) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906473)

I think that Jon has done a great deal to help us get the truth about the whole thing. I think that for once we are being seen and making a radical stand in our society. This is what america is all about. I feel that most of us, the /. people, are the most american people than most american are, and that's including the people that don't even live in the state. They contributed a bit in the whole discussion that has been going on here. Even thou there has been some stuff that could not be agree upon, but after all the arguing that has been going on, we finally came to find out were some of the problems are comming from and all the shit that has been dished out on the current 'non conforming' students and showing the world that this has gone overboard and that we need to take care of these issue. I think that what the school have done recently is insane and quite stupid. I feel that the schools basically fucked them selfs over with all these suspensions and all the punishment they giving the student for exercising their freedoms. It seems that the school administration is reading 'Fahrenheit 451' like an instruction manual. Maybe they will start passing out drugs next? But I feel that we hurt our selfs with the 'witch hunts' and that we will pay for this for awhile. I wonder how many lawsuits against schools will show up about this. ACLU is going to be all over this as we now and big time lawyers will be all over this. It's going to be the next big money scam that is going to hurt our school finnacially, but it will beat something into these so called 'caring'and 'smart' school administrators. Oh well.. I'm just rambling on here.
"Windows 98 Second Edition works and players better than ever." -Microsoft's Home page on Win98SE.

Re:Myoptic Views (2)

Sonic-B-PHuCT (19956) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906475)

I'm sorry. Perhaps I should have tried harder to be the school prom King. Perhaps I just wanted to be called 'Fag' all the time. If only I could have just ignored my curriosity for the binary challenge, or my love for good art. Silly me to think that I didn't fit in with the people who kicked me in the hall and spit on my lunch and snapped me with their towles in the shower after P.E. Perhaps I should have refered to them as 'Your Highness' & all that humiliation would have gone away! Perhaps I shouldn't have ever opened a book at lunch time so it wouldn't have gotten stolen. Of course I did it to myself! What an idiot I've been all these years to think that they didn't like me. If only I would have known that all that shit was their way of saying, "Hey bud, Let's be friends."

Bucko seems an appropo nick for your 'Myoptic Views'!


"wanted" poster? (4)

ywwg (20925) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906478)

Someone (I call notme!) should make a "wanted" poster that kids can post in their schools:

for crimes yet to be

There are members of our community who are threatening the bland conformity that we have tried so hard to create! Please report anyone matching the following description to your superiors so that these individuals can be "corrected." Remember, opinions you don't agree with are wrong!

Warning signs:
-- odd clothing
-- liking for weird, therefore bad, music
-- heavy internet use
-- high intelligence
-- seeking out others with similar tastes
-- zits
-- dislike for classes, teachers
-- reclusiveness
-- anything else?

actually, this is getting stale (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906479)

not that i don't understand the importance of the issue (which i probably don't), but I am getting a little bit sick of all these nerds/geeks articles.

i don't really consider myself one (nerd/geek), but i suspect that some people might see it in me, as well as I do not get offended if they simply refer to the fact that i program and find wit in s/([^c])ei/$1ie/g;. So I do think that JonKatz writes articles about me as well. But I certainly don't want someone writing article after article proclaiming me normal, different-but-good-different, etc. I already know that. I knew that long before these articles started. I've known that my whole life.

Please reply and tell if anyone else thinks that the subject is mostly finished. JonKatz has raised awareness for the computer age kids, but it is pushed as far as it can probably go.

Geek Profiling run amuck (3)

laura20 (21566) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906481)

The irony of some of the geek profiling has been enough to make you retch at times. The NYT did a piece on an Arizona high school, outlining the cliques and in particular where they sat at lunch. The jocks and cheerleaders outside at the prime tables, and god help you if you tried to sit there if you weren't of the approved. The regular students inside the cafeteria. And off in the drama building, the drama geeks as well as various other oddballs who had taken refuge with them, because anyone from special ed students to geniuses could hang out there without fear. So let's guess which group was being harrassed last week: the gentle tolerant ones or the assholes who had driven them out.

Yes! Got it in one. They wear *black*, after all, and therefore must be EVIL.

I've got a suggestion for a constructive bit to go with our venting, though: there were two superb replies on one of the earlier Hellmouth threads outlining exactly what rights students had (they can't just suspend you without a hearing, for example) and how to work the rules if they start making arbitrary dress code changes and the like (they ban black? make them specify exactly how much black you can wear. Helpfully report popular students who violate the rules.)

It would be an awfully good idea to put up those sort of useful messages in a permanent, easily accessible area/webpage (Geek Defense, perhaps.)


Us. (4)

Q-bert][ (21619) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906482)

I think we as a group of people need to come together and show people who and what we are. For so long we have stayed in our own groups and kept to ourselves because of feer of what would happen if we spoke out. I feel that now is the time that we should raise our voice against today's socitey and point out all the problems in it that create a culture that excludes and persecute us.

We should take a stand and cry out against the injustice that is done to us, and for once stand-up for ourselves. Not through violence like the boys in Littleton, but through peace of words. We must make people see that what they do is wrong and they we are not the bad ones, that they are the ones who would destroy us, not us them. Through our united voice via the Internet, our great tool, should we show people that we are good.

Re:Different != good (2)

digitaldaniel (24033) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906483)

Adolf Hitler was "different".
The people in the KKK dress "different".
The Heaven's Gate cult was "different"

Alot of people are different, look at Albert Einstien's hair, why would you name just a few sick examples of difference?

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

ummm, I don't think that is the attitude we portray, if it is then its wrong, but in general I believe we are just saying that those who are different are not any less of a person then the people who surround them.

What good is "expressing ones individual identity" if everyone else thinks you are a freak, and treats you as such?

So you believe that one must conform to societies image of how an indivual should look and behave? I think what is important here is that whats on the outside of the person is exactly what we should not be judging a person on. And while for some, this may be the case, more commonly those who look different from our selves are wrongly prosecuted for their apperence. Conforming would be the easy way out, in the short run, but suppressing ones identity leads down a path of inner destruction, and cowerdice.

And how is society supposed to prevent future Littleton tragedies if they can't single out people who they suspect may have problems.

How would you? Would you single those out based on thier apperance? On thier choice in music? Games? Friends? These attributes are not what distinguishes the right from the wrong type.

Re:Different != good (3)

ChrisGoodwin (24375) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906484)

The POV of eponymous cohort: Adolf Hitler is "different," therefore, everyone who is "different" is bad. Therefore, we should send all those who are "different" to re-education (i.e. counseling) and keep them away from decent folks (i.e. other students, especially the conforming ones) because they're going to snap and start killing people.

Have you been missing Katz' point entirely? Kids are being singled out for no other reason than their looks and being officially harassed.

I seriously hope to whatever supreme being may or may not be out there that you aren't a school administrator, police officer, or other government official.

What good is "expressing ones individual identity" if everyone else thinks you are a freak, and treats you as such?

Ever heard of the First Amendment?

Easing our conscience? (5)

dmorin (25609) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906488)

I hate to be a cynic, but I am honestly expecting all of these counselling centers and offers of help and assistance to slowly fade out over the months. People want to help in the immediate wake of the crisis, but how many are truly in it for the long haul?

I point to the case on Slashdot of the guy who was challenging MS because he owned the term "Internet Explorer." When we found out his kid was sick, everybody wanted to send money. People offered to set up accounts. Then within days, when people found out he'd settled, all offers were taken off the table.

This is NOT the first time a school shooting has taken place. Why are people offering to start things now? Why didn't they start them last time it happened, so it wouldn't happen this time?

A view from the fence (4)

RebornData (25811) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906489)

I've been experiencing the repercussions of this event from both sides of the fence. I'm fortunate enough to be a sponsor / leader for the high school youth group at my church, which is urban and Presbyterian. Although we're a little light on "jocks", otherwise we've got a real cross section of the high-school power structure among the group members. (As an example, we recently participated in an interfaith-exchange program, and after seeing our group, the Jewish delegation asked if our church required boys to have long hair. :-)

I deeply know the pain and agony that can be life at highschool, both from the young people in the group and from my own school experience (I won our district's high school *team* programming contest working alone. There wasn't anyone from my school there. 'Nuff said).

However, I've also heard the fear of being bombed or shot from almost every young person in our group. One of our youth talked about the fact that when he walks around now, he always keeps an "escape route" in mind. Another told of a "lock down" because someone brought a gun to class. Yet another was sent outside for a few hours after a bomb threat emptied the building. Yet another was on a "hit list" confiscated from a student who had allegedly been planning a mass-murder. Many were afraid to go to school last friday, which supposedly was the anniversary of Hitler's death. The terror goes on, and on, and on.

The problem is that now, every attention-seeking, disaffected, neglected youth knows how to get immediate attention and action: threaten to shoot something or blow something up. It's very sad that our educational institutions (and parenting!) have fallen to the level that this is necessary. But it is also unacceptable that our young people (most of whom go about their daily business without picking on people) live in fear.

If you've been experiencing the Hellmouth, I sympathize deeply with you. Please find *someone* to talk about it with, whether it's your parents, your church leaders, your friends, or an Internet community.

Please *don't* take out your frustrations by "pushing the limits" and scaring other people, no matter how tempting that may be at times. It just doesn't help, and it will only prolong this backlash.

Oops (1)

fuckwit (30610) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906503)

I, uh, seem to have replied to the wrong message. That last reply (WELL FUCKING SAID!) was supposed to go in the message below this one asking Katz to please spare us from the mind crushing agony of another round of this bullshit self promotion he's engaged in. Sorry 'bout that.

Here's your reply :) (1)

DonkPunch (30957) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906505)

I tend to agree with you. I'm getting a little uncomfortable with labels like "geek", "nerd", etc. To me, they are just as restrictive as terms like "jock".

/* Insert the obligatory "my adolescence was Hell because I was different" narrative here. */

One of the great things about being an adult is that you don't have to accept these labels. I work with computers and enjoy it. I do a lot of other things, too. Very few people can be adequately described with a single label and I think it's hurtful to think of yourself as part of a narrowly-defined group.

Maybe the real problem is not persecution of certain groups, but the labeling of people. When Katz was describing examples of students being persecuted for not looking/acting like everyone else, I was all for it. Now, it's starting to sound like, "Rise up, geeks! Fight the power!" and that bothers me.

Re:They don't know any better (0)

Vrongar (33454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906511)

If she wont listen to you why do you talk to her?

Re:A lot of empty words from various officials (1)

Vrongar (33454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906512)

Anything rather than listen to the inmates, right...?


Re:"wanted" poster? (1)

Vrongar (33454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906513)


PS You forgot hair....

Re:Different != good (1)

Vrongar (33454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906514)

Fool! Your own examples DISPROVE your point.

german National Socialism was about killing any who was different. Geeks aren't the Nazis in this scenario....

Religeous cults are even MORE about conformism!

My right to be different stops at your personal space. But so does your right to 'conform'....

Re:Myoptic Views (2)

Vrongar (33454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906515)

Right. because any kid who choses not to conform is being hassled, and some of them are actually daring to complain, you say they are equally guilty? Get a grip!

I'm guessing you weren't one of the outsiders at school, or you would not say such things. Cliquey, clannish schools make 'geek's lives a living hell. Shit, you pressure and exclude someone every day for years, make it a legal requirement to attend and then you're surprised when there's an explosion?

Streamed Education (5)

Silex (34738) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906519)

This problem isn't going to go away by teachers, parents or students asking jocks, and all the people who push around nerds, to just stop. They know exactly what they're doing, and it takes a LOT to convince them to stop.

What needs to be done is that nerdy students need to be given a somewhat private enviornment where they can learn together, in peace. This not only protects them from the horrors of school bullies, it also helps them socially, as they can be with people whom they like.

Sound more like a dream than reality? I went to a public high school exactly as described above, in Toronto, Canada. It was a public school, with what they call streamed education. The program was funded by corporate partners (the school board had very little influence). We had everything from SGI Indigo's (Unix in school!) to a national robotics team. How it worked was that students submitted their school records, filled out a form, wrote a couple essays, and sent it off to the school with a $10 registration fee. If they thought you had the brain skills (bascially, you had to have above average grades ... not 100%), they called you for an interview. The interview is where you really get your chance to show them that you deserve to go to this school.

The school still had normal kids, who went their because it was in their zone (this includes some jocks). BUt those people were not allowed to enter the special classes, and the school tried their best to keep lunch periods seperate. The result was an enviornment where geeks, nerds and even smart Goths can thrive. 80% of the school belonged to the special program.

I don't know if something like this is available in the US, but it should be. If your school doesn't have something like this, try talking with the board. But more importantly, you need to talk to your school. If you can convince your school, show them the benifets (money, extremly high averages, good enviornment for teachers, etc), then convincing the board won't be too hard when you're backed by an entire school. It doesn't cost anyone much, because it can all be sponsored by corporations who donate money and cool hardware.

Re:Different != good (2)

gorilla (36491) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906521)

Why is the attitude around here seem to be that people who deliberatly look and act different are somehow automatically superior to those who don't?

Why do you think that those who are different have a choice? I didn't choose to myopic, asthmatic & intelligent - a geek, it's the way I was born. My enjoyment of reading, math and eventually computers came out of my nature, and I couldn't succeed at sports any more than Mike Tyson could succeed at quantum physics.

It's a simple fact that people are different. Always have been. Always will be. Perhaps we should work towards accepting these differences in schools instead of trying to eliminate them?

New York Times FRONTPAGE (3)

drougie (36782) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906522)

I wanted to let you all know that Slashdot is mentioned in today's frontpage of the New York Times in an article on parents and their kids on the net. I have the upmost respect for Cmndr Taco and his work. Even though some of us may bare apathy toward the Times, it is quite a milestone to have your project mentioned on the frontpage and used as a source. Mad props due!
my email's, drop me a line if you think i am elite.. rulez

Monoculturism (3)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906523)

It's hard to respond to this argument since its wrong on so many levels. Where to begin?...

Hitler is an obvious example of diversity harming people, but what about Martin Luther? Without Martin Luther we would have not had millions of deaths in wars between Protestants and Catholics, the Spanish Inquisition, etc. But without Martin Luther our culture would be unimaginably different; nailing the 47 questions (?) to the church door lead to...

Charles Darwin. Without Darwin we would have still had the theory of evolution (Darwin didn't originate the theory, he just gave compelling evidence of its breath and proposed that *all* variation could be explained by it without divine intervention; contemporaries of Darwin were on the same track and Wallace arguably had the idea and evidence first). But without evolution it would have been far harder to understand the implications of DNA (assuming Watson & Crick still did their work) and we would have none of the recent medical advances.

Then there's Einstein with his silly theories explaining the anomolous precession of Mercury. The researchers at Bell Labs who discovered cosmic background radiation or invented the transistor, laser, and Unix. And let's not forget that crackpot Guttenburg and his ideas for printing with reusuable, movable type instead of woodcuts.

If you think "different is dangerous", go find a cave. Without fire -- fire is dangerous. Or atl-atls -- new technology is dangerous.

Re:Different != good (1)

Kenneth (43287) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906529)

While it is true that different is not always good, Singling someone out because they are different is wrong.

Albert Einstein was 'different'
Joan of Arc was 'different'
Martin Luther King was 'different'
Mohandas Gandhi was 'different'

Those of us who choose not to conform do so because conformity for the sake of conformity makes us ill. We usually just want to be left alone.

If anyone needs counciling, it is the 'popular' kids. After all they are the ones who persecute and punish all those who don't bow down before them, and emulate them in every way.

Why is being different lauded? It means that we aren't slaves to those who would be in control. We have minds, and the (gasp) ability to think and choose for ourselves.

Why did the two columbine students go on a rampage? They were driven to it by the EXACT attitude you have expressed. "Conform or you're worthless. Do what everyone else does, get out." We are of a different breed, and you better thank whatever deity you believe in that we exist. When we get pushed we want to push back. When we get stompped we want to stomp back. If someone says "It can't be done" we say "Bull, I'll do it."

Those like us are responsible for the existence of the internet, the airplane, the automobile, and the United States.

They said that a country with no king could never stand. WE proved them wrong.

The nonconformists are the ones who change the world, the conformists just take the credit.

Looking ahead (from someone looking back now...) (2)

texas (43689) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906530)

I'm sitting at work right now, and I've been reading all these articles about Littleton, nd I really wish I had my own little cubicle because I'm a bit teary-eyed right now. I guess I developed my own little persecution complex during my time in school and so I identify with what many of the kids are going through right now. For a long time, I was a major part of the KJHS and KHS "nerd herd", and it took a few years to learn how to deal with that. Sure, in the end we turned out fine but how many kids never get to that point? I had a distinct advantage: my high school had a well-developed fine arts program, so those of us in drama, music, and the like had a large peer group that was mostly left to its own devices by the more traditional cliques (jocks, preps, etc). It still took some work...who doesn't want to be popular? But you eventually learn that only the opinions that matter are those of people who matter to you, and people whom you matter to. Don't worry about the rest. I know, easier said than done, but it's something to keep in mind.

Why am I telling anyone this? To be honest, I don't really know. I guess I just wanted to offer one more testamonial to the fact that most of us turn out okay. I grew up playing D&D, listening to heavy metal sometimes (even stuff like Slayer and beyond, for a while), playing violent computer games (it's not like they're new...even my old Atari had shoot-em-up's just that back then, people didn't blame crazy shit on them). In school, I got fairly good grades, was a member of many of the school bands (clarinet, sax, and drums), a member of some of the competing teams (JETS, Engineering Design Team, etc), and didn't have a girlfriend until 10th grade. I was picked on, teased, all the regular stuff that we all have come to expect. But you come through on the other end a better person. You learn who you can rely on. You learn to rely on yourself, and those few rare souls that you connect with during those dark years.

Eventually you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be high school, it might be college, it might be when you enter the work force, but the day will come. Just keep trying to make yourself a better person, make youself someone that YOU can be proud of and don't worry about the others.

Yeah, well, that felt mostly pointless. : ) Well at least I got my $0.02 in. Hopefully someone can take something from what I've written.


The Economist, too! (1)

irene (46133) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906540)

Imagine my surprise while browsing through the Economist website (thankfully not one of those lousy American-based newshype magazines a la Time and Newsweek) I came across an article on the school shootings where Slashdot was mentioned and linked, too!
Here's where it's at: forall/current/index_us8244.html

Re:Streamed Education (1)

locrian (90575) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906552)

As far as just asking them to stop goes, I agree. But on the method of the answer, I cannot. I am a geek, and I'm proud of it. As a freshman in high school, I too had problems with the aforementioned groups, but then I decided I wasn't going to take it anymore, and I got a spine. Most of the time, you'll find that when you stand up to such assholes, they're not as bad as they want you to believe they are. Geeks stand proud, and don't let them get you down. Take confidence in the fact that one day they'll be answering to you because all they can do is work in factories and be stupid.

'E Pluribus Unix'

talking to teachers (5)

reive (171173) | more than 15 years ago | (#1906556)

One of my oldest friends is a teacher. Last night she told me what's been going on in her school. Teachers are scared of the freaks, they are whispering about who to watch out for in the teachers lounge, and my friend spoke up and said "I was a goth. And a nerd. And miserable and suicidal because I wasn't doing what everyone else was doing. So I graduated, went to college and came to NY, and now you're telling me, that kids who are the way I was terrify you. I know plenty of goths, I've been to the clubs, and you couldn't find a group of more harmless people. It's just about sensuality. Wait, that scares you too." Her fellow teachers just looked at her in shock and horror anyway. How can it be that education these days is only for those that don't explore?

Anyway, I've got friends going to their local school board meetings, and writing their alma maters and spreading the word.

We will change this stuff.
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