What Caused Columbine?
Everybody’s looking for the causes of the terrible tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and for ways to prevent such horrible happenings in the future.
Hillary Clinton has volunteered her intuition that “part of growing up is learning how to control one’s impulses.” Putting aside the point that most of us don’t have impulses to go on a killing rampage, who is going to teach kids to control their impulses? Certainly not the “village” (i.e., the government or government schools), which Mrs. Clinton believes should have prime responsibility for raising children.
For the past 25 years, the prevailing dogma in public school teaching has been Values Clarification (as in the tremendously influential 1972 book of the same name by Sidney Simon). That means teaching students to reject “the old moral and ethical standards,” and instead “make their own choices” and “build their own value system.”
Indeed, Eric Harris and his sidekick, Dylan Klebold, did “build their own value system,” which allowed them to kill 13 people at Columbine, then take their own lives. Harris and Klebold were not dumb or underprivileged; they came from affluent two-parent families. Professionals who evaluated them concluded that Harris was “a very bright young man who is likely to succeed in life,” and that Klebold was “intelligent enough to make any dream a reality.” (New York Times, April 23, 1999)
Values Clarification teaches that, since there are absolutely no absolutes, students should engage in personal “decision making” about behavior instead of looking to God, the Ten Commandments, parents, church, or other authority which teaches that behavior should conform to traditional morality.
Values Clarification is a book of 79 dilemmas for the teacher to present to the students. The most frequently used classroom dilemma is the “lifeboat game” (and its numerous variations, such as the fallout shelter). The student is told there are ten people in a sinking lifeboat and four must be thrown out to drown so that the other six may live. The student is vested with the authority to decide who lives and who dies. Shall it be the famous author, or the pregnant woman, or the rabbi, or the Hollywood dancer, or the policeman?
Any answer is acceptable — whatever each student feels comfortable with is OK, and the students can all choose different drowning targets because there are no right or wrong answers. No wrong answers, that is, except one. One mother told our Eagle Forum Parents Advisory Center that her child answered the question by saying, “Jesus brought another boat and nobody had to drown.” That child got an F for giving an unacceptable answer.
The world view of Cassie Bernall, who looked into the barrel of a gun and said, “Yes, I believe in God,” is not acceptable within the rubric of Values Clarification. She was killed by a fellow student who had built his own value system.
As in the “lifeboat game,” Harris and Klebold had already decided that it was their right to decide who would live and who would die. Harris posted on the Internet: “My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am the law, and if you don’t like it, you die. . . . Feel no remorse, no sense of shame.” (Washington Post, April 29, 1999)
As part of a Government and Economics class at Columbine, Harris and Klebold made a video in which they showed themselves as hit men hired out to do violence to athletes. The video was violent and ended with the two bludgeoning the head of a dummy amid much fake blood. It amounted to a practice run for the Columbine shooting. The teacher of that class has refused to talk to reporters about the tape. (Washington Post, April 29, 1999) Another student-made video ends with four students walking away from Columbine High School, which explodes in a scene of orange special-effects flashings. (Denver Rocky Mountain News, May 6, 1999)
When a surviving student was asked if anybody noticed anything odd about these student-made videos, she replied that “everybody’s video involved fighting.” She noted that many of the videos were violent and that her own contained sexual scenes.
In Creative Writing class, Harris wrote his will as one of his assignments. Harris’s and Klebold’s writings were filled with gore and profanity. According to another student, they wrote about “rocket launchers, grenades, zombies killing people, ripping people’s flesh.” Harris and Klebold spent hours and hours playing “death matches” with violent computer games. (Associated Press, April 22, 1999)
Harris was thrilled when Bill Clinton started bombing Yugoslavia. A classmate who sat next to him remembers Harris saying, “I hope we do go to war. . . . [I want to] shoot every one.” Harris tried to enlist, but Marine recruiters turned him down when they discovered he had taken a powerful anti-depressant drug called Luvox. (Washington Post, April 29, 1999)
Modern public school teaching exalts “tolerance” of other people’s behavior as the highest virtue, and “self-esteem” as education’s principal objective. Harris and Klebold made a practice of annoying their teachers by propping their feet on their desks and leaning back in their chairs. In the modern classroom, we are forbidden to be “judgmental” about the behavior of others when they indulge their impulses instead of controlling them.
Death Education at Columbine
In 1987 Eagle Forum of Colorado produced a two-hour video in which student Tara Becker spoke at length about the relentless focus on death, dying and suicide in her junior class at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. She and several of her classmates attempted suicide as a result of this depressing curriculum, and it took them many months to recover from the experience.
Tara was subsequently interviewed for an ABC-TV 20/20 program (aired Sept. 21, 1990) where she said, “I had thought about [suicide] as a possible option for a lot of years, but I never would have gone through with it, never, because I wasn’t brave enough. The things that we learned in the class taught us how to be brave enough to face death.” She added, “We talked about what we wanted to look like in our caskets.”
The 20/20 segment showed morbid visuals of student visits to cemeteries, to embalming labs where they were encouraged to touch “still warm human remains,” and to crematoriums where they were told about picking bones out of the ashes. ABC stated that one out of ten schools teaches death education, that there is no approved curriculum, and that the teachers’ training often consists only of a one-day workshop. It was clear that ABC’s Hugh Downs and Tom Jarriel thought that death education was bizarre. Jarriel concluded the segment by asking if these courses “suggest death as an answer to adolescent problems.” We urge ABC to re-air that important segment because of its relevance today. Curiously, ABC refused to release a tape of this program to Matt Drudge.
In 1988, Atlantic Monthly published an investigative article (“Mortal Fears,” Feb. 1988, p.30) confirming that death and dying courses are given in “thousands of schools,” often sneaked into health, social studies, literature or home-economics courses without parents’ knowledge. Atlantic described how these courses require students to visit cemeteries and funeral homes, write their own epitaphs to be put on tombstones made out of construction paper, write obituaries, wills, or suicide notes, decide how they would prefer to die, and plan their own funerals, body disposal and pallbearers.
Atlantic quoted from professional journals to demonstrate the widespread support for death education among educators. It quoted The School Counselor as stating in 1977: “Death education will play as important a part in changing attitudes toward death as sex education played in changing attitudes toward sex information and wider acceptance of various sexual practices.” Atlantic also quoted a National Education Association report entitled “Education for the 70’s” which stated: “Schools will become clinics whose purpose is to provide individualized, psycho-social treatment for the student, and teachers must become psycho-social therapists.”
Most parents are unaware that the mission of the public schools has dramatically changed in the last 20 years by downgrading basic academics and instead using teachers as pseudo-psychologists conducting group therapy. This change was best described by the late U.S. Senator (and former university president) Sam Hayakawa, who — in successfully persuading Congress to pass the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) in 1978 — said that the public schools have adopted “an educational heresy . . . that rejects the idea of education as the acquisition of knowledge and skills . . . and regards the fundamental task in education as therapy.”
This invasion of the public school classroom by pseudo-psychologists conducting group therapy opened the floodgates to all sorts of psychological courses and surveys in sexuality, drugs, incest, death, suicide, stress, and self-esteem. Some of these courses incorporate guided imagery or New Age or occult practices. Readers used in elementary schools are often filled with weird or violent images, and little children are often taught to take their problems to Pumsy the dragon or DUSO the dolphin.
Surely, one of the weirdest of these psychological courses is death education. According to the Atlantic Monthly article, parents in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan and Florida have attributed their sons’ suicides to public school courses in death, dying, or suicide.
Littleton, Colorado is an area where public schools for many years have adopted all the trendy “edufads” such as Outcome Based Education. OBE is a dumbing-down process that is heavy on the use of attitudinal and subjective materials and tests, rather than (in Hayakawa’s words) “the acquisition of knowledge and skills.”
In 1993, at the high school in the district adjacent to Columbine, parents rebelled against this dumbing-down process and, by a two-to-one vote, elected a “back-to-basics” school board. The teachers union struck back in the following election and retook control. The union was supported by People for the American Way, using the usual negative slurs to accuse those opposed to OBE of being “fundamentalists” and part of the “religious right.”
Some politicians, unfortunately, are using the Columbine tragedy to push their liberal political agenda, such as gun control. That’s obviously not the answer since killers Harris and Klebold violated at least 17 current federal and state gun control laws that, had they lived, would have kept them locked up for the rest of their lives.
Does anybody think that Harris and Klebold would not have known how to release a mandatory gun lock? Or would have been deterred by a three-day waiting period, since Harris’s own journal detailed year-long plans for the killing?
The tragedies at Columbine High School, as well as those in Washington, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oregon, and Georgia, demand that we investigate the curriculum taught in the public schools, the value system that is taught, and the powerful legal drugs that children are taking. We are paying a terrible price for allowing public school curricula to teach students to create “their own value system” instead of respecting moral laws such as “Thou shalt not kill.”
Parents Win Victory Over Nosy Surveys
Parents have just won a tremendous legal victory over the widespread public school practice of forcing students to answer nosy, privacy-invading questions about themselves and their families. The U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas, has signed the final order of judgment in a class action case against the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) brought by parents, who were represented by the Texas Justice Foundation.
The wide-reaching order is of landmark and nationwide importance. For many years, parents have objected to the way that schools force students to respond to nonacademic questionnaires intruding on pupil and family privacy and involving matters that are none of the school’s business.
Parents also object to the way that the so-called therapeutic classroom is crowding out academics and basic skills. Schoolchildren are routinely subjected, not only to intrusive, depressing surveys, but also to psychological and attitudinal exams and guidance counseling, usually without parental knowledge or consent.
The case called Lisa T. v. SAISD began when 10-year-old Melissa’s mother voiced her objections to the Hillcrest Elementary School about sex education, death and suicide education, and the lack of academic instruction. Lisa T.’s daughter tested three years below grade level and her son tested four years below grade level as a result of being taught about UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, how to embalm, etc., instead of spelling and math.
Complaints to the superintendent and the school board got Lisa T. nothing but harassment of Melissa, who was subjected to interrogations about “what her mother was up to.” The SAISD then administered intrusive, psychological surveys to students at Jefferson High School, delving into the feelings and emotions and invading their personal privacy and family relationships.
Teachers assured students that their survey responses would remain confidential even from parents. Concurrently, the school conducted daily classes that gave comprehensive group guidance counseling, without parental preview or consent, and without respecting the conscience or convictions of the parents or students.
Here are samples from the nosy questionnaires. “What do you consider to be the best thing about your home and the worst? How do you get along at home? If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be and why?”
More depressing questions from the SAISD’s surveys included: “What’s the thing you need most that you are not getting from your family? Has anybody close to you died in the last year or so? Do you ever wish you were a boy or a girl instead of what you are? What things do you worry about?”
Another question reveals the dramatic curriculum changes that have taken place in the public schools: “Select the group counseling sessions you would like to participate in: Managing Anger; Parent/Teen Conflict; Coping with Stress; Interpersonal Relationship; Grief/Loss; Study Skills; Other.”
The court’s order in the Lisa T. case requires the school district henceforth to obtain parental consent for all guidance counseling, psychological exams, and intrusive surveys. The consent forms must notify parents if the surveys include controversial topics such as political affiliations, sexual behavior and attitudes, or requests for privileged information, including potentially embarrassing mental and psychological problems.
SAISD shredded all its objectionable intrusive surveys in the presence of parent representatives. Parents were notified that they could review their own children’s questionnaires prior to the shredding.
SAISD will establish a new district-wide committee of parents and school staff to review possibly-intrusive surveys prior to submitting them for approval or rejection by the school board and before asking for parental consent. The district will give employees in-service training on state and federal parental rights and instruct them that they may not retaliate, intimidate, interrogate, or harass students or parents who are exercising their rights.
This Texas case is the latest chapter in a long-running battle against nosy surveys about sex, drugs, death, attitudes, and family matters, and against psychological tests and courses, that first received national attention with the passage of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) by Congress in 1978. The public school establishment, led by the National Education Association, had a collective tantrum when the Reagan Administration issued regulations in 1984.
Seven days of hearings held by the Department of Education in 1984 put hundreds of cases of psychological abuse in the classroom on the record, but the public school establishment continued to bitterly oppose enforcement of PPRA.
Despite a strengthening of the law’s language by Senator Chuck Grassley’s amendment in 1994, despite pledges of enforcement in the Contract With America, and despite notorious violations such as the 149-question federally-financed survey given to Minnesota children in 1989, PPRA has never been enforced until now. This issue is more important in 1999 than ever before because technology now allows the data collected on nosy surveys to be entered in student computer portfolios that can be used against the student all his life.
The Lisa T. case marks a real turning point in the battle for parents’ rights. It provides a model for what parents and their lawyers can accomplish elsewhere.
The need for the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment and its regulation was explained in the best-selling 1984 book Child Abuse in the Classroom edited by Phyllis Schlafly (Pere Marquette Press, Box 495, Alton, IL 62002, $8). For another important source of information on the changes in public school curriculum, see Eagle Forum’s video documentary, Crisis in the Classroom ($25).
NOTICE AND DECLARATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
Compiled by the Texas Justice Foundation
Surveys and Evaluations:
b.) I __________(do/do not) give my written consent to the Educational Institution or School District to require or otherwise subject my child(ren) to any survey, analysis, personal inventory or evaluation that reveals information concerning political affiliations; mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the child(ren) or his/her family; sex behavior and attitudes; illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of other individuals with whom the child(ren) has/have close family relationships; legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; or income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
This includes, but is not limited to: (1) all surveys, personal inventories, questionnaires, or any other document that is personally intrusive, invading the privacy of my child(ren), myself, or our family, and/or that delves into the psyche or thoughts of my child(ren), (2) any method of obtaining information, individually or in a group activity, that is not directly related to academic instruction and that is designed to elicit information about attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings of my child(ren), and/or (3) any activities that have been designed to affect behavioral, emotional, or attitudinal characteristics of my child(ren).
Removal of Child From Classroom or Activity:
n.) I hereby exercise my right to remove my child(ren) temporarily from any and every class or other school activity that presents, covers or discusses the following topics or activities because they conflict with my religious and/or moral beliefs. I request that my child(ren) be placed instead in an academic program in accordance with his intellectual abilities. I request that the classroom materials on these subjects be provided to me and I will then determine how they will be covered with my child(ren):
- Affective Development (including, but not limited to, Non-Academic Decision Making, Non-Academic Problem Solving, Self-Esteem, Interpersonal Effectiveness and Cross-Cultural Effectiveness) · Death Education (including, but not limited to, Suicide Education and Euthanasia) · Dream interpretations, evaluations, meanings, or discussions · Drug Education · Evolution (other than as a theory only) · Family Planning and/or Parenting Skills · Globalism curriculum, One-World Government, Anti- American or Anti- Nationalism teaching, advocacy, or promotion · Guidance Counseling, whether group or individually · Human Sexuality (including, but not limited to, Abortion, AIDS, Alternative Lifestyles, Birth Control, Contraceptives and/or their use, Divorce, Extramarital Sex, Homosexuality, Incest, Premarital Sex, Prostitution, Roles and Society Norms of Males and Females, Sex Behavior or Activity) · Internet Access without direct adult supervision · Journaling (including Log Books, Diaries, Personal Journals) on topics that are personally intrusive and/or invasive to my child(ren)’s, my or our family’s right to privacy and other personal matters · Life Skills Instruction – Social and Personal Training (including, but not limited to, Interpersonal Relationships; Non-Academic Personality Tests or Evaluations; Sensitivity Training; exercises in, or strategies that call for or elicit self-disclosure; attitudes towards or about parents, or the relationship between my child(ren) and his/her parent(s) · Meditation, Visualization · Origin of the Universe (other than as a theory only) · Population Growth, Control, or Reduction · Psychology or Psychoanalysis (including, but not limited to, Group Encounter Sessions, Sociograms, Self-Evaluations and/or Auto-Criticism, Sociodrama and/or Psychodrama Exercises · Religiously offensive literature or reading material · Relaxation techniques or exercises (including, but not limited to, Hypnotic Exercises or Techniques, Imagery, Suggestology or other Yoga Techniques) · Values Clarification (including, but not limited to Moral Dilemma Exercises, Life/Death Decision Exercises or Survival Games, Role-Playing involving moral issues) · Witchcraft, Magic (“Black” or “White”), Mysticism, Mother Earth, Gaia, New Age, Occultism, the Supernatural, Wicca.
Duty to Care for and Control Child’s Medical Care:
p.) As the Parent/Guardian/Managing Conservator of the above-mentioned child(ren) I have the right and duty to care for, control and protect my child(ren); and provide for their medical and dental care and psychiatric, psychological and surgical treatment. (Texas Family Code §151.003). Therefore, before any physician, nurse, or other health care provider is provided by you to my child(ren) (as an employee, agent, contractor or affiliate) or is allowed to care for or treat my child(ren), other than reasonably necessary emergency care, they must disclose to me, as the person authorized to consent for my child(ren), the risks and hazards involved in the care or procedure, and must receive my written, signed consent to the medical care, including therapy and guidance counseling, before any such care or procedures are administered.
Retaliation and Harassment for Exercise of Constitutionally Protected Rights:
u.) Both my child(ren) and I have the right to be free from any and all acts of retaliation, harassment, intimidation, interrogation, or other acts of retribution by any employee or agent of the School District or Educational Institution for the exercise of any of my constitutionally protected rights, including, but not limited to, the right to direct the moral upbringing and education of my child(ren).
This Notice of Parental Rights was prepared by the Texas Justice Foundation. The full text appears in Eagle Forum’s Education Reporter, June 1999, and is available from the Texas Justice Foundation, 8122 Datapoint Dr., Suite 812, San Antonio, Texas 78229, (210) 614-7157, Fax: (210) 614-6656, Email: TxJF@prodigy.net, Web site: http://www.txjf.org