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Voices From The Hellmouth Revisited: Part 1 225

Jon's Hellmouth series stands as one of the most important things that have ever appeared on Slashdot. When the dust settled following its original posting, we started talking about ways to get its message to those outside of the Slashdot community. Read on to see what we decided, what happened, and finally the first chapter of the Hellmouth book.

Originally we simply planned to release Hellmouth as a book. It made sense: the people who needed to hear what the story had to say simply weren't Slashdot readers. By spinning it out on its own, it would hopefully find the audience that needs it. The book was edited (at great time and expense I might add) and pieced together. We were all very proud of it. The profits were to be donated to charity. And the message would be heard.

When we announced our intentions, we were quite surprised (although looking back, we probably shouldn't have been) at the amount of hostility some people had towards the idea. Our hearts were certainly in the right place and people knew that, but a lot of people cried foul over our use of their words outside of the Slashdot domain. We had to stand back and rethink our decision.

Ironically enough, we contacted everyone we possibly could to get their permission. Of course there were many anonymous posts, and many email addresses that just bounced, but of the messages that got through, not a single person refused to give us permission to include their words in the Hellmouth book. As with so many things, the perception of a problem is more problematic then the actual problem.

We've decided to hold off printing Hellmouth for now, and instead to put it online. It won't reach as great of an audience as it might have in bookstores and libraries, but we hope that it will still find readers far outside of the Slashdot community: teachers, parents, school administrators. Hopefully even the ones that don't live online like we do. We hope it will reach many of them, and maybe they'll understand a little more of what happened, and what continues to happen.

The original comments have all been linked up so that proper credit can be given, and so that each message can be read within its original context. The first and last chapters will be posted to Slashdot's homepage, but the middle chapters will be moved off the mainpage, and linked in our regular Slashback stories. Our intention here is not to push this on people, but to let those who want to see this go and get it.

When the last part is posted, we'll rethink putting this into print. If you see one of your comments, think seriously about sending Hemos your permission to use these words. If we get permission from enough people, perhaps this book will still get printed. I think that there's something here worth sharing.

I had a hard time in high school. I have many stories that end with me getting assaulted verbablly or physically, just because I was different. I didn't go to parties or talk smoothly with the girls. I found my refuge in computers and technology, and found my friends and voice online.

I'm glad I got out of there before Columbine hit. It only made things harder for the outcasts. They've already got a tough trip. Hopefully the right people will read this, take it to heart, and do what they can. Growing up will never be easy, but we don't need to make it harder.

--Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda


Jeff "Hemos" Bates

I think that the story Jon Katz began to tell in his series of columns about the Hellmouth, the story that you will read here, has always been there. In places where people have come together, there have always been differences. But the stories you will read here go far beyond that. For many of the people writing in this book, high school was a time of trial. While we are attempting to create an accepting and tolerant society, what emerged last May in the writings on Slashdot was a picture that was opposite of what society has tried to paint. Instead of people being accepting of one another -- accepting of difference and of a system that values the contributions of all people -- these writings reveal a system that stigmatizes difference. Everyone is expected to be like the rest of their classmates, and failure to conform to the norm is cause for being marked.

I'm not so far from the educational system. The memory of having been mocked for not wanting to go to basketball games, or (horror of horrors!) for reading books because I actually wanted to is something I still remember. A persistent rumor among some of the girls in my school was that I had spell books. Yes, having Lord of the Rings on your bookshelf can be a black mark.

But I was lucky enough to have parents who had confidence in me, despite the fact that they didn't understand what I was doing on the computer all the time. I had a number of very good teachers in high school; although I was also confronted with my share of teachers I would never want children of my own to have.

These two things helped me immeasurably, but I also had BBS and the Internet. Yes, Virginia, there was an Internet before the Web. I would post on Usenet and on local BBS in the town where I lived. And it was because of many of the people I met there that I was able to develop confidence -- and confidants.

Rob Malda and I, despite having attended the same school system, became friends because of the BBS. And I also met people who ranged in age from eight years younger than me to thirty years older. The BBS community in our town was the model for a lot of the community ideas we've created in Slashdot. Rob and I had a desire to create a system like the one we had grown up with, one in which people could talk to one another, discuss ideas, and learn from each other without the standard noise of human interaction.

Sometimes, for people to really talk and know each other, you can't physically talk. That's what the BBS did for me. Over time, I met more and more people, and I still talk to some. But I was also able to talk to an enormous number of different people who valued me for my opinion, for my thoughts, and for who I was.

When the Hellmouth writing began, I felt the same keen sense of fear that many of the posters had. But I was also overjoyed that there was at least some place for them to talk to each other and listen to each other's experiences, and also-for people who made it through those years-to offer counsel and support. That's something that is sorely lacking in our public schools today.

While we place police officers in our schools, "protecting" the student body, we cut back on the presence of social workers and counselors, thereby eliminating out what kids-all of us, really need the most: Someone who will listen to them and understand. I wish that people would get over their fear of young people today. They aren't any different from anyone else-they just want someone to listen to them, someone to understand them, and most of all, someone to be their friend. They-we-want what everyone wants: We want to be accepted for who and what we are.

I was never going to be the star basketball player, and I certainly was not going to be the no-hitter pitcher for the baseball team. Unfortunately, what that means for many is that I simply wasn't going to matter. Fight this trend. If you are in a similar situation, try to remember that the people around you feel the same as you. And if you are persecuted by your peers, try to take heart in the fact that this too shall pass, but don't be afraid to talk to someone you trust. If you are a teacher, parent, or someone in authority, get over your fear. Fight the trend to demonize young people. Most of all shut up and listen to them. We don't need to be told what's wrong with us. We can tell you just fine, if you're willing to listen.

Voices from the Hellmouth

In the days after the Littleton, Colorado massacre on April 20, 1999, the country went on a panicked hunt for the oddballs in high school, a profoundly ignorant and unthinking response to a tragedy that left geeks, nerds, non-conformists and the alienated in an even worse situation than they were before. Stories emerged from all over the country about these witch-hunts, which amounted to little more than Geek Profiling. These voiceless kids-invisible in media and on TV talk shows and powerless in their own schools-have been e-mailing me with stories of what has happened to them in the past few days. What follows are some of those stories in their own words, with my gratitude and admiration for the courage it took in sending them. The big story out of Littleton isn't about violence on the Internet; it isn't about video games turning our kids into killers. It's about the fact that for some of the best, brightest and most interesting school kids, high school is a nightmare of exclusion, cruelty, loneliness, warped values and rage. In short, high school is the Hellmouth.

From Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Todd Solondz's Welcome To The Dollhouse, and a string of comically bitter teen movies coming from Hollywood, pop culture has been trying to get this message out for years. For many kids- often the most intelligent and vulnerable - high school is a nightmare.

People who are different are reviled as geeks, nerds, and dorks. The lucky ones are excluded; the unfortunate ones are harassed, humiliated and sometimes assaulted literally as well as socially. Odd values -- unthinking school spirit, proms, and jocks -- are exalted, while the best values -- free thinking, non-conformity, and curiosity -- are ridiculed. Maybe the one positive legacy the Trench coat Mafia left was to ensure that this message be heard by a society that seems desperate not to hear it.

Minutes after the "Kids That Kill" column was posted on Slashdot and all through the weekend, I received a steady stream of e-mail from middle and high school kids from across the country -- especially from self-described oddballs. They were in trouble, or saw themselves that way, to one degree or another, in the hysteria that swept the nation after the shootings in Colorado.

Many of these kids saw themselves as targets of a new hunt for oddballs -- suspects in a bizarre, systematic search for the strange and the alienated. Suddenly, in this tyranny of the normal, to be different wasn't just about feeling unhappy, it was to be dangerous.

Schools everywhere openly embraced Geek Profiling. One group calling itself the National School Safety Center issued a checklist of "dangerous signs" to watch for in kids: It included mood swings, a fondness for violent TV or video games, cursing depression, antisocial behavior and attitudes. (I don't know about you, but I bat a thousand).

The panic was fueled by a ceaseless bombardment of powerful, televised images of the mourning and grief in Colorado, images that stir the emotions and demand some sort of response, even when it isn't clear what the problem is.

The reliably blockheaded media response didn't help either. "60 Minutes" devoted a whole hour to a broadcast about screen violence and its impact on the young. The show was heavily promoted with the tease: "Are video games turning your kids into killers?" The already embattled loners were besieged.

"This is not a rational world. Can anybody help?" asked Jamie, head of an intense Dungeons and Dragons club, whose private school guidance counselor gave him a choice: Give up the game or face counseling, possibly suspension. Suzanne, who e-mailed me, was told to go home and leave her black ankle-length raincoat there.

On the Web, kids flocked to talk to each other. On Star Wars and X-Files mailing lists and Websites and on AOL chat rooms and ICQ message boards, teenagers traded countless stories about being harassed, beaten, ostracized and ridiculed by teachers, students and administrators for dressing and thinking differently. Many said they had some understanding of why the killers in Littleton had gone over the edge.

"We want to be different," wrote one of the Colorado killers in a diary found by police. "We want to be strange and we don't want jocks or other people putting us down." The sentiment, if not the response to it, was echoed by kids all across America. The Littleton killings made their lives much worse.

"It was horrible, definitely," e-mailed Brandy. "I'm a Quake freak, I play it day and night. I'm really into it. I play Doom a lot too, though not so much anymore. I'm up till 3a.m. every night. I really love it. But after Colorado, things got horrible. People were actually talking to me like I could come in and kill them. It wasn't like they were really afraid of me- they just seemed to think it was okay to hate me even more. People asked me if I had guns at home. This is a whole new level of exclusion, another excuse for the preppies of the universe to put down and isolate people like me."

It wasn't just the popular who were suspicious of the odd and the alienated, though.

The e-mailed stories ranged from suspensions and expulsions for "antisocial behavior" to censorship of student publications to school and parental restrictions on computing, Web browsing, and especially gaming. There were unconfirmed reports that the sale of blocking software had skyrocketed. Everywhere, school administrators pandered and panicked, rushing to show that they were highly sensitive to parent's fears, even if they were oblivious to the needs and problems of many of their students.

In a private school in the East, a girl was expelled for showing classmates a pocketknife. School administrators sent a letter home: "In light of the recent tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, we all share a heightened sensitivity to potential threats to our children. I urge you to take the time to discuss with your children the importance of turning to adults when they have concerns about the behavior of others."

This solution was straight out of "1984." In fact, this was one of the reasons that its protagonist Winston was jailed for: For refusing to report his friends for behavior that Big Brother deemed abnormal and disturbing.

Few of the week's media stories -- in fact, none that I saw -- pointed out that the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, issued biannually, along with the Justice Department's reports indicate that violence among the young is dropping across the country, even as computing, gaming, cable TV and other media use rises.

Unhappy, alienated, isolated teens are legion in schools, voiceless in media, education and politics. But theirs are the most important voice of all in understanding what happened and perhaps even how to keep it from happening again.

I referred some of my e-mailers to peacefire.org, a children's rights Website, for help in dealing with blocking and filtering software. I sent other to freedomforum.org (the website Free!) for help with censorship and free speech issues, and to geek Websites, especially some on ICQ.com, where kids can talk freely.

Note: I've chosen some e-mailers to partially reprint here. Although almost all these correspondents were willing to be publicly identified -- some demanded it -- I'm only using their initials or first names, since some of their stories would put them in peril from parents, peers or school administrators --JK.

"I stood up in social studies class -- the teacher wanted a discussion and said I could never kill anyone or condone anyone who did kill anyone. But I could, on some level, understand these kids in Colorado, the killers. Because day after day, slight after slight, exclusion after exclusion, you can learn how to hate, and that hatred grows and takes you over sometimes, especially when you come to see that you're hated only because you're smart and different, or sometimes even because you are online a lot, which is still so uncool to many kids? After class, I was called to the principal's office and told that I had to agree to undergo five sessions of counseling or be expelled from school, as I had expressed sympathy with the killers in Colorado, and the school had to be able to explain itself if I acted out. In other words, for speaking freely, and to cover their ass, I was not only branded a weird geek, but a potential killer. That will sure help deal with violence in America." ---Jay (Original Comment #1)

"To be honest, I sympathized much more with the shooters than the shootees. I am them. They are me. This is not to say I will end the lives of my classmates in a hail of bullets, but that their former situation bears a striking resemblance to my own. For the most part, the media are clueless. They have never experienced social rejection, or chosen non-conformity. Also, I would like to postulate that the kind of measures taken by school administration have a direct effect on school violence. School is generally an oppressive place; the parallels to fascist society are tantalizing. Following a school shooting, a week or two-week crackdown ensues, where student's constitutional rights are violated with impunity, at a greater rate than previous." ---Andrew (Original Comment #2)

"I was stopped at the door of my high school because I was wearing a trench coat. I don't game, but I'm a geek chick, and I'm on the Web a lot. (I love geek guys and there aren't many of us.) I was given a choice - go home and ditch the coat, or go to the principal. I refused to go home. I have never been a member of any group or trench coat mob or any hate thing, online or any other, so why should they tell me what coat to wear?

Two Security guards took me into an office, called the school nurse, who was female, and they ordered me to take my coat off. The nurse asked me to undress (privately) while the guards outside went through every inch of my coat. I wouldn't undress, and she didn't make me (I think she felt creepy about the whole thing). Then I was called into the principal's office and he asked me if I was a member of any hate group, or any online group, or if I had ever played Doom or Quake. He mentioned some other games, but I don't remember them. I'm not a gamer, though my boyfriends have been. I lost it then. I thought I was going to be brave and defiant, but I just fell apart. I cried and cried. I think I hated that worse than anything." ---A.O. (Original Comment #3)

"High school favors people with a certain look and attitude -- the adolescent equivalent of Aryans. They are the chosen ones, and they want to get rid of anyone who doesn't look and think the way they do. One of the things, which makes this so infuriating is that the system favors shallow people. Anyone who took time to think about things would realize that things like the prom; school spirit and who won the football game are utterly insignificant in the larger scheme of things. So anyone with depth of thought is almost automatically excluded from the main high school social structure. It's like some horribly twisted form of Social Darwinism. I would never, ever do anything at all like what was done in Colorado. I can't understand how anyone could. But I do understand the hatred of high school life, which, I guess, prompted it." ---E.S. (Original Comment #4)

"Dear Mr. Katz. I am 10. My parents took my computer away today, because of what they saw on television. They told me they just couldn't be around enough to make sure that I'm doing the right things on the Internet. My mom and Dad told me they didn't want to be standing at my funeral some day because of things I was doing that they didn't know about. I am at my best friend's house, and am pretty bummed, because things are boring now. I hope I'll get it back."---J.O. (Original Comment #5)

"I'm in my late 20s and coming up on my high school reunion. I remember as early as third grade that I didn't fit in. Not being able to sit with the other kids at lunch, being teased and left out at recess. It wasn't anything specific, I just wasn't the same and I didn't know how to conform. I was thin and looking back at pictures, no matter how ugly I felt and the kids told me I was, I was a cute kid and pretty teen-albeit a little geeky. Being smart and later liking computers (when my high school got Apple+ machines) made me a total outcast. College was the same. I remember sitting in my dorm room crying often and wondering what I could do so that I could have friends and be invited to parties too. I did all the wrong things. I ended up marrying the first stable guy who liked me and told me I was pretty- we eventually got divorced.

Point is, I am pretty and I am smart and I found a place to be and a guy who loves me for who I am. I'm making phenomenal money for being an Internet developer and I can't wait to go to reunion and show how wonderful my life is- despite all the nasty things that people said and did. Being on the cheerleading team for four years can't compare to the lifetime success that being a freethinker brings. High school feels like it takes forever, but hang in there- "soon you'll find your niche." ---A.C. (Original Comment #6)

"It's true - the world after high school is a big, beautiful place. Of course, it is messed up in many ways, but I feel there is a tremendous amount of potential in it, especially if young people like yourselves - people with courage, free minds and spirits, IMAGINATION! - Can find the places in the world that want and need change, vision, a kick in the butt. Please hang on, find solace in gaming or poetry or music or whatever trips your trigger, build your own safe havens and learn to build them for others. You are the ones who are going to make a difference, maybe even someday for kids exactly like yourselves. I know, believe me, I KNOW, high school is not an easy time, but whatever you do, be true to yourself. You won't regret it, and with age, your peers will start to look up to you, and wish they had the courage to be "different."

"And as for now, DON"T let them censor you. Call the ACLU and ask what legal recourse you have, send the articles they won't publish to your local paper, ask your parents to listen with you to your music and then listen with them to some of theirs -- whatever you do, remember that (I am stealing this line from the poet Diane diPrima) the only war that matters is the war against the imagination."--- A high school teacher (Original Comment #7)

"I don't believe that ridicule of nerds, geeks, whatever you call it in the mainstream is anything new. Read biographies of people like Feynman and Einstein. They were viewed as oddballs too. In my view of the world, there is no free lunch. Either you conform (and die of crushing boredom) and be popular, else you do your own thing, be ridiculed. Since I chose to (and still choose to) do my own thing, I accept that I'll never be Mr. Popularity. That's how it is. You may call it a defense mechanism, but in my view who cares what The Suit in the corner cube thinks of me, as long as I get my work done. Just as I didn't care what teachers thought of me, or the giggly (but pretty, oh-so pretty) girls thought of me in school or college."---Teddy (Original Comment #8)

"I've been involved in computers from the age of 6, when I got my first real PC, a 286/16 (currently I'm almost 17 and a sophomore in high school.) Ever since then I've been hooked, in the little gray box there is a world of possibilities and adventures, and the only thing holding you back (if you aren't using some shitty OS like 'doze) is your will, knowledge and imagination. In the past I've done a lot like running a BBS, programming since I was like 10 or so, adminstering computers and networks, etc. Currently I'm working on my own CRPG (online, static-world, high-capacity roleplaying game ... www.avalonet.org) and I love it, I feel like a god whenever I work at the code, creating my own world. But there's another side to life, and it certainly isn't all that great for me at this time... Where I live is known for being a very liberal town, hell, even the mayor is gay. But I still take plenty of crap for being different. I've become really good at hiding what makes me what I am rather than risking being ostracized for it, the state of the public school system in America is rather sad. I don't really pretend I'm someone else, I just don't openly share who I am with others, if I do it's usually on a very superfical level. Some would say to "be yourself and don't care what others think about you", but I've been there and done that, and in high achool it only makes your life hell, or at least it did mine. Right now I fit in alright, I'm not popular or anything, but at the same time I'm well-liked by most others. But I feel that I'm not living my life, my potential is constanyl oppressed and I can't really talk to anyone about who I really am because they just can't understand me, so I've all but given up trying. This is a good indication as to the fact that I've never gone to see school counselors, etc."

"I'm really a good guy at the root. I hate being mean to people (I'm sure it bothers me more than them when I do it) and I just love having fun, fun that doesn't involve putting others down to make yourself feel better (that's certainly hard to find in my enviroment.) For me understanding comes from children, I love kids. Just spending time with them makes me feel somehow fulfilled as a human being, all you have to do is give them attention and love and they'll love you back for who you are. I don't have to pretend in front of them, and that's what I love about it. Of course they most likely can't understand what I do, nor do I expect them to try, just the fact that they're there and smiling at you is enough. It's sad to see them grow up and be filled with stereotypes and misconceptions, but it's inevitable these days. People fill that void in different ways, for me it's children, for you hopefully it's your finacee, hopefully I can find an understanding woman in my future, one who is fine with me being myself. I'm sorry that I really can't offer any advice but I can only share my short story and hope that you find that you're not alone, there are plenty of others like you and I who have been "shown the door" concerning inclusion in society, some more than others. The world is a scary place, and those who brave it while staying true to themselves are the real winners." ---Robby (Original Comment #9)

"I feel rejected and oppressed by all the cool kids in this college. I believe I'll wander down to the commons and take them all out. I have zero sympathy for the TCM. I really don't see their 'solution' to their problems as having any positive benefits." ---Derek (Original Comment #10)

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Voices From The Hellmouth Revisited: Part 1 of 10

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  • First a little background. The community that this occurred in, Manhattan Beach, is an upper middle to wealthy class (entry level home around here is >$300,000) neighborhood. It is predominantly liberal democrat, and rather accepting, or so I thought. Earlier today, I read this article [dailybreeze.com] in the Daily Breeze [dailybreeze.com] (the local paper), and realized that people still don't want to accept people who make a stand against the system, and won't anytime soon. Personally, I feel what the kid did in the article did was laudable, and the only reason that the school suspended him was because he made a point.

    I fear that another Columbine will be coming soon, and that there is very little we can do about it.

  • Let's face it: that book needed to be published. The message of *Voices from the Hellmouth* is one we at /. don't need to learn--we've lived it, we understand it; we are the Net-saavy Quake-playing geeks and geekettes who are now being persecuted in high schools across this great country, to a greater extent than ever before. That book needed to be published so that people who don't read /.--the administrators, teachers, parents, cool kids, Pinkertons, and FBI flunkies who are responsible for the persecutions--can learn that the Internet doesn't "turn people's hearts dark" and that playing video games filled with "fantasy violence" and board-game classics like Dungeons & Dragons is a positive outlet for people who are beaten up or verbally beaten down by bullies, shunned by girls, and cast a suspicious eye by clueless school admins and the police officers who are now placed in schools "for our own protection."

    It's people like you who, with your whining and complaining, stopped that message from getting out when it was needed most. That book would have been printed and available by now, and more people--like the newspaper sensationalists who are making things worse--could have a better chance to understand that they need to cut teenagers more slack, not less, if they want to create healthy adults. Raising impressionable young people in an environment filled with cops and admins who'll search your backpacks and lockers because of how you look, who act like busybodies seizing bottles of water and packs of cigarettes as if they were crack cocaine, just fills them with justified rage instead of with the knowledge they should be gleaning in schools. Picking on a kid because he dresses differently is exactly like picking on a kid for being Black or Latino. It just isn't right and it needs to be stopped.

    This book would have helped the situation, and I'm aghast the the /. community actively worked against it. Katz wasn't going to make money off it. Taco and Hemos weren't going to line their pockets with green (at least, not *THAT* kind of green, hehe...). Andover wasn't going to line its coffers with profits from this book. It probably would have been a loss-leader, almost an act of charity and giving back to the community by doing something to help young geeks and geekettes everywhere who are in trouble thanks to the current repression and hysteria.

    In fact, if any of the /. admins or anyone with their ears is listening right now, I have a humble but useful suggestion for you. It's doubtless been made before, but it needs to be made again and again until it happens. It won't fix the present problems with the *Hellmouth* book, but it would fix all such future issues. Here it is:

    You should put a big, bold disclaimer at the top of each page, just under the banner, that all comments submitted to /. are done so under an Open Content License or something similar, giving rights to reprint them in any non-commercial manner. After all, /. is a bunch of Open Source and Free Software supporters, right? If this is true, then we should have no problems agreeing to this. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to not post here. So, do we support Open Source and Free Software or not? Let's do more than pay this philosophy lip service. Let's support it with each and every post we make here. Let's make sure that no chance like the *Hellmouth* book is ever passed up again, thanks to a few fucking posers who don't care about helping their fellow geeks. Fuck the posers. Slashdot should be a place for people who are really supporters of the FSF and Open Source philosophies. If you don't want your posting under an Open Content Licence, then go post it in a Windows forum. There would be a few whiners, but almost all of us would support the change. After all, are we hypocrites or real men who stand behind our philosophy when it comes to us, rather than just the work of others?

    This book could have helped a lot of people. In my own state, a boy was suspended for having blue hair. The school knew it would lose the appeal, but it did what it wanted to do: it kept the boy out of school for the rest of his senior year, then gave him the diploma once they lost the case and the kid was no longer their problem. Should blue hair be a reason to keep a kid out of school? How about kinky black hair, so we can discriminate against Blacks? Why don't we expell jocks when they abuse geeks instead? A sixth grader was expelled because he was found with a list of classmates' names--no word on what the list actually was for, mind you, and the kid insists he found it in his desk and was just reading it when the teacher took it, but here it is: a kid expelled for having a piece of paper with names, just names. Maybe they were names of classmates he thought were cute. Maybe they were names of kids who picked on him. Maybe it was a list of his friends. Maybe it really was someone else's list. Who knows, but there it stands. How about the kid who had a Web site, not on the school servers, that he made on his own time not in school, who called some of his teachers ignorant fools who "deserve to be shunned." The teachers in question took "shunned" as a threat, though clearly it's not, and had the boy suspended while they filed a lawsuit against him and his parents. The parents settled out of court for $7000 because our "justice" system is SO FUCKED UP that it costs more than that just to defent yourself against a nuisance, groundless lawsuit. So much for freedom of speech and the First Amendment I loved so much.

    Let me tell you about that First Amendment. It applies, partially at least, even to minors in schools. I had to research it a lot to defend myself against school administrators once. I especially like the Tinker decision, which has been interpreted from its original application (the right to wear armbands or other symbolic and expressive clothing to public schools) to be the basis of most of the rights which high school students have.

    As a sophomore in high school in 1993, I wrote an article for the school newspaper defending a female friend of mine who had been slandered as a "racist" for writing, in the preceding issue, an article about how race-based scholarships and quotas are wrong. I wrote an impassioned and well-reasoned piece, not unlike what George Bush Sr. or Ronald Reagan would have said on the issue. It was especially contentious because in my school, we had a "Minority Parents' Association" whose sole goal was getting scholarships for Black students. I thought this was wrong, because white students didn't have anyone at our school helping them to get scholarships. Just a personal political opinion. But it sparked a huge controversy; I had to leave school early the day it came out in print, and had to have a security detail take me to classes for the rest of the week. A certain well-known national newspaper printed an article about the controversy my little, rather centrist-conservative article caused in a predominantly minority school. I learned a lot about how people--especially high school kids and the administrators who deal with them--can act irrational and treat you like an outcast for one little difference you might have. Most of the Black students assumed I was a racist without even reading the very moderate article. Liberal teachers were actively disagreeing to the point of trying to push their own opinions onto their students. A Black vice-principal even came to one of my classes to lead a discussion about the article, and called my position "ignorant." It only made her hate me more when I destroyed all her flimsy arguments in the ensuing debate, and had most of the class agreeing with me.

    I created a few enemies, including that vice-principal. I could handle my fellow students, but it's hard to handle a few administrators who are out to get you. I wrote another article for the school newspaper the following year, about how it was a shame that the school was cutting history and philosophy and literature classes, while they were leaving cosmetology classes intact. After all, I reasoned, anyone who wants to do hair and nails for a living can just pay a couple hundred dollars for a two-week course and job placement, but high school was the only chance a lot of people would have to be introduced to literature and history and philosophy. The article was published, but with heavy editing done by the admins who disliked my first piece. They didn't even tell me they were editing it. They were even ignorant enough to change the phrase "liberal education," a rather common one, to the nonsensical phrase "conservative education" reasoning that I should have said that since I was conservative, not liberal. It really pissed me off, especially when people were asking me what the Hell I meant by "conservative education."

    So, I did the ultimate in pissing any administration off: I got together with half a dozen friends and we put together a newspaper of our own. We wrote articles with a conservative slant, since we had a liberal administration. The homecoming queen was the daughter of a military man, and wrote a piece about why women and men shouldn't be stationed in combat together. I was pro-choice myself, but a friend wrote an opinion piece that was pro-life. We even put political satire and poetry in it, and endorsed a Republican senatorial candidate. It was designed, from beginning to end, to teach the administration a lesson: that if the students weren't permitted to run the school newspaper how we saw fit, we'd just publish our own alternative newspaper. A friend with a Mac and ClarisWorks formatted it, and I scrounged together $175 for a press run of 1000 copies of the six-page newspaper. We called it *The Federalist*.

    I got suspended for a week for handing copies of it out to the people who wrote articles for it before it was officially approved for distribution. According to precedent, they had to approve it since it was done by and would be distributed by students, but they got me on a technicality for giving out less than a dozen copies to the people who had written it with me. Of course, I appealed and won. It really pissed the admins off, but it worked: they never tried to censor the school newspaper again, under the threat that we'd publish something far more annoying to them ourselves. Oh, BTW, the conservative paper pissed off one student so much that when I was standing in a classroom talking to someone, a this guy saw me and came into the class and asked me if I'd published the alternative paper. I said yes, and he picked up one of those desk/chair combos and hurled it at my chest. It was kind of gratifying, in a weird way...

    Of course, when we did that we were exercising our Constitutional rights. Most adults seem to forget that even teenagers have Constitutional rights, even in schools. But today, we'd have been expelled, all of us involved. And it would have taken thousands of dollars--something my poor family didn't have--to get us reinstated. I feel very sorry for high schoolers today.

    I left HS in 1995, the year my school got its first police officer stationed there. We all laughed about it, because aside from the odd fist fight out front nothing ever happened at my school. No one ever got shot. No one brought a gun. But we got a police officer anyway. We laughed at him--a cop whose job was to confiscate glass bottles and cigarettes. We called Officer Buck "Officer Fucknut" and sneered "Do I smell...bacon?" when he passed by. But we all secretly resented his very presence. We laughed and sneered to mask our own unease. We hated him, and his intrusion where he most certainly didn't belong. And yet today I'd wager there are half a dozen Officer Fucknuts patrolling our old school grounds, making students who should be enjoying themselves uneasy, putting yet another black stain on the high school experiences of the 2500 young people there. It's like a prison, with them the guards and the principal the warden. That's not what school is supposed to be like. It's so intrusive. Today, there's even a police station in the local Mall. There's something deeply wrong with contemporary America; thanks to unfounded hysteria and politicians who pass feel-good, right-restricting legislation, we're closer to an Orwellian prison than we realize. Each day, I see more and greater injustices in "the land of the free," and it's beginning to feel like we're all trapped in a Kafka story, or in a gulag, or at the very least in a civilization in decline. If you've ever read *The Decline of the West*, you know what I mean...

    P.S.--This and all my past, present, and future postings will be made under an Open Content License, allowing for any non-commercial use, abuse, reprinting, or extracting in whole or in part. You are also free to make derivative works with or without attribution--after all, it's only a quich posting on a public forum; it ain't my fuckin' life's work. I'm amending my user info page to reflect this licensing of all my postings, and I suggest that everyone here who *really* supports the philosophies behind Free Software or Open Source to do the same. And I still hope Rob and Jeff decide to put an Open Content License discaimer at the top of every page, to prevent important work like a paper printing of Hellmouth from being stopped by a few bad apples with bad faith and selfish arrogance.

  • I am surpised, and very disturbed by the negative reactions to the (proposed) book. What is wrong with documenting peoples' real reactions? I think our speaking out is the only way to combat prejudice and given the situation, I think we must act on this any way we can. Not only are some kids being pushed over the edge into violence against others, many more are hurting themselves via suicide attempts or other self destructive acts. I'd like to hear from people who object because I can't imagine what their argument could be and I'd like the chance to argue back, and to offer my support of this project, and of these kids. I was once one of the outcast and I made it through, but if I had endured the kind of scrutiny these kids face, I don't know what would have happened.
  • I'd also like to add my thoughts to this series.

    This is going to be a long one and I'm not a great writer, sorry.

    I got stuck in a somewhat similar situation to t0qer when I was a kid but the nice helpful counselor types managed to reform me, not for the better.

    When I was seven my father was killed in a car accident. This left my mother in a rough position because she had 2 kids to raise and no career outside of "housewife" so we moved into the city so she could go back to school.

    I did fine until Junior High, I didn't really have a lot of friends and the ones I did have shared my all consuming intrest in computers and BBSs. We were fine, the other kids were not.

    The abuse we took for not fitting in was amazing, it went far beond just being made fun of, we were physically attacked on a regular basis. The school authorities did recognize that something was wrong but assumed it was me that was causing the problem. Having lost my father so suddenly I must be a messed up little kid, right? I had to go through counseling sessions with a shrink once a week, all the guy ever wanted to talk about was my Dad, I couldn't convince him that the other kids were contributing to my problems at all. It was decided that what I needed was to be transfered to a boarding school for problem children, I started there in the 9th grade.

    The school was run by Catholic priests and was a really different place. I had some absolutely awesome teachers and my grades went from good to being the top of my class. (the best in the school actually) However is wasn't all good. Like I said, this school was for "problem" children, it wasn't all kids like me, the bullies here made my other school look like a joke.

    A ways into the year things started to change, I made friends with Jay, one of the "toughest" kids in the school and he did a lot to protect me. Around this time my family genes kicked in and I went from being the short fat kid to being much more muscular than most of the kids my age in about 6 months. I also decided that the way to get respect from the kids around me (In a very Alpha ape kind of way) was to beat the crap out of anyone I didn't like. We had a realy nasty pecking order going on in that school, I still don't understand it or why I fell into it so easy.

    For High School I returned to the public school system. All the same jerks were still there and were still jerks. So I set out to prove myself through violence and was pretty successful. By the 11th grade I was one of the more popular kids in the school. I had lots of friends, girls liked me and I was on the football, rugby and baseball teams. I honestly thought that I had managed to turn everything around but I was very wrong. All my new friends and I did was smoke dope, drink when we were supposed to be in class and pick on the geeks. In November of my senior year I got hurt in a football game and beacause I couldn't play sports any more I decided to drop out.

    By this point my mother and brother couldn't stand me any more so I left home and got a crappy little apartment so I could keep the party going. I had recived a pretty good chunk of money from my father's estate and I set out to pitch the entrire amount into drinking, drugs, girls and fast cars.

    It was about a year into this that I got a call from my cousin Jon. Jon is a very gifted software engineer about 15 years older than me. We never spent a lot of time together when I was growing up but we just clicked on a lot of things. He was the guy that coached me through the mess I had kept making of my computer as a kid, hooked me up with a Portal account so I could read usenet and encouraged me keep learning.

    Jon invited me to come and live with him in Montreal and see if he couldn't turn me into a coder. I took him up on it and spent a little over a year learning what a real hacker and a real human being is. He saved my life.

    I'm 24 now and I make a more than decent living turning out Perl and Java stuff for a really cool company. People at work like and respect me because I'm good at what I do and I'm easy to get along with. I don't know what would have happend if Jon hadn't stepped in but it scares me to think about it. I can't absolutely say that my experiences in boarding school turned me into the little asshole I was but I really think that they did. What I don't understand about it is the fact that I got singled out as the problem. I was content to hang out with my geeky friends and argue about who had the better VGA card, I knew I wanted to go to McGill or Stanford or MIT and become an engineer. I think I was okay. By the time I had gone through their crap all I wanted to was get drunk, chase girls and get in trouble (there was lots of trouble by the way). This really reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 in a lot of ways, creepy.

    I hope this helps some people understand why this is important. School officials need to be able to understand these situations and not do to some poor kid what they did to me.

    I'm going to be fine and to be honest I wouldn't trade the experience and insight I've gained for anything but I fear other people might not be as lucky.

  • I have just recently begun reading slashdot after reading the interview with you two in Linux Magazine. I enjoy reading you pages and the commentary on certain issues. Most are okay, and there are the occasional few gems posted that make me see things in a new light and make me realize that no matter how much I think that I have all the right answers, I really don't.

    I hope that you will not shoot me down for being off topic but the reason that I am including this comment under this page is that the Hellmouth article the best thing that I have read on slashdot so far. To this end, I think that it is important to realize that the most of the avid readers of slashdot embrace the internet, and honestly believe that it provides a wonderful forum for current issues. I hope that you will do everything in your power to get this information outside this community and I wish you the best of luck in doing so.
  • At my HS the geeks are the ones who get the praise and recognition. When funding cuts hit, the sports teams get hit, not anything academic. I find I can't relate to any of the stories posted here, about being ridiculed and such. In fact, I find myself and my friends ridiculing the academic (as opposed to the IB [International Baccalauriate]) students. Even the teachers ridicule them, they tend to detest those that are less fortunate (read: moronic). You need to organize. There's 30-40 of us at our school, all geeks, know it, and love it. There's arts geeks, computer geeks, science geeks, etc. The people who get recognition and praise in my school are the top scoring students, and the debate team (#1 in country for almost 10 years :). It's a public school, just like everyone (almost) here. I know my school is the exception, but there ARE some schools where the idiots are treated as such. (Even though this tends toward an elitist bunch... even in a left-wing canadian school ;). Geeks aren't harrassed, or anything of the sort. Hell, there's a fair amount of us on the rugby team. Oh well.
    www.stallman.org is running Apache/1.3.6 (Unix) on FreeBSD
  • It was done that way so the people who rail on about Hellmouth stories appearing on their JonKatz-filtered home page will quit whining.

  • No no no. I think you missed something in the translation.

    I am not saying that Slashdot should have asked permission BEFORE the individuals posted their comments. What I am saying is that, when the decision was made to incorporate the comments into a print format, Slashdot should have said "hey, we are thinking about doing this. What do you all thing?" and then contacted individuals whose comments were going to be used in the book.

    This would not have affected the quality of the original posts because they would still have been made prior to the individual being aware that the information was going to be used in a book.

    A lot of individuals on Slashdot have grown to greatly dislike Jon Katz (I think just for the sake of disliking him). Personally, I have had times where I have loved what Katz had to say and others where I totally disagree with him. That is what makes Jon so much fun to have around.

    I think some of these individuals were angered at the idea of Katz putting another book onto his resume at the expense of innocent Slashdotters. I can understand that.

    What angers me about the whole "Hellmouth" series by Katz is the fact that he justifies what Eric and Dennis did that April 20th at Columbine. I keep hearing the message repeated that it was "understandable". It is not okay for Geeks to kill the less-fortunate lemming masses simply because they are being 'picked on.'

    That is what Quake and DOom are for. So you can release the anger and the frustration in a medium where no one get hurt.

    No. I am not justifying the endless scorn that Dennis Klebold and Eric Harris probably endured at Columbine. Trust me. When I was in High School back in the 1980's my friends and I were constantly harrassed (and by people who had been our friends back in grade school.) I took my frustrations out killing monsters the Bard's Tale on the my C-64.

    I personally feel that I am a better person for what I went through back then. High School was the "Crappiest days of my life." And I remember them fondly. The hours in the computer lab. Trading the latest pirated copies of software. And best of all, blowing away EVERYONE's expectations about that quiet little introverted nerd who ended up with the starring role in the Senior Class musical. Who would have thought?

  • I homeschool our children as well. I too think it's important that if someone isn't learning anything in high school, and finds it a toxic environment, then the solution is to get out. Homeschooling is an ideal solution for those between the ages of 14 and 16, but obviously not all parents are willing to do it. If they are, however, it can be a real way out of some of these horrific situations.

    For those age 16 and over, it may be best for the person to simply get out. Mandatory attendance in most states ends at age 16. Obviously schools dread the thought of individuals leaving school, because they get money based on enrollment. But this isn't about what's best for the school - it's about what's best for the person, especially someone with skills and interests not relevant to the high school world.

    In this economy, if one has computer skills, it is indeed possible to work and support oneself in a reasonable life (apartment, car, medical care, etc.) without college or even high school. The GED test is not terribly difficult, and there are all sorts of free or modest-cost preparation services.

    College can come later, after the person has de-toxified himself or herself from the high school experience and has earned some money.

    Even colleges are not requiring full four years of high school. If you are 16 or over and homeschooled, you can take community college courses, or even some four-year college courses. Also, increasing numbers of colleges are willing to accept individuals w/ GEDs, especially if they have some special skill or area of interest (i.e.software.) Every community college does, to my knowledge, and once someone has gone to the community college, he or she can make the transition to a four year college, IF that's what the person wants.

    The New York Times and other "mainstream" publications have gotten onto this, and have published articles about 16 and 17 year olds (even a 15 year old in Texas) who have gone to work and left high school behind forever. I know several 15-18 year olds who've left high school and are working now in technology. There would have been no point in them going to high school for two more years.

    I do appreciate the difficulties of computer-oriented kids in some of these school environments. Hopefully my comments will give readers some concrete suggestions towards solving some of these problems on the individual level.
  • Oh, godz, not again. Isn't anybody sick of this teen angst yet?

    For many of the people writing in this book, high school was a time of trial.

    Puberty is, always has been, and always will be a time of trial. For everyone. Just because you're a geek doesn't make you special, so quit with the martyr complex. As soon as you mature past that - assuming you do mature past it - you'll see that.

    While we are attempting to create an accepting and tolerant society, what emerged last May in the writings on Slashdot was a picture that was opposite of what society has tried to paint. Instead of people being accepting of one another -- accepting of difference and of a system that values the contributions of all people -- these writings reveal a system that stigmatizes difference. Everyone is expected to be like the rest of their classmates, and failure to conform to the norm is cause for being marked.

    Um, hello? I've got news for you - very few people are actually interested in accepting and tolerating. I have no idea why, but it appears to be true. And a system that stigmatizes differences is the perfect tool to capitalize on that, which is why all news broadcasts are ratings-based now, and why people so readily believe whatever they see on TV. Think about that - which is the cause, and which the effect.

    I wish that people would get over their fear of young people today. They aren't any different from anyone else-they just want someone to listen to them, someone to understand them, and most of all, someone to be their friend. They-we-want what everyone wants: We want to be accepted for who and what we are.

    The same goes for older people - they want to be accepted for who they are. But young people represent change, which means the destruction of what they know and what they do and how they do it.

    All that being said, I still think all of this is dramatically overblown - puberty is about maturation. Grow a spine, and stand up for yourself. You won't always win, and you won't always avoid conflict, but at least you'll have self-respect. There will always be mean people and stupid people. Deal with it.


  • In my senior year of high school (1997-98) we had a shift in theatre teachers at my school. We went from a "Geek" who showed us the art behind the stage, we performed "Midsummer Night's Dream", "Good Woman of Sezwan", "Diviners", "La Bete", and two plays that he had written "Zombies", a play very much in line with the Evil Dead Series and some of the bad other zombie movies, and "Life Machine" a play modeled on "Machinal" which focused on the horrors of mankind and what we as a people can do to stop them. These plays were about making people think, about not taking things at face value and standing up for what you believe in. This teacher left to go on and make movies, and his candidates for replacement came down to a teacher very much like him (one that would treat theatre as an art) and a teacher who thought of it as pure entertainment, who had no concept of art. Guess who the school picked? No not the educator but the entertainer. She went on to pick Neil Simon's "Fools" and "Bye-Bye Birde" for the plays that we were going to do. It was a radical shift. Once the year started, we had elections for our theatre club president, the art side ran a candidate, the entertainment side ran a candidate, and there were two compromise candidates. The vote came back as 16 (entertainment), 15 (art), 14 (comp.#1), 13 (comp#2). The teacher had counted the votes, and the entertainment candidate was her daughter. The vote count of course reeked of setup. No vote is that close and perfect. Then we had auditions for "Fools" and oddly enough her daughter got the lead (she was not a good actress, and only got extra parts the year before), while I and my art group didn't get any parts ( I was the lead supporting actor in all the plays the previous year, the lead actor graduated. Also the lead supporting actress from the year before was in the group, and the light man and the sound guy). The lightman wasn't picked for the crew, and neither was the sound guy. It was a purge of the art group. We decided to let them have their theatre and we would start an alternative theatre group on the campus. We had several teachers who helped us out, and one was willing to be our advisor and director (Our sci-fi english teacher and an actor and former theatre teacher). We went to the prinicpal and pleaded our case, we empasized the educational ascpect of our theatre group, and how the other regime pushed us out and how fishy the election was. She rejected our new theatre group totally, but she did set up a grevience hearing that she would moderate between 4 people from our group and the theatre teacher. We should have never accepted that, because once we got there it was a setup. The theatre teacher had violated the rules and brought 5 of her groupies and through out the meeting they ganged up on me personally and accused me of slander and emotional abuse. Anyone who knows me, knows that I would do no such thing. We weren't able to get a single grevience in. Then afterwards we were forbidden to have anything to do with theatre in that school and I was personally made an example of and suspended. My parents came down the next day and bitched out the principal. While the suspension stayed, it was never put on my record, and she was forced to whipe out my PE requirement and allow me to change my classes at anytime. I thought of going public with this before and figured no one would care or let alone believe that facism regins supreme at our schools and education is the furthest thing from educators minds.
  • An amazing story. Perhaps you should advertise the "Hellmouth" series
    posted on slashdot.org (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=00/10/23/15212 50&mode=nested)
    for your readership. One of the feedback responses was a link to your
    story about Patrick Griffiths. Patrick showed an amazing amount of
    independence and was punished for it. As Patrick probably knows, but
    your readership many not be aware, these demonstrations of solidarity
    and non-conformity are seldom met with admiration.

    Take your suspension, Patrick, and wear it as a badge of honor. I, too,
    was different in high school and often felt I was loosing my sanity.
    Although I sold out to a degree and tried to conform, I wasn't very
    successful. In fact, I was suspended for 10 days accused of drinking
    alchohol when, actually, I was only associating with those that did.
    Typical guilt-by-association and suspension of due-process that high
    school officials exercise liberally. Now, at 32, I'm successful. I have a
    great wife, an amazing one year old, and I'm CTO of an up-and-coming
    company (not a typical .com - we're already in the
    black). I refuse to conform to this day and that attitude has served
    me well.

    -tim drury
  • That's not why it was posted under Jon's name. It's because a lot of people filter Jon Katz out, and so don't want to see anything written by Jon Katz. Last time Hemos posted something about this, a huge uproar went up about how they would've preferred it be posted under Katz so their filters would work. Thus they did.
  • but what if we are the ones that are outside your peer group? You might be surprised how many of them there exists on Slashdot
  • There are agendas, and there are agendas. And I don't see the rational agenda being pushed through the system right now with regard to anything, from drugs to war to kids who kill kids. Point me to these titles, published by a major house. Point me to their first edition numbers. Then let me see the numbers for the latest pulp from John Grisham, or the latest babblings of a pseudo-pysch like Dr. Laura Schlesinger. There is a disparity in the views presented by major media.

    Show me a breakdown of these 500,000 titles in print. Who printed them? Are you including South End Press? Common Courage? Penguin? Random House? Who is in that list?

    And now, for the worst part. Why would you class this as "Computer Culture?" A book like this belongs in Current Events, Sociology, or maybe just plain old Non-Fiction, but NOT in the Computer Culture section where, once again, it would only be noticed by people with similar opinions, and therefore never noticed.

  • Why not just let the entire thing be freely distrubted in e-book fashion, then add a bunch of links to various charities: those picked by slashdot editors, and those picked by the people that submitted the comments; this should keep everyone happy, while still allowing people to give to charity if they liked the book.

    personally I still think people went overboard in criticizing the book publication idea: yeah, yeah, they should have asked, let us pick the charities, etc... but it will only reach a fraction of the people if just released online. I think people should look at the big picture.

  • by mat catastrophe ( 105256 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:57AM (#657513) Homepage
    I think this might be the time to focus a little on why most of you seem to think J Katz is the spawn of satan, or some similar demon/demagogue.

    Most of us are reading his posts from the point of view of, "Yea, so what? I already knew this. He's not so smart. I could've done that/written that. He's redundant and a wanker and no one cares...."

    Well, maybe you should try something. Step outside your peer group for 15 minutes. Go talk to some parents, or some students - and not ones you *know* agree with you or ones that you think "get it." You might be surprised how many people don't ever get an opinion like Katz's regarding the Columbine incident. You might even be surprised that these people don't mind cops in schools, and that they really do think the Internet is the Devil Incarnate.

    What is considered common knowledge and passe is really only based on what you and your peers value. Have you ever seen any commentary like this in the mainstream television/radio/print media?

    Stating these things might not be stating the obvious to most people out there. Keep that in mind before you flame in here about how terrible this idea is.

    So, before you all go crucifying a well-meaning messenger, look around you to identify the people who mean only to do harm. Deal with them first.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of course Katz haters read the Katz articles. They'd have nothing to hate if they didn't read.

    It's a brutal, vicious circle.
  • Firstly, I was talking hypothetically. I know no more about the details of the case than from the ACLU report. I suspect the ACLU is probably right, but that's just a guess. Therefore, I was trying to do a "what if" scenario.
    If she "cursed" the teacher, then any punishment she received should be in line with the sort of punishment a student would receive for swearing at a teacher in a more typical fashion.


    If she threatened the teacher with physical harm in any normally understandable mundane sense, that should be dealt with appropriately. (Note, I don't say in a normal fashion ... schools tend to overreact in some instances to "threats" that are meaningless.)

    Depends. If the victim of the threats seriously thought they were real, that's serious enough to deserve some action (not necessarily punishment per se) from the staff. Students have a right to feel safe at school.

    If she threatened the teacher with metaphysical harm and she received the sort of punishment usually associated with threats of physical harm, then whoever decided her punishment is (it could be logically concluded) expressing belief that she can DO whatever it is she said she could do.

    Well,like I said, if the individual casting the hex seriously intended to do harm, that's pretty serious in my book, even if it doesn't actually work. To use a extreme but I think appropriate analogy, if I put what I believe to be poison in your food, does it make it less of a crime if the "poison" turns out of be harmless? Additionally, you're ignoring the possibility that the victim might take the hex seriously. There are mature adults out there that do, you know. I think it's crazy, but like I said, from my perspective it's no crazier than believing that Jesus Christ walked on water. Additionally, you haven't considered the hypothetical scenario I raised where the victim was another student who believed in witchcraft.

    Like I said, I suspect that this *is* another case of officialdom picking on anyone who is "different". What I was trying to raise in some "what if" scenarios was that there could be legitimate reasons for suspending a student involved in Wicca, if that student attempted to use their supposed "powers" to do antisocial things like hurt people.

  • Excellent. Actual useful, concise information in a slashdot comment. It's been a while. It even appears that you may have used the "preview" button. Thank you. I promise you will receive total conciousness on your deathbed.

    By the way, is this "hellmouth" thing the reason that Buffy is so hot?

  • Read some of the comments above again... Frequently the so-called "counselors" didn't understand the kids any better, and counseling was a cure-all, a means to cover the school administrations' rears "just in case," and of course, if you're different, OBVIOUSLY there's something wrong with you.

    That wasn't the case in many of my schools...but then, I had the advantage of dressing and looking the part of the cool, even though I couldn't act that way. I also had the advantage of parents who genuinely cared about me, who had been there before themselves when they were children, and took time out of their lives. Despite all that, school was a living nightmare for me most of the time...and the first year of undergrad wasn't wonderful, either.

    To all the disenchanted, the loners, the free-thinkers out there, my heart goes out to you. It sucks, but success ... and you will find it ... is the best revenge.

    --- Free industrial/goth and electronic classical mp3's by yours truly [mp3.com] ---

  • What bothers me is that Katz and most of the posts I see on slashdot on the subject act as if they're coming upon an epihphany exclusive to them that high school is full of cliques, and that people who are different aren't accepted.

    That's no secret. Everyone knows that. (One should also keep in mind that sometimes, the rejection is two way; the geeks reject the popular cliques just as much as the opposite.)

    What also bothers me is how Katz and some people on slashdot seem to put geeks on a pedastel, as if geeks are better than other people because they know about this internet thing.

    It just seems like the issue is being narrowed.

  • From the story:

    Griffiths was also removed from his post as a student leader.

    That one line says a lot. From the school's point of view, it says that in order to lead your fellow peers, you have to conform to the standards that the school has set forth. Not only do you have to go through the appropriate channels, be that a popularity contest (I mean election) or appointment by adminstrators, but you also have to continue to conform even after you have taken the position.

    From the student body's point of view, the statement should be completely false. Because of the school's action of 'removing him from his leadership post', they have in fact elevated him to a higher standing among his peers. Obviously he was liked before, but now the school has willingly given him an issue to feed on - a starting point, if you will. From that he can continue to bring up important points and challenge the school's set-in-stone policies that have been passed down for who knows how long. His peers will be able to look back on this incident and know that their leader truly did sacrifice something for the sake of being true to himself and his beliefs. I hope he makes the most of the situation.

    It is an unfortunate incident, but it may also be a blessing in disguise.

  • Man, I saw some whacked shit after Columbine, but this [aclu.org] recent case takes the cake. This girl was suspended for purportedly casting a spell on her teacher! That's right, she was kicked out of school for WITCHCRAFT!?!? The fact that people this fucking ignorant are allowed to teach children is insane... hell, the fact that people this ignorant even exist in this day and age is insane.

  • It doesn't matter if they were picked on geeks. They were taken as a symbol for them anyway. Ultimately, in this context, that is more important than whether or not they were.

    The article does not focus on them. It focusses on those who, as picked on geeks, see themselves (rightly or wrongly) in a similar to the Columbine killers.

  • CmdrTaco - not Jon.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:03AM (#657541)
    A year and a half later, I think that it would be interesting to have a follow-up. I think that it would interesting to hear from those people again and see if anything has changed for them. Are the repercussions of the tragedy still being felt across the country as strongly as they were in the following few weeks/months?
  • by StoryMan ( 130421 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:03AM (#657542)
    For god sakes, is there a PDF of this somewhere?

    If not, can someone make one? Something like this actually needs a little better format than just slapdashing it across a normal Slashdot page.
  • Jon Katz knows how to stir up controversy. Look at him stir. Stir stir stir! 'Those killers were outcasts! Just like us geeks!' stir stir stir...
    Look how important Jon is. Worship him for stating the obvious.

    Oh please. Yes it's controversial, but that doesn't make the points raised any less valid. Attack the arguments, not the person making them.

    I don't like most of Jon's columns myself. On this one however, by luck or acumen, he had a valid point. Besides which, if you were paying attention, he didn't actually write most of what is here. These comments came from emails and /. posts.

  • "Homecoming" is a tradition associated with American Football at the High School level (it's sometimes practiced in College but doesn't mean nearly as much there). At some point in the early/mid-season the team will play a couple of away games, the first home game after the road trip is the "homecoming" game.

    In association with the game there will be a school dance, with a Homecoming King and Queen selected by popular vote. It's basically an excuse to have a dance/celebration in the Fall, and of course you try to schedule the game against a crummy team so you will win...

  • I'm forty-five. Middle aged. Moderately successful. And still the damage that was done to me in school scars me, leaves me less able to be the person I might have been. This isn't new; the bright, socially awkward child has always been excluded, bullied, assaulted, traumatised.

    The thing about schools which makes this unbearable is that schools is a closed institution: in effect, a prison. Your freedom is taken from you. You cannot get away from your tormentors. You cannot not go. In these days of 'human rights' [hrw.org] where is the liberty of the child forced to go to school against his or her will? Where is the security of person of the child exposed to the schoolyard bullies?

    For me, this is all thirty years ago. I don't want to still be feeling bitter about it, but I am. I don't want to still be feeling angry about it, but I am. I don't want my self-confidence to still be damaged by it, but it is. I would have liked to have had children, but I never have had, because I could not face putting anyone through the hell that was my childhood.

    Guys, please publish this book. Publish it in the old-fashioned way on flattened dead trees, so that the teachers, the governors, the parents can read it. It's no use publishing it here. We have been through the baptism of blood and fire and pain. We are the converted. We don't need to read this message (and in truth I can scarcely bear to). The people out there who do need to read it are mostly still not adapted to reading online. For the sake of all the kids out there who are going through now what I went through thirty-five years ago, publish it.

  • ...anyone here will dispute that Klebold and Harris were absolutely wrong in their actions. The point of the Hellmouth series was not to exhonerate murderers, it was to draw attention to the witch-hunt that occurred subsequent to their rampage. My brother's in high school now, my mom (I'm proud to say a very tolerant, understanding, and wise woman) is the principal of a public school-- from what I heard, after Columbine a situation that was already bad for geeks and social outcasts in the high schools got suddenly and drastically worse.
  • That's right, she was kicked out of school for WITCHCRAFT!?!?

    OK, assume for one moment a hypothetical student was suspended because she cast a hex on a teacher (and not for merely being a pracising Wiccan).

    As an atheist, I find the supernatural tenets of Wicca as laughable as any other religion, and would have fully expected the teacher to laugh the hex off. But the fact would remain that the student tried to cause harm to that teacher. Doesn't that deserve punishment? Additionally, what say the teacher honestly believed in the power of witchcraft and was genuinely distressed by the incident - maybe they willed themselves into getting sick over the whole incident. Should the student be punished then? Better still, let's imagine the victim of the hex was a fellow student. You could well imagine that at such a delicate, uncomfortable age, such an event could cause serious harm to the victim.

    So, while I accept that students should be free to practise whatever nonsense that passes for religion (or none at all like any sensible person would ;) ), you can't allow students to do things that hurt other people.

  • I also suffered the rejection of peers in my final two years at a government highschool - graduating in 1975 at the age of 16. My solution was to skip all my classes and spend the time reading in the school library. Most of my teachers let me get away with this because I brought their standardized test scores up :-)

    One of my best friends was an Atheist in the same boat. (I was and am a Christian.) We went around proving to people that their world view was logically inconsistent - and they had better become an Atheist or a Christian. Nobody listened. I have since learned that discovering someone's world view is not that easy.

    Another friend was stabbed to death in Washington DC by a homeless man while serving him food as a volunteer.

    The girls preferred natty dressers and jocks. This continued into my 20s. By then, the natty dressers and jocks had ditched (as in divorcing or simply using and discarding) these same girls, and faithful, responsible men with steady jobs started to look really good. So at age 29, the tables were turned. Too bad Dr. Laura hadn't written her "Ten Stupid Things" books yet.

    There is an even bigger emphasis on mindless conformity in today's schools. A large part of the problem is the fact that the government runs them. The biggest government school lobby, the NEA, sees indoctrination, not learning, as the primary goal of education.

    I have a solution to offer:

    Should we end government education?

    I homeschool my own 4 girls. This is the ideal solution for those who can live on one income and have an intact family. For those not so fortunate, private scholarship funds are the answer.
  • Yeah, the "liberal" version of diversity often means that you can be straight/gay/bi, white/black/purple...whatever, as long as you *think* like they do. There is never the idea that reasonable people can disagree -- any opinion other than theirs gets you shouted down and/or denounced as evil.

    Now I'm not saying that all liberals think that way, but they're there, just as surely as there are Bible-Thumpers on the right. Of course, you're free to disagree ;-)
  • I, for one, like katz's "rambling in our forum".

    I think Katz has an important role to play in our forum. Maybe you need to take a look at your own attitude.. You attempt to isolate an individual with ridicule and criticism because he thinks differently from you and your "kind". So tell me, how are you any different from the jocks and preps in high school/college? Should all geeks and nerds fit into a predefined mold?

    You don't even have the decency (or respect for this forum) to criticize openly. Instead, you hide behind a veil of anonymity and defend your statements by trying to include all of us /.ers with an ubiquitous "We". Well, not me, okay?

  • Puberty is, always has been, and always will be a time of trial. For everyone. Just because you're a geek doesn't make you special, so quit with the martyr complex. As soon as you mature past that - assuming you do mature past it - you'll see that.

    This is true. This does NOT mean, however, that we're all collectively supposed to sit back and tolerate it when people who have a choice about whether or not to hurt us, choose to hurt us.
  • by Deskpoet ( 215561 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:10AM (#657568) Homepage Journal
    This may sound callous, but I didn't think too much of these stories when they came out, nor do I now.

    Even when I graduated from high school nearly two decades ago, the stories related in the series were as old then as they are now. High school is universally degrading, and it's not meant to be anything MORE than that. The last four years of your indoctrination are repeats of the first eight; the only reason they exist is to make sure you're properly oriented for the society you're going to be a wage slave in. That the Columbine kids took matters into their own hands is either a testament to their ability to resist Control (at the sake of their own self-control and eternal souls) or a condemnation that the indoctrination of the school systems isn't as complete as it needs to be to turn everyone into a Good Citizen.

    Of course, no child knows this while they're going through it, and the State tries its level best to keep you in the dark.

    (I can already hear the cries of protest about this viewpoint. To these people I ask this: in all honesty, how much of what you now know did you learn in high school? For that matter, how much out of COLLEGE? The point is this: "education" in its modern incarnation is created to limit thought, not expand it. Worse, it's ultimate goal appears to be to mold frames of thought such that certain viewpoints are literally impossible to attain.)

    Don't kid yourselves now that you're IPO millionaires that anything has really changed. You're every bit a part of the Machine now that the "Jocks" represented in high school; it's only the roles that have reversed: you're on the upper level looking down at the McDonald employee who is so lazy and contemptibly lacking in ambition: S/HE, regardless of their glories in high school, is now the "weirdo" and you the "jock".

    Freedom is not about one's ability to play Quake or D&D free from ridicule. It's about understanding the system of control the Iron Prison has created and how to overcome it. I haven't figured it out yet, but like the man emerging from the Cave, I now know that the shadows are just that, and can see them for what they are.

    Maybe those kids SHOULD take a break from Quake and look around. Young or old, it's the same bowel of boogers for all of us. Even the "jocks".
  • You're missing the point. This story has nothing to do with Columbine, really. It has everything to do with the aftermath of Columbine, i.e., harrassment of anyone who was 'different' by their teachers and peers. It's a real issue, and one that will never go away if their message isn't heard.
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:12AM (#657571) Homepage Journal
    It is not /. when this happened and even now as Bush's "dark hearts" comment showed *many* people are still buying the lie that these kids were picked on geeks. We know that they where not but many in the media still show this as being true and there are many geeks who are still being abused because of being different and because of the way the media spreads this lie. This counters it showing that geeks are not like this.
  • I seem to be alone in not having heard the term "Hellmouth" until Katz first used it to describe the metaphysical source of the post-Littleton emails. Is this a pop-culture reference that I've missed?
  • I agree. Read the frickin' guidelines, guys.

    First, you should moderate Jon Katz down for not posting this under his account!
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • The point is not to quit -- it's to be "forged" into a harder, more resiliant, and ultimately more successful and disciplined person.

    If you quit after a year because of harrassment, what are you going to do when people start dying because of your decisions? If you can't convince those above you that you're a brilliant strategist, how do you plan on convincing those below you to fight and die for your strategies?

  • by zunger ( 17731 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @03:40PM (#657592)
    Guys, this needs to go out in book form, not as an e-book or anything less. It needs to go out as a book because this is something that needs to be used in classes in high schools, and to get that done, it has to be out under a publisher's banner in dead-tree format.

    Will it be hard to get this into schools? Yes, maybe. But school boards and schools have been much better in the past few years about getting this sort of thing into classes, especially English classes, under the rubric of "diversity." And in the aftermath of Columbine this book would fill a deep and urgent need that I believe even the people in decision-making positions will understand.

    Will it be hard to get into print? Somewhat. But this is something we could realistically do as a community effort. There are only a few things we need. First, to get permissions from all posters and clear up the legal issues. This means we need everyone who contributed to come forth and give an OK if they want their stuff used. Second, the thing needs to be pulled together and properly formatted; John Katz's excellent introduction, plus possibly more pieces similar to that interspersed with the community contributions. Then the thing needs to be formatted nicely (not difficult; we have plenty of page-layout geeks here. And this part is important; anything well-formatted looks profound and sells much better)

    Finally, and most importantly, a publisher has to be found. But the more discussion we manage to generate about the Hellmouth between now and when the formatting is done, the more likely we are to be able to convince a major house to have an interest in this book.

    I would like to make a RFD: would people be willing to join in organizing this project and bringing it to completion? We can get this moving quite quickly if we all work together.

  • Keep something in mind: Harris & Klebold created this situation. They had this planned a year in advance, stockpiling weapons and whatnot - maybe it was their tortured lives that led to this, but shit, after a year of building an arsenal and treating everyone in the halls as potential frag targets, it pretty much self-fulfilled and they KNEW it. This wasn't about taking out their torment on those who tormented them, this was about playing Quake in the halls on real targets. I mean, where's the logic in taking machineguns to the school library at lunch hour? Who were they expecting to find there? Athletes?

    Don't worry about assigning blame. Finding a scapegoat was the job of the American public in the first 2 weeks, and find scapegoats they did - usually in the form of everything and everyone they didn't like anyway.

    And keep something else in mind: this kind of thing has happened a LOT over the years. You just didn't hear people crying about it until it was rich suburbanite white kids getting shot.
  • do you even have children?
    I do.
    And I've seen first hand what the schools are starting to do. I moved out to the country to keep my daughter from being photographed, numbered and examined by the paranoid school district we lived in.
    (she is 8 and reads Jane Austin on a regular basis, very smart and independent)

    The paranoia could easily reach the fever pitch that Jon presents, I've seen the beginnings of it in the schools out in the country (where I live), and schools that are in heavily populated areas are already turning into "De-militarized Zones"...

    Pay attention, if you don't want to open your eyes, then quit telling us what you see.

  • by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <{spoonyfork} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @11:34AM (#657597) Journal
    So what the people running West Point were finding was that the system that was in place was designed to basiaclly make their best leaders quit.

    BZZZT! Wrong. The best leaders DO NOT quit. The "non-conformist" leader that can make it through the gauntlet of a place like West Point is the general you want. Not the ones that quit because they couldn't hack it. That is whole point of a place like West Point - (depending on your definition of "non-conformist") the best of the best rises to the top.

  • Nope. Wrong dystopia.
  • by laborit ( 90558 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:17AM (#657600) Homepage
    Who cares whether the Columbine murderers were geeks (or nazis or gun-nuts or drugged-out or insufficiently loved)? The point is that the media thought they were members of the geek-computer-gaming subculture, and in the wake of the massacre good people were undeservingly harassed and punished. This is the issue that requires our attention.

    Nor does it matter that the writers who claimed to identify with their anger might have identified with a false image. The anger and alienation expressed here are no less powerful for it. Whatever the final verdict on Columbine is, the mistreatment of nonconformist youth that was brought to light is beyond doubt genuine.

    - Michael
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:22AM (#657602)
    Ironic coincidence: I purchased the new KFMDM (er, MFDMK) CD within a couple of days of Columbine. The double irony - that industrial music (and KFMDM specifically) were also part of the "reason" the killers snapped - was not lost on me.

    I figure Sascha and friends say it better than I could, so here are the lyrics.

    The music you'll have to judge for yourself. But it makes one hell of a great background track for Quake.


    Bolts of lightning - out of the blue
    Without forewarning - the heat is on you
    Watch what you say - the phone maybe tapped
    Under heavy surveillance - looks like you're trapped
    Under investigation - whether guilty or not
    Without your own doing - you're part of the plot
    Trying to hide - going underground
    Just a matter of time - until you will be found


    The nose is tightening - there's no return
    Moral cleansing - free thinking must burn
    This is serious - your face in the mud
    The end of the story is written in blood
    FREEZE! Down on your knees! - beaten and bound
    Tarred and feathered - they parade you around
    The media's feasting - your face on the news
    It's a feeding frenzy - a mob on the loose


    It doesn't matter - what you say or do
    There is no justice - no future for you
    Because you're the scapegoat - you are to blame
    This is your life - 15 minutes of shame


    WITCH HUNT - Guilty by association

    WITCH HUNT - Systematic defamation
    WITCH HUNT - Process of elimination
    WITCH HUNT - Demonized and sacrificed

    WITCH HUNT - Guilty by association
    WITCH HUNT - Merciless interrogation
    WITCH HUNT - ill-reputed executed

    WITCH HUNT - Guilty by asociation
    WITCH HUNT - Methodical eradication
    WITCH HUNT - Crucified by morning light

    You've always been different - you've spoken your mind
    Set yourself apart - now they hate your kind
    A foreign element, the unknown factor
    An alien component, the Hannibal Lecter...


  • Heh. Think CmdrTaco did the writeup, Katz just posted it. Notice "--Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda" at the end of the first section.
  • by ry4an ( 1568 ) <ry4an-slashdotNO@SPAMry4an.org> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:23AM (#657605) Homepage
    The problem wasn't the cost of publishing. It was the hew and cry from the slashdot collective at the notion of someone else selling their work without express written consent.
  • I believe it is a reference to the popular TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The show's main theme is that Sunnydale (Buffy's place of residence) is located above a "Hellmouth" - a concentration of demonic energy.

    The subtheme is the fact that Buffy and her 2 close friends don't fit in and are tormented a bit by the "cool" people at school.

    So, you can see the connection I made...

    Please, correct me if I'm wrong...
  • As I remember the debate that unfolded, the question centered more around who deserved credit either in name or in out and out royalties. Katz was going include the words of those who posted as a substantial part of the body of his book. Its one thing to quote with permission here and there, but its quite another to publish a book thats little more than an anthology of other people's comments. For myself, I saw the potential in such a work and wholeheartedly supported it. If my comments made the cut, then great, that amounted to someone hearing my side. But, that was just me. Everyone is very strongly attached to their words, which after are a part of themselves. And not everyone agreed with what should have been done. The only thing to do then is table it.

  • I have to agree, to a point. The general tenor of the discussion on /. seems to portray Kinkel and Harris as being ordinary kids - if "misfits" - who were driven over the edge by constant abuse by the in crowd. I suspect that larger than average percentage of the readers here were also misfits, and are therefore more likely to sympathize with that point of view.

    There's another side to the story though, which I think remains valid, whatever you think about the gunmen. The experiences of many of the people who wrote in response to the "Voices" piece indicates that they were taunted, submitted to official scrutiny (even nearly to the point of strip searches), and general the targets of fear and hatred, because they happened to dress a certain way and like video games. And that's all.

    We see this all the time in other arenas. Hizbollah or Islamic Jihad terrorists strike, and an innocent Muslim is the subject of a hate crime. Israel creates new settlements on the West Bank, and synogogues burn. But this wasn't racially motivated violence: this was the state (through its schools) and the general public turning against its own children because they didn't look like most people.

    An example: the same article in Salon that you quote indicates that neither Kleibold nor Harris were members of the Trech Coat Mafia, as was reported widely. Those people who actually were associated with the group were ostracized in their own communities, "and some students even threatened 'retaliatory' violence should they show their faces [at] impromptu memorials."

    It's good to view the Columbine story with a critical eye. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The "Voices" stories are still good, and telling, even if not for the reasons you might think.

  • Posted by JonKatz on 01:30 PM November 1st, 2000
    from the uncover-your-ears dept.
    Jon's Hellmouth series stands as one of the most important things that have ever appeared on Slashdot

    Gee, he could attempt to be a little less self-aggrandizing, or at least get Hemos to post the story.


  • ...we're talking in THIS instance about a kid being suspended from school for something that doesn't strike me as a suspend-able offense.

    Were I in that situation, I'd demand to see exactly WHAT rule it was I supposedly broke.

  • But would all these posts have happened as spontaneously if the poster had thought about publishing, permissions, reprinting, quoting...?
  • On the TV show "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer," the town of Sunnydale is supposedly located on a Hellmouth, an intense concentration of demonic energy. One of the original focuses of the show (in addition to the vampire slaying) was the difficulty of getting through high school. Joss Whedon, the show's creator, has often said that many of the experiences the show's characters have gone through mirror his own high school experiences.
  • I don't think it was the thought of selling the book with their comments included that angered the SlashDot readers. I think it was that they didn't want *Jon Katz* doing anything with their ideas, simply because they don't like him. If it had been Taco or Hemos, I don't think there would have been nearly as much outrage.

    Of course, I am often wrong...


  • It's just a pity he can't find anything better to do than pick over the bones of the victims of Columbine, at the same time branding any Slashdot reader as a "geek"... again, and again, and again, and again...

    Yes, it's just a pity....

    It's also just a pity that educational administrators, teachers of various levels, law enforcement officials, mental health "professionals" (and I use the term VERY loosely in this case), and of course the general public at large are perpetuating this horseshit. Again, and again, and again, and again.

    It's just a pity that, even before Columbine brought everything to a head, the rules changed [mattababy.org] for the worse (IMHO), encroaching on what should have been a place where bright and offbeat kids could get AWAY from that garbage. And the rules keep getting stricter, and stricter, and stricter....

    It's just a pity that those same bright and offbeat kids are deciding against becoming teachers now, so that they will never have to face an administration that forces them to turn on their own kind. It's a pity that even on Slashdot itself, the Hellmouth threads face so many flames. Anywhere less sympathetic, and we have to scream, and scream, and scream, and scream to be heard.

    And of course this doesn't apply to every reader of Slashdot. I don't think there are very many stories that the entire readership think belong here.


    If you don't want to see it, don't read it.

    The head-blind are surrounding us everywhere else, so I'm not surprised to see it here.
  • Because it isn't a lie. Yes, you can look at the Salon story, and yes, the kids weren't even part of the TCM - just used the coats to hide weapons. That isn't the point.

    The point is that the backlash caused by it caused a slew of finger-pointing. Because they wore trench-coats, suddenly anyone wearing a trenchcoat was suspect. Because they were somewhat oddballs, all oddballs were put under extra scrutiny. Because they used guns, the strange violent-entertainment blame became more immediate and caustic.

    The point is, Geeks ARE now being targeted even more than before. Goths are being targeted more than before. Anyone that somehow doesn't fit in suddenly becomes enemy number one, and that's the truth of the matter. It made things worse, pure and simple. People don't make up these first hand accounts, they happened. Calling these people liars pays them a great disservice. All Jon really did was ask what the hell was going on. It's a philosophical discussion that has been begging to be addressed in this country for decades. Why does it pay to conform when we're supposed to be a country of individualists and free thinkers?

    I know, because I was there. I had a community of like thinkers, so I didn't feel disenfranchised, but others are not so lucky. If I were to wear the same clothes I did then to a school today, I would probably be put under counseling or suspension. Tell me that isn't overreacting. In the large picture, Katz is trying to wake people up, show them the how far things have gone in a society where people don't self-analyze nearly enough. Holding up a mirror stirs controversy, but it also gets some damn discussion made so at least vaid points get some airtime. People need to hear this, or it'll only get much worse before it even begins to improve.

    That's the way things are. Fight them, or lay down and take the onslaught. I'd rather fight.

    Shaun Thomas: INN Programmer
  • Nobody cares. Go home. 1984 didn't/isn't going to happen, not in our schools or anywhere else. They're too busy signing contracts to put Nike and Pepsi adverts in the schools to actually be dangerous.

    While Jon might be wrong about the "scary scenario", there is a frightening trend. What you just described is just as frightening: the Brave New World Scenario. While not the scary totalitarians of 1984, the masters of "A Brave New World" are just as frightening--if not more.

    I think Aldous Huxley was more on the mark than Orwell when he wrote ABNW. Just as much intolerance, but hidden beneath social patterns and machinery that makes it all seem sooo natural.

    Cultural Valium, Soma, whatever it is--that which keeps us from seeing the reality of who and what we are is still a danger. I recommend everyone read both 1984 and A Brave New World.

  • Thanks for that little pointer. One question for the legal-eagles: is this kind of punitive reaction to a social statement at all tortious? It's pretty obvious to me that the principal's (written!) statement of cause for the suspension,
    ...disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, other school officials or other school personnel in the performance of their duties...
    is nothing but hot air. He was an obvious non-conformist. He was elected to a position (homecoming king) by the student body. They wanted to see what he would do. They got to see it. How's that a disruption?

    It looks to me like Griffiths has a cause of action against the school for defamation (the statement quoted above is proof), as well as loss of academic standing if they won't let him make up work for those two days. Who's up for financing a suit against the school demanding that the school rescind Griffiths' suspension, allow him to make up the work, and pay damages? I'd like to see at least one of these martinet administrators who expects students to dance like puppets on their strings lose his job over it, and I want the rest worried enough that they won't pull this crap any more. At the very least, if they are going to make harassment of non-conformists an official value of the institution we should make them hurt. If it costs enough money, even the taxpayers will refuse to stand for it and demand that it stop.

  • by jspey ( 183976 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:57AM (#657642)
    I remember reading an interesting article a few years about West Point (the U.S. Military Academy). As you might suspect, West Point is very big on conformity and fitting in. The idea is that in order for an army to perform well everyone needs to do what they are supposed to do all the time, or 'fit in'. Quite often, cadets at West Point who don't fit in will be harassed constantly by upperclassmen until they drop out (never mind that all the underclassmen are harassed by upperclassmen in order to make them more like everyone else. This creates a viscious cycle of every senior class feeling responsible for harassing the freshman so that they all share the same West Point experience).

    The problem with this system is that the best generals and strategists think unconventionally, coming up with new ideas instead of following the same traditional strategies. The types of people who think like this are the same people who never fit in in high school and college. They are nonconformists who don't just go along with what everyone else does just because everyone else is doing it. So what the people running West Point were finding was that the system that was in place was designed to basiaclly make their best leaders quit.

    Something like this may have been posted previously and I missed it. If so, I'm sorry.

    Mr. Spey
    Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.
  • Personally, I feel what the kid did in the article did was laudable, and the only reason that the school suspended him was because he made a point.
    Of course! The worst sin is to question, to point out that the emperor has no clothes. The first commandment in the Old Testament is not "Don't kill each other", it's "Don't even think about having any other gods (and therefore respecting priests other than the ones giving you this commandment)."
  • I'm a latecomer to all of this... I've only been reading Slashdot for about a year, and I missed - or ignored - most of the Columbine discussion. It's not that the discussions weren't important, or that Columbine wasn't a tragedy, but simply that few of the suggested remedies or putative reasons for the massacre had much connection with reality.

    I'm a 39-year old geek. I'd be willing to bet that I suffered every day in school twice as much as Klebold or Harris did. Geeks today have a romantic ideal of themselves, with on-line communities and support groups. Films deify them. Sure, it's still tough to be a geek, but only in the way that it is always tough for non-conforming conformists to fit in - the complex ecology of High School only allows the fittest geeks to survive. The real geeks - the geeks who are not self-identified, but who are shunned by the whole fucking school for their perceived oddness, their lives are more hellish than pseudo-geeks like Klebold or Harris could ever have imagined.

    Klebold and Harris were two sick little boys with big weapons. Their parents were probably average, and their traumas no greater than yours or mine or billions of others who have felt pain, but some combination of genetics and environment triggered a (fortunately) rare set of behaviors that made them junior psychopaths.

    Blame, presently, is impossible to assign. One day, when the fruits of the Human Genome Project are clear and we have wrestled from the mire of chaos theory some rules that apply, statistically, to any given set of circumstances, we may be able to assign blame. Until then, all of this theorizing is just bullshit. Of course, most verbalized or written angst is just bullshit, and it may serve some therapeutic purpose, but it is bullshit, nonetheless.

  • What precisely is the reason that her alleged casting of a hex resulted in suspension?

    If she "cursed" the teacher, then any punishment she received should be in line with the sort of punishment a student would receive for swearing at a teacher in a more typical fashion.

    If she threatened the teacher with physical harm in any normally understandable mundane sense, that should be dealt with appropriately. (Note, I don't say in a normal fashion ... schools tend to overreact in some instances to "threats" that are meaningless.)

    If she threatened the teacher with metaphysical harm and she received the sort of punishment usually associated with threats of physical harm, then whoever decided her punishment is (it could be logically concluded) expressing belief that she can DO whatever it is she said she could do.

    If she was suspended for insulting the teacher and being Wiccan (or looking like she might be), that's REALLY lame.

    I'd like to know exactly what went on there.
  • by blogan ( 84463 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:41AM (#657651)
    Why not try putting it in e-book format and let places like Barnes & Noble distribute it for free. It will probably reach more non-Slashdot people that way and you can get the word out. There's not too much publishing cost you'd need to regain, so you won't have to sell the book and anger Slashdot readers.
  • by Squid ( 3420 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @11:53AM (#657652) Homepage
    It's about understanding the system of control the Iron Prison has created and how to overcome it.

    That's what we're DOING. It's just that we shouldn't have to wait until we're 40 to do it.

    The whole point is that school (and society at large) tries to break you, therefore it's our duty to forbid ourselves to be broken. What's the alternative? Sit back and take it? Let them peel away our freedoms while we're in school - which has the effect of getting us used to losing freedoms once we leave? Maybe that's what's wrong with America - all the people who trade away our freedoms for some comfortable illusion of "safety", do so because school got them accustomed to it.

    We all know school is about indoctrination, not education. Well, maybe that's what we need to change. That's what people TRY to change in a small way when you see them in the halls in a weird outfit or carrying a D&D rulebook hidden in the stack of books - that's their way of carving out a little piece of freedom for themselves, an island in the storm. Maybe D&D or Quake isn't worth much in the long run, but in the short run, it may be all a kid has to keep them from losing their grip.

    And what I think the Hellmouth discussions do, at the most basic level, is raise awareness that there ISN'T a reason to tolerate abuse from other students, from school officials, or whoever's trying to take away your soul this week.

    So school sucks because it has always sucked. Does that mean we have to like it?

    Challenge the assumptions.
  • by waldoj ( 8229 ) <waldo.jaquith@org> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @11:54AM (#657655) Homepage Journal
    I've made one. Just a quickie. It's at http://waldo.net/misc/hellmouth1.pdf/A& gt;. [waldo.net]

    I hope this isn't A Bad Thing(tm). If this were written by anybody else for any other publication/website, I wouldn't go making a PDF of their content. But given the story and website, I imagine that it's A-OK.

  • Plain and simple, people have a short retention span. Print the book and it will last longer. In addition to that build a resource for these kids. I was one. I remember all the shitty years.

    How about building some sort of organization for Them/Us. How about a sponsor a geek program. call it Big Geeks or something modeled after Big Brothers. All this talking has not made any real difference to those kids.

    Instead for quaking in fear at the school bullies give them the confidence to say "sure you can punch me in the face, but 5 years from now when you are flipping burgers for a living I will be earning your annual salary monthly".

    I am not in North America now otherwise I would try to start this my self. We could create a fifth column of geeks. There is strength in numbers.
  • In the introduction to the above 'chapter', it says that everyone possible was contacted and no one refused permission to have their comments incorporated into Jon's book and that the problem was more percieved than it was real.

    I disagree. I think the problem people had was that Slashdot didn't ask permission FIRST instead of doing it as an afterthought.

  • The perfect people have always hated us for reasons I (and probably THEY) don't understand. Now they have an excuse to completely exclude us from their perfect little Utopia: 'safety.' I was kicked out of high school a year ago November 12 because, as my nickname implies, i am a goth and a geek. because i chose to spend my free time writing and because of the above mentioned personality traits they decided one day that i must be writing a hit list in my little black notebook when, in reality, i was writing poetry. Because i'm more than a bit socially maladjusted from years of torment and humiliation i'm just a little shy. A little TOO shy by their fascist standards obviously. They think because i don't say what i think for fear of the wrath of the Perfect People that i simply MUST be thinking of bringing a tech-9 to school and blasting everyone to oblivion. They think that because i scarcely ever wear any shade other than black that i must be some twisted death fetishist. oh well life goes on. i used my freetime wisely: i got a GED, scored next to perfect on the SAT, worked on my coding skills, and will be attending The University of Georgia next fall quarter (can't start 'till i'm 18). END THE WITCH-HUNT NOW!!!!!
  • I'd like to see it come out in book form, its really too bad that it hasn't.

    I remember when the original story was first posted, it shocked me. Apparently it shocked a lot of other people too, here is what one person had to say:

    "When Voices from the Hellmouth
    appeared on the front page, like most everybody else at the time, I was stunned into
    silence. Not only because this was the first time Katz had posted something that
    didn't stroke his ego, but also because it was a document that stood on its own. One
    could hear and feel the words because they were true; Like many on Slashdot I had
    gone through the now well-known geek/outcast stage during my schooling. Although by
    now it has been dragged through the media and featured so many times that many
    people's stomachs turn just mentioning it, but it was important at the time. It was
    definitely a turning point for the entire community. It was also the first time that
    Slashdot had featured an article of such far-reaching proportions."
    - Signal 11

    The big problem with it was that not enough people can see it online. Sure, they *can*, but it doesn't carry a lot of weight with them, whereas a book does. While I can direct somebody at a URL, it just doesn't have the same impact to most of the population as dropping a book on their coffee table would.

    Ok... yes you guys may have fucked up by doing the book before asking. But its done now, you can't change it. You said that nobody you have been able to find has refused, I would say thats good enough. There is enough potential for the book to actually accomplish some good that it shouldn't be killed because of an honest mistake by well intentioned people.

    Here's one vote for printing the book.
  • When the stories started coming out of Columbine, I was horrified--not because I couldn't believe things like that would happen ("yeah, they were freaks, so we called them fags and squirted ketchup on them") but because the things I had run into myself had actually been carried out to the extent of driving somebody to kill. These people snapped, and in a way I'm selfishly glad they just shot a bunch of random people. I don't condone their actions at all, but if they had actually gone after their tormentors and left innocent people alone, I don't know how much I would have been able to hold it against them. There is only so much abuse a person can be expected to take, and the stuff getting thrown at you in high school would make a sadistic Nazi guard proud.

    I always feel kind of bad mentioning this stuff, because I know it's nowhere near the magnitude of what I see others going through, but I had a very hard time in school. I didn't go out of my way to avoid people; I tried (every day!) to make friends. But for some reason I just didn't fit, and so a number of people decided to make me their primary target.

    For those of you who haven't experienced what I'm talking about, imagine that you are required to report to a certain place every day, and throughout the whole day someone is right by your side, publically insulting you. The idea of schools being a place of education is a joke, because aside from them being tuned only to a specific learning style, it's impossible to learn when you dread going to your most interesting class because some guy in it has decided you deserve public humiliation. You don't dare try to actively learn because you know it will attract more attention, and therefore mockery.

    Oh yeah, girls. I wouldn't consider myself incredibly attractive, but I'm not so low on self-esteem to consider myself repulsive. And yet girls didn't ever talk to me, except if they needed, say, help with their calculator or something. I got to the point of slapping myself romantically if I even noticed a girl and just thinking "Don't bother. You'll just get hurt." When you see everyone holding hands with their current romantic obsessions, and you have to keep yourself from even entertaining the smallest crush, that's gotta do some damage.

    Thing is, my little adventures [quadium.net] notwithstanding, I'd say I didn't even go through a significant fraction of the stuff I hear about, and I could feel myself ready to snap. My mind just bent under the pressure until I actually wished I would just start ranting and screaming in class and I could let it out; maybe it would get some attention and things would ease up a little. But I didn't. I have to point out that Mr. Gill, my history teacher, helped significantly in this regard. I'm not sure he ever really understood fully why many of the assignments were intellectually offensive to me and why I couldn't seem to have a social life, but he made a little time to listen, and that was important.

    It's true - the world after high school is a big, beautiful place.

    I'll second that. I made up my mind to quit after my junior year, and I went and took my GED (2.5 months ago, I think). I planned to just go on to college, but things didn't happen that way, and now I've got a full-time programming job. Salary, benefits, and everything; I've got my own apartment, and life is good. There's still a ton of stress, but it's amazing how life can be a little bit less horrible when the people around you aren't actively tormenting you for amusement.

    Interestingly, I was on the train home from work last night when I saw some kids (I'd guess high school age) riding the same car as me. I instantly tensed up; my primitive Pavlovian response was to expect them to point and snicker, or maybe walk over and taunt me. That they didn't was an incredible relief.

    If you're in a similar situation, and the pressure just keeps building up, my advice is get out. My guess is it's distracting you from getting "good grades" anyway. You've probably arrogantly told yourself "I know most of this stuff; I can do it better than they're teaching it." Okay, prove it. If you're willing to work hard and know what you're doing, you can at least scrape by, and I know I would rather do that than suffer what I know must be going on in the lives of so many kids.

  • My assessment of others in my school was that they were the manifestation of their parents involvement, or more commonly, lack of involvement, in their childrens lives. We all socialized in some degree of vacuum and gravitated towards those more like the perception we had of ourselves. Sure, HS was a drag if you weren't "in", but that didn't mean it had to be the center of your life. I put in my hours at school and went right back to whatever my interests were and whomever my friends were, afterwards.

    College was the best. Hundreds of people on the same level of angst, similar interests, ambitions, etc.

    I don't look back to highschool, as it wasn't an important part of my life. Dwelling on the negative subracted time and energy from participating in the positive. Too bad it takes some people such a long time, if ever, to realize this simple truth and get on with enjoying life.

    Out of a graduating class of 400, I've kept in touch with none. My only friends I still retain from HS were a friend from the other HS in town, who attended electronics classes in the morning and another friend I knew from Junior High.

    From college I have many friendships which have lasted over a decade.

    HS was just "doing time", good/bad, it doesn't matter, it was only 3 years anyway.


  • I dont think the outcry was so much being used in a book, it was being used in a book by katz.

    The guy is a cheap trend reporting media whore. I certianly wouldnt want to be in a book with his name on it.

    Its about crediability.
  • by BilldaCat ( 19181 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:03AM (#657674) Homepage
    Stealing users comments on Slashdot: not ok.

    Stealing music from Napster: ok.

    Gotta love /.

  • by hyacinthus ( 225989 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @09:45AM (#657675)
    I may not like Katz's turgid, overwrought style, but his subject interests me.

    Yes, I was a nerd when I was in grade school. My parents sent me to a private school until 6th grade, so I was spared the full impact of taunts and bullying until I hit junior high school. Junior high school was the worst. But...do you know, it was never really that bad. The number of bullies I had trouble with probably could have been counted on the fingers of one hand, and they were all talk, no action. Of course, when you're in a wholly new school in a wholly new neighborhood, and only eleven years old, mere _words_ bite deep. But after a couple of years I made friendships and got used to the school routine, and the bullying dwindled to, at most, a minor annoyance.

    What really saved me though, in high school, was that I found an acceptable outlet for my scholarly inclinations, in the form of school competitions. I was on the Science Olympiad team three years running (and we got to the national level all three years too :) That gave me many things: something to do at school which really exercised my intellect; a team of fellow students who were also enthusiastic about the sciences; a social outlet in the form of team practices (and the occasional field trip to Kansas or Alabama, wherever the national competition was being held.) I didn't realize, until several years later, how lucky I was to have this resource. My high school, La Jolla High School, is (or was) very active in extracurricular academic competitions of this kind. But since then I've met a lot of people about my age who went to high schools were there were no such outlets for the academically inclined.

    So I can sympathize _somewhat_ with the "self-described oddballs" whom Katz quotes. I was certainly odd in high school--I preferred chemistry to sports, and once spent a whole afternoon in the school library reading back issues of "Scientific American". Yet I still found friends and a social niche of sorts. (Mind you, I would have had a much harder time of it, Science Olympiad or no Science Olympiad, if I hadn't play-acted at normality in other respects--concealing my complete lack of interest in the opposite sex, for example. I didn't come out of the closet until many years after I graduated from high school.)

    Also, I daresay, I attended high school at the very end of an era. When I graduated from high school (1992), my parents _had_ bought me my first PC (a 386) but I played no computer games, I didn't own a modem and didn't want one, and I hadn't even _heard_ of e-mail or the nascent World Wide Web. I and my friends, my fellow Science Olympians, we were into the _sciences_, not _computers_. The competitions we did encouraged a certain amount of teamwork, socialization, and hands-on activity. But, within a few years, my high school's preeminence in Science Olympiad dried up. The kids who, in a previous age, would have gone in the sciences as I wanted to do, got into computers instead. _Our_ enthusiasm for the sciences may have seemed nerdy and weird, but it was appreciated at least a little--after all, La Jolla High School was able to trumpet its students' success in such things as Science Olympiad and the San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. In our own little way, we contributed to the school's prestige, and yes, we felt just the merest tinge of pride in our school because of that. But the gamers and computer geeks of Katz's book are complete loners. They're not in it for anyone but themselves (I was especially disquieted by the words of the 17-year-old who says "I feel like a god" whenever he's working with his beloved computers.) If you cut yourself off so resolutely from any involvement in the society of your school, and take refuge in activities which are almost completely solitary, should you be surprised that you're treated like an outcast?


  • Your point on difference is well taken. However, there's something I am going contrast here. I went Leuzinger HS down the way from Manhattan Beach. The two places are close geographically, but very far apart in every other sense. The school I went to was very mixed racially. In some sense everyone was an oddball, so there's wasn't a whole lot of harrassment of outsiders. A fairly comfortable place to mellow out after being harrassed all the way through elementary and middle school. A person could stand out and not be messed with aside from the occaisonal comment.

    It wasn't paradise. What we did have was different races, mixed incomes, and a gangs. Not nearly as bad as places a bit to the North, but they were there. Tensions broke out along racial lines. There was a lot of violence in the place. Fights were nearly daily occurance. Big fights with a lot of people happened a lot. There was a drive by shoorting, that injured a lot of people--bullets missed, car hit. And, there was at one point a huge race riot. One of the things that got to me was the fact that no one seemed to notice the shootings and stabbings. So my question is this: why is it news when white kids are commiting the acts of violence?

    Not to detract from the issue of geek profiling, but there's a much bigger violence problem than geeks losing it. The problem tends to fall along racial and economic lines as does the attention given to it.

    Now we look at the way geeks are being treated. Held in suspicion, persecuted for being different, haveing their rights violated simply for standing out. Welcome to minority status my friends. Expect it to get a whole lot worse.

  • This comment is freely distrutable under the GPL.

    Oh man, where do I begin....

    The school system just straight out failed my needs as a human more than anything. Just 1 bit of empathy from everyone I knew could have straightened things out, but alas, never came..

    My gradeschool years were rough, not because of anything I did. I went to a school where all the parents made 6figure+ salaries and were married. Me? I only went there because my single divorced father worked in the neighborhood. Needless to say this was looked upon as strange by most of the faculty and students. Just because my parents were divorced I was singled out by the administration, my mental health was constantly being evaluated. They would have me talk to counselers at least once a week to "Find out how I was feeling" Did I mention this was 1979 before stuff like hopping kids up on ritalin was around? Oh yeah this was gradeschool too, first grade.

    Anyways so yeah, other students would see me going into these counseling sessions, automatically I was deemed "crazy" by some of the other students. It took the other kids 5 years to get to know me to the point where they stopped.
    Courts placed me with my mom right at the end of 5'th grade. New school, but now I had to start over in making freinds. Again because the courts placed me it sent up a red flag to the administration that I needed counseling. Difference was, now I was in junior high, whole new school without many freinds. Social structure in JH is a lot different than elementry, more about who you know and how you act/dress. I again had the label of "crazy" on me. Fourtunatly there was a group of non-mainstream people that let me into their social group. This provided me with the support I needed because all the social workers, psychiatrists, and school counselers were really bummin me out. If somebody tells you something for a long enough period of time, you start to belive it. All these "professionals" kept trying to convince me I needed to be put on lithium, and when I objected, would take offense to it and punish me by alienating me in school. One paticular thing I remember is the school principal coming into the woodshop class and instructing the teacher that I was crazy and not to let me use sharp/power tools in class because I might turn it on somebody.

    This moniker of being crazy followed me all throughout my adolecent life, not because I did anything, but because my parents got divorced. Eventually when I got into HS I was instructed by the principal to drop out because of grades, then he added that the school didn't have the facilities to take care of a person with my special needs.

    Screw them now, i'm 27, allmost making 6 figures as a system admin and living life on my own terms. I ended up here from solitararly playing around with computers till I understood them, they also served as a place to go back in the school days where nobody called me crazy.

    I guess the point i'm trying to make here is this, you don't nessacarily have to be a geek, behave strangly, to be alienated in the school system. Things that are completely out of your control can occur that puts you on a pernament black list of counseling, forced medication, remidial special kids classes, and other harrassment techniques that i've seen the other kids post here. My case in point was a divorce. It makes me wonder how many other kids got the same treatment as myself.

  • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:08AM (#657679) Homepage Journal
    Why do you think publishers intend to put kids through hell? Their interest lies in selling books, not promoting an agenda. You have representation for a wide variety of political viewpoints from any large publisher. There is no hidden agenda to punish geeks, at least as far as I can tell.

    If they can convince a publisher their book will sell, the publisher will take it. A book coming from a site the size of Slashdot is not likely to have too many problems getting published. Take it from someone in the industry - a lot of books get published, including a lot of obscure ones(which this project wouldn't be). There are 500,000 titles in print, with about 60,000 being added every year. Do you really think a Slashdot book would have a hard time getting published?

    There is already an established section for books just like this one - computer culture(depends on the bookstore, YMMV). This would fit right in. I really don't see a problem with this at all.

    I watch the sea.
    I saw it on TV.

  • The main reason he was suspended was because he made fun of the system by attacking it from the inside. By "going through the motions" and actually winning the homecoming competition, he mad a mockery of the system. He played along with the rules and then spit in the school's face, and I think he really made his point.

    I applaud his actions and i hope this get's more coverage so that his message get's out further. This type of action by "popular kids" (or whatever he was) will prevent more combine events from happening. By leveling the playing field, the people will become empowered and change will result...

  • by mat catastrophe ( 105256 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:43AM (#657684) Homepage
    even though this set of stories is what "launched" Katz here on slashdot (for better or worse), and marks some of the first stuff I read here as well, (for better or worse), i think you guys are going to need a lot of luck getting this into print.

    I could be wrong, you might have a publisher lined up. But the media (and this includes the print people, who are NO better than their TV counterparts) aren't through putting kids through hell. The stories will continue coming, and it will be quite some time before the backlash starts. Hellmouth might even be the start of that backlash, with comments about needing counselors and not cops in schools. That's some FUCKING DEAD ON assessments of what is wrong with this country....

    But, as I said, unless you have a publisher lined up, it's gonna be hard. Hard, because while a smaller press could get this out (and I can think of several that might really like to handle this book), they don't have the reach of, say, Random House or one of the other larger pubs.

    So, in the meantime, why not release this on a website of its own? I think that would provide a fresh perspective on the whole thing. (ie, people scared of slashdot won't have to come here to read it).

  • Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They're nothing but hideous space reptiles.
    [Homer unmasks Kodos and Kang]
    [audience gasps in terror]
    Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
    [crowd murmurs]
    Audience(1): He's right, this is a two-party system.
    Audience(2): Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
    Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
    [Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]
    --Treehouse of Horror VII
  • Everywhere, school administrators pandered and panicked, rushing to show that they were highly sensitive to parent's fears, even if they were oblivious to the needs and problems of many of their students.

    Here we have illustrated a key issue not often understood about schools: schools do not exist for the students. Simple enough? Schools, which are there - in theory - solely because of the students, are not for the students. When you understand why schools as they are today exist, then it all makes perfect sense.

    This Sheldon Richman article, ``Horrors! Maybe the Schools are Working Just Fine'' [catalog.com] explains it well, as does John Taylor Gatto, whom he references. Schools as we see them today were not designed for the good of students, they were designed for the good of the state, and in particular, to mass-produce good little unquestioning soldiers after Prussia's embarrassing defeat at the hands of the amateur Napoleon, which was a PR disaster for mercenary-powered Prussia near as big as Microsoft's recent demonstration of system security (-: BTW, has anyone found w2ksrc.zip 420763k on a warez site yet? ;-). Prussia, to survive as it was, thought it had to thoroughly subvert the needs of the individual to the needs of the State, and did. Schools (the regimentation, the systems of grading and competition, age segregation, large classes etc ad mauseum) were a big part of this, and we've inherited them.

    That's why school seems insane if viewed as a haven for the principle of learning: they're not, it's a proletariat-worker factory which would be deserting its founding principles should it (God forbid) become a Realschulen and start actually fostering any bona fide learning.

    I also commend to you Karl Bunday's site [learninfreedom.org] for many different reasons that school is bad for students, and you in particular.

    So how about a chapter on this topic, Jon? I won't even ask for credit! <g,d,r>

  • by luge ( 4808 ) <slashdot@nosPam.tieguy.org> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:47AM (#657696) Homepage
    I think that Jeff's intro is perhaps the best-written thing I've ever seen on /. Obviously, it was edited and massaged, but the message is a clear and powerful one. Good luck in getting this message out- I too fear a society in which we actively attempt to isolate non-conformists, even though I had it better than many people around here did in HS.
  • If you cut yourself off so resolutely from any involvement in the society of your school, and take refuge in activities which are almost completely solitary, should you be surprised that you're treated like an outcast?

    I believe that most people who are outcasts don't really care what other people think of them since they are often above the notion of appearances, however, it is one thing to be left alone and quite another to be ridiculed, harassed and taunted on a daily basis. While I agree that being a genuine loner doesn't lend itself well to social situations, I think it should hardly be used as a reason to make someone a target.

    Being treated like an outcast never surprised me, it just made me sad to know that people could be so shallow when I wanted nothing more than to be left alone to do what I wanted to. You shouldn't have to embrace the society of your school or fit into any social framework to be given equal respect as a human being.

  • I can already hear the cries of protest about this viewpoint. To these people I ask this: in all honesty, how much of what you now know did you learn in high school? For that matter, how much out of COLLEGE? The point is this: "education" in its modern incarnation is created to limit thought, not expand it. Worse, it's [sic] ultimate goal appears to be to mold frames of thought such that certain viewpoints are literally impossible to attain.

    How much did I learn in high school and college? Where do I start? Nearly all of the academic knowledge which I possess, and consider truly valuable, I learned during my school years. I learned my math skills (aside: I consider it incredible, how many of my fellow programmers seem to know nothing beyond the simplest algebra); my command of chemistry; my knowledge of (a little) Latin and (less) Greek; what I know, also, of Greek and Roman literature and history.

    Mind you, I have to distinguish somewhat between "what I learned at school" and "what I learned in my school years". A good deal of my math, and most of my chemistry, for example, I learned on my own--using school library facilities to do it, perhaps, but still, on my own. In other subjects, Latin and Greek especially, I would have gone nowhere without the help of school materials and especially school instructors, many of whom I came to consider friends, because we shared a common enthusiasm for an academic discipline.

    If you go to school convinced of its uselessness, it will be useless.

  • by dsplat ( 73054 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:12AM (#657702)
    One of the things that the Hellmouth series highlighted is that alienation and marginalization of low-status subcultures and individuals is nothing new. For a perspective on this that goes back a generation to my high school days, I suggest digging up a copy of Fantasy Role Playing Games by J. Eric Holmes, which is sadly out of print. He is (or at least was) a psychologist by profession and a gamer in his spare time. He examined the psychology of gaming and debunked many of the myths about its detrimental effects on teens. He even examined the urban myths of the late 70's and early 80's about gaming-crazed teens hunting monsters in steam tunnels at a couple of universities.

    Remember, those who do not learn from history know that their ideas are new and right and that the rest of us must be forced to live by them.
  • by Mad Hughagi ( 193374 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:13AM (#657706) Homepage Journal
    It's kind of funny in a way... So many people on /. uphold the notion of freedom of information, the open-source methodology and the right to use shady programs like Napster, but when it comes down to simply using a publicly posted comment in a book there seems to be somewhat of an uproar about 'ownership' - not to mention the fact that the profits are going to charity.

    I guess it's probably not the same people that merit these things that are making the noise, but it's still an interesting take on the situation.

  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @12:35PM (#657707)

    So high school was tough. It was tough for me too. It was tough for a lot of people.

    Do you think that kids were a lot better off 50 years ago? 100? 500? Did the kids in ancient Sparta not pick on each other?

    Being a kid has always been tough. It's not a problem with our society. It's part of being human. It's just life, and we have to deal with it.
  • by epopt ( 33963 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:18AM (#657708) Homepage
    I for one would really like to see this come out in traditional (i.e., paper) book form. I'd like to have something tangible to drop on the desks of the principals and counselors at my kids' schools. Those people are the ones who need to see this material but they are never going to read something online -- it's hard enough just getting them to read their email.

    It looks to me like the people objecting to your publishing this material and the people whose material it was were different people. Ignore the silly screeching of the folks who feel a need to object to everything. Just publish the book.
  • by swinge ( 176850 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @10:20AM (#657709)
    It is predominantly liberal democrat, and rather accepting, or so I thought.

    oh, how openminded and accepting of you... casting liberals in one political party as "accepting", and thereby implying that others are not. "They're just not our kind of people, are they?". Gee, and then you wonder where divisions in society come from. Try this: stop labelling and categorizing people.

  • Missed one part:

    Marge is whipped my an invader.
    Marge: Ow!
    Homer: Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos! hahahOW!

    Gonzo Granzeau

  • it's also used at all the colleges I've been to or lived around as a chance for alumni to return back to the school and meet old friends again. The weak team scheduling trick is a definite PR move. The team I played on once played a christian science school from somewhere in middle america. This was a(n american) football team who practiced the philosophy of recieving NO medical attention whatsoever. They fielded 36 brave young men. Which was one more than how many points we scored in the first period. 72-0 is a thrashing in any sport.

    And before you judge my comment too harshly, try and grasp the significance of the entire HM, eh? (just to slow you down)
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:49AM (#657714) Homepage Journal
    This is the right way to do it -- not so much because of the original questions of permission and ownership -- but because of the content. In reading over this first chapter, I find that it doesn't sound like any book I've ever read -- it sounds like Slashdot. There's the voice of Hemos, the voice of Jon Katz, and there's the voices of his respondents. Maybe it would "sound" different in print, but I doubt it.

    I hope this online book succeeds, and I hope it does so in ways that Stephen King and Fredrick Forsyth cannot -- by making a difference. All those publishing wonks out there who talk about the popular authors selling their wares on the net need have their attention called to this document, because it's real stuff about real people. This is the way the Internet changes the publishing world.

  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @08:50AM (#657715)
    Why does /. keep perpetuating this lie that the Coumbine kids were these picked on geeks. Even a quick glance over any of the reporting that came out since the story broke, for example, this story at Salon [salon.com] shows that these were fucked up kids who were sick and wanted to be famous.

    I know its trendy and all to claim "victimhood" in soceity these days, (usually as a precursor to sueing someone or ttrying to get some law passed to tip the scales back in our favor), but this navel gazing by "geeks" is pathetic.
  • by XO ( 250276 )
    Just what the hell is everyone's problem about Katz? I have finally after over a year and a half of reading slashdot totally anonymously, signed in, and actually am trying to get a handle on how the real system here works, since mostly i just read the headlines, and click links.

    I remember when I first read the Hellmouth (I remember somewhere in the postings the origin of the name was explained, for those curious, but I don't remember what it was), I was inspired to also share my experiences.. the problem was, I didn't remember most of them, having pushed High School, a scant 5 years ago then, completely out of my memory. I did, however, click on his name, and just fire off an email. After a half an hour, I had probably close to a 10K text email message that I really don't remember writing.. I just let the fingers and subconscious do it all.. and when I was done, I re-read everything that I had written, and had jarred myself into tears from it.

    Yes, I agree with a lot of the posts that a lot of the people probably really don't have it as bad as they say they do, but then there are others that are downplaying it, too.
    I was brutally beaten by large groups of large people throughout middle and high schools.. rarely ever actually injured, but seriously bruised. I was a pacifist, however. I never fought back. I so dislike real violence (yet I love Quake/Doom/etc, and heavy metal) ...
    Even the other geeks used to torment me.. though there really weren't any other computer geeks coming from a class that graduated 60 out of an original 98 people student base. Perhaps the other "outcasts" as it were, I mean.
    Maybe it was because it was a school full of farmers children for the most part, and my parents were factory workers, that were generally better off financially than most of the community, I don't know what the whole root of it was.

    One of the more painful experiences I remember was in 8th grade, lunch spent hanging out with a couple of other heavy metal fans (who only marginally got along with me, only because we had the music going between us, they were really non-intelligent for the most part), a very very large classmate decided that he was particularly offended by the pimple on my forehead, jumped me from behind, and smashed my head into the wall at least 3 or 4 times, and he was then applauded by all of his friends.

    The initial alienation breeds more. As it happened more and more, as I began to grow different from my classmates, even as early as Kindergarten (I was already writing stupid programs on my TRS-80 and VIC-20, hoping I would one day get a stupid little game published in one of the type-in-program magazines.. *laugh*) .. I became more withdrawn.. as I discovered the more I tried to defend myself, the worse it became.. and I remember in 1st grade, is when it degenerated from stupid taunts and not wanting to be associated, to the beating.. so I went through 11 years of it.

    The more withdrawn I became, the more I was teased, and beaten, and the more withdrawn I became, etc.. vicious cycle.

    And people wondered why I liked my computer more than the people around me. People wondered what happened to the once straight A student, who never really did anything wrong, except when he was trying to fit in with the other kids .. when entering high school, his grades hit rock bottom..

    Suddenly I spent all of my time in school from 9th grade through most of 11th no longer caring one bit about anyone or anything around me.. My parents were completely oblivious, the teachers were completely oblivious, as everyone always knows.. Hell, we had a guy who was on some SERIOUS drugs totally thrash an entire classroom.. and he got a 3 day suspension. I got 7 days for smoking on school property -after school hours-.

    Strangely enough, as my performance in school degenerated right into the toilet, and my immersion in heavy metal music, playing bass guitar, and programming grew, I actually became somewhat more interesting to the people around me. They paid a little bit of attention to me finally, but at this point, I'd had so much from them, that I never cared one bit about them anymore. Then, I cracked. I was wandering the halls of the school in the middle of classes, just attempting to see if I could avoid getting busted out of class, with my walkman on, blaring some tune i was really into at the time.. and the school hockey player walked around the corner. He told me to turn the music off. I finally stood up, and started defying these people, after many years. He picked me up and flung me across the hallway as if I were nothing. I stood, noting that he'd basically destroyed my cassette player, headphones, and cassette all in the same blast, and in an insane burst of adrenalin, beat the heck out of him.

    I got suspended for 7 more days.

    After that, though, no one ever took their hands towards me again. It's not the solution, and it will never be the solution. Violence will never solve the problem correctly.

    My grades briefly rose back from the grave, though I still paid no attention to anyone around me.. and as I suddenly became the head of class again, in line for top 10 in the class, even though I'd spent the last 3 years screwing around.. people started with the incessant teasing and such again.. and I had finally had enough.

    As I was saying, people wondered for a long time, whatever happened to me, when three days before the end of the first semester of my senior year, I disappeared.

    A week later, I showed up at the house of the twins who were destined to be valedictorian and salutatorian of the class. They weren't friends of mine, and weren't particularly friendly or unfriendly, but I thought perhaps they might understand. I knocked on the door, and one of them answered (after spending almost 13 years in the same class, I could never tell the two apart), and I told her "I've got something I need to say. I want you both to hear this, because most likely none of you will ever hear from me again." I think at this point they were thinking I was suicidal, but I wasn't. I had carefully chosen my words, and to make a long story even longer, I told them that I was dropping out of school, and going to head in whatever direction life took me. And that I never wanted to see the Hell-hole known as Galesburg, Michigan ever again in my life. I told them who I wanted to know that I was alive, and other than that to just let the rumors spread.

    Boy did they spread.

    I moved to Mt. Pleasant, MI, about 2.5 hours north, and was receiving email from my one friend in the school that also had an email account nearly every day, with what new and bizarre rumors. Some said that I had killed someone and was in hiding.. others say that I ha dkilled someone and was caught, and was in prison... Others say that I picked a fight with someone and they killed me.. still others said that I killed myself in a fit of drunken rage .. there were hundreds of them. And somehow, that made me happy.

    I'm probably reaching the post size limit, if there is such a thing. Good night.

Parallel lines never meet, unless you bend one or both of them.