Curing the Black Plague of School Shootings
2006 - The Worst Year So Far
This Memo is in response to a very recent copycat Columbine attempt at McNeil High School in Round Rock ISD (Texas).
Epidemics, such as the Bird Flu, AIDS and plagues, conjure up universal fear. News of horrific suffering alerts the whole world to take action. In recent years a new class of contagious epidemic has evolved. It is an epidemic of self-destruction, engaged in by youth in the spirit of experimentation, imitation, and rebellion – it is school shootings. But are we taking the necessary action? Or are we accepting that some of our children will die in this epidemic of violence? Is this a price we are willing to pay?
In the media, which uses ratings to decide what is or isn't newsworthy, the 1999 massacre at Columbine High received massive coverage for months, but the second-largest shooting, at Red Lake High School in 2005, received only three days of light airtime. During 2006, the worst year yet, each new massacre has received only a few days of airtime.
As a result of not finding the cause and cure, this plague has continued to incubate. The incubation of school shootings is settling into the minds of our youth (as young as 8 and 10 years old, as you'll read below) as an important form of ACCEPTED self-expression. A historic comparison may help us understand the urgency of this situation.
In the Western Central Pacific Ocean are the islands of Micronesia with a population of only 40,000 in the 1960s. A tropical paradise, yet it germinated a startling epidemic from a single, high-profile suicide.
"'My life is coming to an end at this time. Now today is a day of sorrow for myself, also a day of suffering for me. But it is a day of celebration for Papa. Today Papa sent me away. Thank you for loving me so little.
"'Give my farewell to Mama. Mama, you won't have any more frustration or trouble from your boy. Much love from Sima.'
"Moments after penning this short and bittersweet note, the seventeen year-old author walked into his house and hanged himself." - Love and Suffering: Adolescent Socialization and Suicide in Micronesia by Donald H. Rubinstein
"In the early 1960s, suicide on the islands of Micronesia was almost unknown. But for reasons no one quite understands, it then began to rise, steeply and dramatically, by leaps and bounds every year, until by the end of the 1980s there were more suicides per capita in Micronesia than anywhere else in the world….What, in Western cultures, is something rare, random, and deeply pathological, has become in Micronesia a ritual of adolescence, with its own particular rules and symbols….The suicide notes tend to express not depression but a kind of wounded pride and self-pity, a protest against mistreatment.…In all but a few cases, the victim observes the same protocol about the correct way to take ones’ own life....
"According to anthropologist Donald Rubinstein, who has documented the Micronesian epidemic in a series of insiteful papers, 'Suicide ideation among adolescents appears widespread in certain Micronesian communities and is popularly expressed in recent songs composed locally and aired on Micronesian radio stations, and in graffiti adorning T-shirts and high school walls. A number of young boys who attempted suicide reported that they first... heard about it when they were 8 or 10 years old. Their suicide attempts appear in the spirit of imitative or experimental play. One eleven-year-old boy, for example, hanged himself…and was found unconscious....He later explained that he wanted to try out hanging….Thus, as suicide grows more frequent in these communities, the idea itself acquires a certain familiarity if not fascination to young men, and the lethality of the act seems to be trivialized…the suicide acts appear to have acquired an experimental almost recreational element.'
"The Micronesian epidemic started with a single, high-profile suicide…and soon other boys were committing suicide in precisely the same way, and for reasons that seemed preposterously trivial…. The school massacre at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado, happened on April 20, 1999. In the twenty-two months that followed, there were nineteen separate incidents of school violence across the United States – ten of them foiled, fortunately, before anyone got hurt – each patterned, almost eerily, on the Columbine shootings.…" - The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Our youth are infected by the example of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, just as the suicides in Micronesia were infected by the example of Sima's suicide. Much attention is paid to the social circumstances of the children involved in these incidents, but there have always been kids growing up in disaffection and loneliness. Why are they NOW walking into their schools with the intent to kill and be killed?
In Micronesia, researcher Donald H. Rubinstein boiled it down to two key elements:
1) Changes in the nuclear household. For generations the social and family structure were based around land ownership and the clan living together on the land. "As monetization of the Micronesian economy proceeded in the 1960s and 1970s, the primary household resource increasingly became cash rather than land. Money, especially in the form of income from salaried jobs...tended to weaken the land-based social system of lineages and clans. This breeds parent-adolescent conflict. The data strongly supports the conclusion that the etiology of Micronesian suicides lies in intergenerational conflict between adolescents and their parents.... His anger is an extreme expression of his anger and sense of acute rejection by his parents.... In the old clan or lineage structure, if an adolescent had conflict with a member of his clan he could find another member to plead his case to. This prevented the islolation of the boy."
2) The loss of cultural supports for adolescent socialization. "By the end of World War II much of the material cultural embodiments of the clans and villages - especially the large meetinghouses...had fallen into disrepair and had been abandoned. This loss is relevant to an understanding of adolescent male suicide, since these meetinghouses were a social focus of senior male activities and of adolescent male residence and socialization." - Suicide In Micronesia And Samoa: A Critique Of Explanations by Donald H. Rubinstein
This cultural comparison easily relates to our situation. Youth today have more money of their own than any previous generation, and the traditional nuclear family in America now accounts for only 48% of the households. Over 80% of mothers work, and households without a father are the norm, not the exception. Less than 15% of children live near or see their grandparent regularly. This is an epidemic in isolation. These boys' decisions make sense only in the closed world that teenagers inhabit. A closed world enhanced by the direction that technology is now taking. Just as rumors are created to fill 'dead spots' where information and knowledge are lacking, our technological society supports isolation. Dead spots – times that once were filled with adult voices of experience and understanding – are now filled with MySpace.com, cell phones, text messaging, blogs, iPods, and interactive, online, violent video games.
The world of youth is now ruled much like the old game, Telephone, where one whispers into the ear of the person next to them and they pass it on; by the end of the circle there is no rational connection to the first statement. The contagious messages that teens pass among themselves have little or no balancing influence from adults. Columbine is now the most prominent epidemic of isolation among teenagers. Each new shooting is happening because Columbine happened, and because ritualized, dramatic, self-destructive behavior among teenagers – whether it involves suicide, binge drinking, drug addiction, smoking, or taking a gun to school – has extraordinarily contagious power.
We are seeing only the beginning of the outbreak. To treat this epidemic, we must regain access to the world of our youth – at home, in our schools, churches and community. In every case of a school shooting, it was known by as many as twenty students that this violence was in the works, but they did not tell an adult. Why not?
With The Yello Dyno Method™, children from the age of four learn that they can talk openly to caring adults about difficult subjects. In much the same way that the Micronesia youth could turn to another clan member or to the elders of their village, these children learn that adults outside of their family care for them and that they can turn to them for help: "Keep talking until someone listens to you." That bond is the foundation for handling problems in the future. The Yello Dyno Program instills the feeling that they are valuable and deserve the right to be safe. They learn how and who to turn to for help, to speak up when they are threatened, and they learn how to recognize behavior that means danger. In Micronesia, children who attempted suicide spoke of idealizing suicide at the shockingly young age of eight. You can stop the epidemic now; start today with the Yello Dyno inoculation.
Yours for child safety,
Yello Dyno Founder
P.S. NEW RESEARCH: Yello Dyno is a 'stress inoculation for children. Need more scientific research? Over 8,000 students from Ector ISD, Odessa, Texas, participated in our 2005-2006 REdS Independent Research, "The Yello Dyno Program demonstrated the ability to produce significant positive outcomes related to the children’s recognition of potential danger from child predators and what steps to take to escape those dangerous situations...It was found to be effective with all grades and performed especially well in lower grades (K & 1)."
The findings show that 80.8% of the students tested demonstrated an increase in knowledge after one cycle of the Yello Dyno Curriculum.
P.S.S. NEW! Tricky People! Curriculum (Grades 4-5) PowerPoint presentation, with three songs and six video lessons embedded in the presentation, wakes up and empowers children to protect themselves from the dangers of Tricky People, child predators.
Educators, Non-profits, Churches and Law Enforcement: to have a Yello Dyno Curriculum sent to you for a thirty-day review, fill out this online form, or call me at 888-935-5639 ext. 100 or email me at Jan@YelloDyno.com
Comments? Ideas for future memos? Contact me: Jan@YelloDyno.com.
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