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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

July 1999

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to StAnthony@franciscanmedia.org.

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.


Links for Learning

1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion - Christian life-styles; peace and justice; the meaning of liturgy
    • Social Studies - current events; media studies
    • Psychology - aberrant behaviors; group psychology; violence in society
    1. Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.

Parents will also find some of this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.

Heroism

Affirmation

Alienation

Memorial

Tide of inspiration

Ritual

Legacy

 

Reflection

Denominational lines

Locus of community

 

Reflecting on the Media's Response to Littleton - Who's to Blame?

The public outcry and, indeed, our own shock and horror that followed the shootings at Columbine High School highlight one aspect of the event: a tragedy we will not soon forget. This month’s author turns our attention to another view of the event: out of the tragedy, she hopes, will rise a "tide of inspiration" for today’s youth.

The media offer us a deluge of commentary and opinion. You can search the recent archives of your own local newspapers as well as those of the country’s major cities. National news magazines, broadcast news stations such as MSNBC and online resources offer still more on Littleton. Much of the material focuses on blame: blame the entertainment media; blame the teen cults and cliques; blame the lack of gun control; blame schools that are too big; blame our violent adult society.

If you are part of a group discussing this topic, you may want to divide into smaller teams and each research one aspect of the media finger-pointing. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started talking about possible causes for the shootings at Littleton.

  • Blame the entertainment media. In the May 30, 1999, issue of the Los Angeles Times, screenwriter Robin Swicord says ("Youth Must Be Served – With Respect") that filmmakers and television producers are the dominant cultural force in this nation. More so, adult society, she says, shapes every aspect of a teen’s life. Adults are the ones who produce teen music; design teen clothes; create teen video games; turn out the movies, television and ads they view; manufacture the guns they use to kill. For full text, search under archives in the Los Angeles Times site.
  • Blame the teen cults and cliques. Are Goths walking examples of latent terror? See MTV’s Web site for Littleton teens’ input on the topic of Goths and the two young shooters. Search under "school violence." Do athletic and cheerleader cliques alienate other students to the point of physical retaliation? Do large numbers of teens spend most of their school lives alienated from fellow students?
  • Blame the lack of gun control. The debate continues. The National Rifle Association, a powerful and popular force and a collective spokesperson for thousands in our nation, opposes gun control. Legislators, parents, victims of gun violence – all cry out for keeping guns out of the hands of youth and criminals. See New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy’s site for arguments in favor of gun control. Discuss the issues of responsible gun use and collecting versus wounding and death from weapons misuse.
  • Blame schools that are too big. Adults build the huge high schools that control so many hours of a teen’s life; the schools house as many as 4,000 to 5,000 of our youth on a single campus. See David Kirkpatrick’s article, "School Size – Bigger is not Better," for a discussion of the effectiveness of school size.
  • Blame our violent adult society. The novelist Barbara Kingsolver, in a recent op ed commentary in the Los Angeles Times, asked why we find the tragedy at Littleton so surprising when we as a country continually celebrate violence as a method for expressing disapproval. Witness Yugoslavia, Iraq, Waco – situations all responded to with guns and bombs. "Children model the behavior of adults," she states.

Regardless of who or what is to blame for Littleton’s tragedy, this month’s author urges us to see the good in the responses of so many teenagers.

Reflecting on Littleton’s Prominent Themes – A "Tide of Inspiration"

1. Teens reunite with their parents

The author reminds us of what we all saw on television in the hours immediately after the shootings: parents and their surviving teens hugging in reunion. Imagine the relief when waiting parents saw their children running toward them. Imagine the overwhelming security the teens must have felt to embrace their parents after hours of untold fear. To begin talking about these reunions, first recapture the feeling of parents and teens reuniting after the shootings by looking at the photos on several Web sites: a Columbine Memorial site and a tribute site.

So much of the news coverage following the shootings focused on the teens trying to get word to their parents that they were alive and that they loved them. How would you have felt or reacted in a similar situation? Talk to your own parents and stepparents now. Parents talk to your children. Find the love (or the courage) in your heart and tell them you love them. Not once, but every day. Don’t leave the house in the morning without an expression of love and caring for your family. If you’re not good with words, try buying or making a simple card that says what you feel. Greeting card stores now carry simple, expressive cards for only 99 cents. Or send an e-mail card once in a while to your folks, kids, to a sibling or to a good friend. As the teens in Littleton discovered, life can separate us from those we love with a sudden and violent speed. And don’t forget to talk about receiving love. It often takes just as much openness and courage to let yourself be loved as it does to express your feelings for someone else. Let your parents, siblings and friends love you. Don’t put up walls around yourself. Adults, let your kids know that they are loved.

The heroism of the teen survivors and victims at Littleton occurred on several levels. There were heroes whose selfless actions saved others while they themselves paid dearly. Other heroes survived and are celebrated. But everyone there was a hero in his or her own way. It takes courage to comfort friends when you yourself are terrified. It takes inner strength to find a way to get a message to your parents that you are O.K., to say that you love them, even when you know you may never make it home. It takes a moral resilience to get up every morning following such a tragedy and still leave the house to go to school, to face the reminders of friends who died or were wounded, to gather together to support one another. It takes a feeling of hope to pray together, to discuss what the whole thing means, to weep openly at loss and confusion.

Talk about the situations you’ve experienced where you or someone else has been a hero to someone, a part of the "tide of inspiration" for your own generation. Use music to help you open the discussion. Try Sarah McLachlan’s song "Angel" from her album Surfacing. Compare "Angel" with Paul Simon’s song, "The Boy in the Bubble" from his album Graceland. Simon sings of violence and hope. Your generation has ordinary teens who are real heroes and angels to one another, not just what Simon calls another hero that this generation puts on the pop charts. "I Will Remember You," a Sarah McLachlan song from The Brothers McMullen soundtrack, is another good song for getting talk going in a group. See Lyrics HQ for the words to the Sarah McLachlan songs.

2. Teens turn to their community churches

In the hours and days after the shootings, Columbine’s youth gathered in large numbers at their local churches. They prayed and hugged, they ate together, they created memorials to their dead classmates. Our author says, "The primary locus of community and healing was area Churches, across denominations." This demonstrates the faith deeply felt by many teens. And it shows the need for ritual and ceremony, for signs that both display and memorialize the feelings of pain and the desire for healing. Isn’t this just what our celebration of liturgy is all about? We listen to stories of the heroic faith of Jesus and his followers. We memorialize his life, death and resurrection. We share a meal together. We support one another from week to week.

Talk about events in your own life that may cause you pain and difficulty. What do you want to rise above? What do you hope to heal in your own life? The grief and emptiness in losing a parent? A good friend moving away? Breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend after a long relationship? A feeling of isolation from classmates? A friend stabbing you in the back? Fear of the violence that may prevail in your school? An addiction to alcohol, drugs or other destructive behavior?

Where can you go for healing? Do you agree that teens can turn to their Church communities for healing? Do you turn to your Church to restore your sense of balance? What are the rituals/signs that help you deal with your pain (and your joy)? Do you write in a diary or journal to give word to your feelings? Do you create a collage or scrapbook to keep memories alive? Do you have a trusted discussion group in school or in your Church that offers you an opportunity to express feelings? Is there a youth liturgy or prayer service that gives you a chance to pray and sing in hope? Can you work with a youth group to find ways to offer service and healing to the community? For adults, how can you help teens to heal? How can you be more welcoming?

To help you talk about the healing process, research how others find support in time of need. The Red Cross, for example, not only responds to disasters and tragedies with on-site emergency aid. Their Web site, in conjunction with the American Psychological Association, offers advice on how to recognize warning signs and how to deal with the aftermath of a tragedy. See their helpful "Recovering from Tragedy" and a list of nationwide 800 numbers.

You may find helpful the government publication, "Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools." Download and print the full 40-page text from the U.S. Government Web site.

Look at the Columbine tribute site. You can add your name to a "Caring Wall," write a message from you or your group/school and find a list of suggested things to do as a response to the tragedy. At the Columbine Memorial site, you can download a banner to your own computer or Web page that says, "Columbine: Stop the hate, start the healing."

MTV has created a television campaign, "Fight for your Rights: Take a Stand against Violence," to alleviate the school violence situation. Their first segment, "Warning Signs," first aired right after the shooting spree in Littleton in mid-April of this year. Your local listings will tell you when this will be broadcast again.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

Time Magazine

CNN

MSNBC

Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications

The Associated Press

The Chicago Tribune

People magazine

The History Channel

The Miami Herald

The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

ABC News

Channel One’s online resource

The Vatican




Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.


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