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More Bad News From The Hellmouth 463

Even though violence among the young is dropping sharply, a federal law enforcement agency and a private threat-evaluation security firm have teamed up to develop a software program that will be tested in 20 schools around the country in December. Mosaic-2000 will look for "troubled" kids. Geek students are sounding the alarm at this mind-boggling over-reaction and unthinking deployment of technology as a safety -- and profit-making --tool in education. The price of being different is going up again.

Within minutes of Sunday's announcement that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is working with a threat-evaluation company to develop a computer program that helps school administrators spot dangerous students near the brink of violence, the e-mail began.

Although the new program was widely described in the mainstream media as a valuable tool for defusing violence, plenty of geeks and nerds -- especially younger ones -- knew better, and saw it in a different, perhaps wiser, context.

"It worries me a great deal, wrote The Hollow Man. "Can you make us heard about this? Voice our concerns? This tool will be making diversity a wrong, [and will be used] for alienating and ostracizing those who are different." Hollow Man described himself as a "very, very worried geek."

But he's also a smart one, and history is on the side of his well-founded fears.

Geek Profiling, the Post-Columbine nationwide American war on the culture and lifestyles of the different, the alienated, and the non-Normal, has climbed to another Orwellian level, thanks to a federal law enforcement agency and a threat-evaluation computer program.

After the Columbine High massacre, American educators, politicians and journalists concluded that guns, values or a twisted educational system weren't the problem. It was, especially, those geeks who were online a lot, who gamed, listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, rejected sports and other reigning social conventions, engaged in rebellious, defiant or "inappropriate" speech or dress.

Even though violence -- and fear of violence -- among the young has been declining sharply for years, media and political ignorance of kids, technology and culture has only deepened. The only demonstrable links in the recent spate of horrific school shootings - still a very rare occurrence - suggest that trouble arises when emotionally-disturbed adolescent white males gain access to guns. In the months after Columbine, however, there is no federal or nationwide program to help emotionally disturbed kids or to keep them away from lethal weapons.

The answer, most schools seem to have concluded, isn't examining their own structures, values or curriculum, but in enforcing widespread conformity. Stop dressing strangely, behaving individualistically, engaging in non-traditional recreation, or speaking honestly.

Now there is Mosaic-2000, with its promised ability to confidentially (read secretly) vet and rate potentially violent students on a scale of 1 to 10. It is not yet clear where this information will be stored or who, precisely, will have access to it or for how long. But it seems plausible that anonymous complaints, aberrant behavior or teacher hostility could be stored digitally in a student file for the rest of their lives.

Some administrators can't wait to test Mosaic-2000. One Ohio principal whose school is getting Mosaic-2000 told a newspaper that Mosaic's "immediate virtue would be in producing detailed documentation of its evaluation of a troubled student so that doubting parents could no longer challenge an administrator's judgement as too subjective." Now parents defending their dangerous kids will have the ATF and Mosaic to contend with as well as school bureaucrats.

Mosaic's programs, according to The New York Times, rely on carefully - worded questions about student behavior based on case histories of people who have turned violent. They're designed by Gavin de Becker Inc., a private security and software company in California (de Becker came to prominence garnering tons of publicity protecting Hollywood celebrities), and are intended to help officials discern a real threat amid varied outbursts, threats and warning signs. For the past 10 years, the company has tailored risk-assessment programs for special law-enforcement programs dealing with problems from domestic violence to terrorism.

This is an astounding elevation of the unthinking deployment of computer technology as a social -- and profit-making tool to make intuitive judgements in educational environments that often confound experts with years of training.

The Mosaic school program promises questions carefully crafted from case histories by 200 experts in law enforcement, psychiatry and other areas. It will include a variety of concerns beyond alarming talk, ranging from the availability of guns to reported abuse of domestic pets.

"I think it's a wonderful tool that has a great deal of potential, and I hope it's properly used by the schools," said Andrew Vita, associate director of field operations for the ATF, which has used the Mosaic approach to investigate abortion-clinic bombings.

Mosaic is also used by Yale University and federal courthouses to evaluate the potential for violence of individuals who make threats. None of the many media stories about Mosaic in the past few days even raised the question of why such a Draconian security program -- do we really want schools to be run like federal courthouses? -- would be deployed against schoolchildren at a time when violence among the young has dropped to its lowest levels in nearly half a century.

Don't hold your breath about that. Since it's simpler and more expedient to blame the Net and harmless subcultures like the Goths or computer games like "Doom" or TV shows like "South Park" for violence, schools have been granted what amounts to hunting licenses with few restrictions. Kids like Hollow Man have every right to be worried that they'll be punished for what they think, wear, say or do on weekends.

In any other context, a government-sponsored computer program offered by a law enforcement agency and a private security firm to enter school systems and track down certain types of students in schools would trigger howls of protest. As long as we're deploying Mosaic-2000, why stop at "potentially violent" oddballs? Why not get to the really dangerous people loose in schools, maybe programming Mosaic to hunt down and identify religious fanatics such as those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible and reject Darwin and evolution? Aren't they a threat to school science programs?

Will Mosaic be used to identify bullies who exclude, ridicule, beat up and harass kids who choose to be different, driving them into the fringes of school life?

Might it prove helpful in identifying oppressive and unimaginative educators who cling to antiquated curriculums and passive teaching environments, even though many of their brightest students have vastly more creative and stimulating lives online than they do in school?

What about social cliques that believe the most important part of their school year centers around parties where they drink themselves into oblivion and, afterwards, are prone to elevated rates of sexual assault and automobile accidents?

Or school administrators and guidance counselors who know so little about some of their students or the nature of their own schools that they are shocked and uncomprehending when some kids become severely disturbed or enraged, even sometimes to the point of stockpiling and using guns and bombs?

Hollow Man and most geeks and other know better. Mosaic 2000 is out to vet them, and others who dares to define themselves differently from the normal as defined by unknown people working for private firms and government agencies.

Federal law enforcement agencies and private, for profit security companies have no legal mandate or business in schools, deploying computer programs to compile information on kids.

Federal agencies like the ATF and DEA haven't been able to put much of a dent in gun or drug traffic. Why would anybody cede them the duty of sifting through the complex sociocultural world of high school?

Programs like Mosaic-2000 are another nightmare from the Hellmouth that school is for so many kids. They are an abdication of responsibility and a lame excuse for schools to seek out the often creative, individualistic, idiosyncratic and rebellious students with whom they have battled for eons, and who cause them so many problems.

Violence is almost never one of them.

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More Bad News From The Hellmouth

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Comlumbine will serve as an tool to get people (parents) very afraid of all the wrong things. About christians and violent jocks: good points - they'll never use this software for that. Think about all the bias built into this crap; it makes me sick

    The situation is getting scarier by the month. We are excusing all manner of nonsense.

    People need to remember to protect their liberties. You can't trade them for safety.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't ever school like this? I am a few years out of school and me and the close group of friends I had in high school still hang out a lot. We PRIDED ourselves on the fact that we DID NOT conform and in some cases that people were down right afraid of us. Me the computer geek who didn't look it, two of the largest "psychos" (granted they are a bit unstable, but arn't we all in our own little ways? ;-) ) in the school and a few others. None of us really fit in with the "in" crowd and we enjoyed it. This kind of thing scares me as, who knows what distinguishes someone from being on the verge of violence, and just not wanting to conform with the rest of the school "society"? I know I'd of wanted to give someone a good kick in the ass if they had tried to force me to conform to the way everyone else was. Life is about individuality and having a computer program to try to help determine who is and who isn't safe to have around doesn't seem like a good idea, especially if there is humans writing the program. No matter what anyone says humans can not be 100% objective all the time due to personal prefrence and experience.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a recent high school student I can attest to the fact that profiling (of all kinds, not just geek) is an enormous problem in our nations public schools. However, the real problem with the Mosaic software to me is that it is another panacea created by frightened adults in an over-reaction to a few tragic events. If I'm not mistaken, there was a software package called mosaic that was used at my school which asked students questions to help them pick a career. As any student who has used this software can attest, it is completely worthless. I don't care how many technological advances or collaborations with psychologists a software package contains. The bottom line is that there will always be messed up kids who are beyond help. As for the kids who are troubled and can be helped, even if they are identified by software, I find it difficult to believe that a system that actively promotes the alienation of students who don't fall into a certain category can do much to help these students. If schools want to help troubled students, they need to start at ground level. While they can't do a whole lot with the fact that some teens have troubled home lives and suffer the effecs of other societal ills, they can offer support to ALL students. That is, even students with alternative views, interestes and talkents. Furthermore, school administrations need to take a stand against intolerance within the student body. What administrators may dismiss as simple teasing is actually disgusting harrasment which could escalate to tragic levels. In short, the existence of this software package will only give schools a false sense of security and avert scrutiny to the root causes which, of course, will still be festering. Only through additudinal changes and pro-active measures can we hope to effectively eliminate not only violence in schools, but many of the other problems that face young people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Finding out which kids are emotionally disturbed isn't nearly the problem people make it out to be. Usually, someone knows. Shortly after my then 14-year old daughter attempted suicide two years ago, the state insurance covering her refused to pay for residential treatment. The hospital wanted to release her after 2 days with no follow-up plan at all. One social worker suggested to me that I quit work and stay home with her if I was worried - given that I'm a single mother whom doesn't receive child support, this was a pretty stupid suggestion - as if being homeless and ahving a depressed child was better than just having a depressed child. In addition to being very depressed, engaging in self-mutilation and suicide attempts, she was very hostile at the time as well and acted out violently sometimes. In order to get treatment for her, I had to turn over custody to the state. I have been a member of a number of parental groups and am sorry to report that this is not at all uncommon. Many of us have kids whom we're seriously worried about. Many of us have put in scores of hours calling agencies and participating in family therapy, IEP meetings, and insurance team meetings, and still can't get help for our kids. Most private insurance has severe limitations on psychiatric help, and qualifying for state insurance in most states is very difficult. I am nowhere near the first parent who's had to turn over custody of her child to get help - and it's unlikely that I'll be the last. I don't know why we have to go on a search for troubled kids when we don't help the ones we've already know about.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm Theo, my login isn't working right now, so I'm in on AC,
    this might get kinda toasty, but these are my honest thoughts on the matter.

    First off, for everyone who's complaining about constitutional rights,
    How many times have we seen very bad things implemented by some corporation
    or another, in lieu of some worse form of regulation?
    I get the feeling that it may be about the same thing here.
    And let's face it, just try to exercise your constitutional rights,
    and they've got you as a violent dangerous person right there.

    Second, before you go blaming us Christians,
    look at all the people who are involved in putting this kind of thing in place.
    Yes, there are some screaming for it, but there are probably just as many
    who aren't part of a "moral majority" type group
    (secular humanists, postmodernists, and left wing control freaks come to mind,
    but there are others, I'm not just picking on you)
    who want this kind of thing, either for malicious or misguided reasons.
    Just get them thinking it's a big step towards their big
    "mark of the beast" thing, and you can get some of the more extreme christians on your side.

    Third, an idea for how to deal with all these people who want
    monitoring of all these kids, filters in the public library PC's,
    v-chips, movie ratings, and this mosaic bull...
    These people who with one mouth say people need to be responsible for their own actions,
    but with the other scream don't make us responsible for our own.
    I say we go on the offensive and sue to have their children taken away;
    that they are abdicating their parental responsibility by their constant
    cries of "take care of our children!".
    If they don't want to do the job of parenting, then they shouldn't be allowed to.

    parting humorous shot:
    maybe some people hated the south park movie not for the violence and swearing,
    as much as it was a condemnation of their actions as morality cops.
    (truthfully, without saddam waving around a phallus, and satan being a whiney co-dependant,
    I could see some pro-family group endorsing that movie.)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The unstated assumption here is that Mosaic2000 will preferentially select [geeks | goths | etc.] because they're "different". Aren't we all. And the attempt to link Columbine to guns seems to ignore the news reports that those students had homemade pipe bombs as well as guns.

    Perhaps the real reason for a rise in violent acts across all sectors of society is that Americans as a whole are feeling disenfranchised. It is becomming clear that without access to 'China-gate' style influence buying, citizens can do little to affect their situation. In 'The Prince' Machiavelli wrote, "all the people ask is not to be opressed". He explains that when the citizens are prevented from going about their business freely (which includes getting an education free from invasive 'personality tests'), they tend to become unruly and it is difficult for the prince to maintain his position.

    This thing will get worse before it gets better.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Do some research, don't blindly parrot what Katz is saying!

    Read the web page,, hunt around, you'll see why your post is so stupid.

    If you're given this test and told to take it, don't. I think that's a pretty simple solution. Just say no. People can only discriminate against you if you let them.

    If you're given the test and told to run it, you are probably the principal of the school, you are definitely not a student.

    If you choose not to, fine, you may get fired by the Board of Education, you may be liable if you failed to notice a violent student.

    It is a tool, for administrators, to evaluate whether student who have made threats are dangerous.

    It is not a test given to all students to flag the ones who need re-education, to turn shy computer loving geeks into football supporting sports loving simpletons.

    If it were used to lock up potentially violent people, it would be wrong, but most posters are still stuck in "I'll lie on the test" mode.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Careful reading of the NYTimes article suggests that the Mosaic 2000 program is used to vet whether individuals who make threats have potential for violence. Nothing suggests that this tool will be used for random evaluation (like random drug testing) or targeted evaluation of individuals perceived to be weird, odd, or different. If making threats (i.e., telling a teacher "I'm gonna get you for this") is an essential part of being Geek, then maybe we do have something to fear here.
  • Good God, don't encourage him like that! This man speaks for nobody. He's not known for much besides half-baked philosophy and stealing ideas from previous Slashdot articles. He trivialises everything he touches by turning it into mindless hippie rebellion. The real world is a lot more complicated than Katz is willing to admit... this is a guy desperate to fight and weaken authority figures, but what he really wants is to replace them with himself. Even by _suggesting_, "Gee, Jon, looks like you're the voice of the disenfranchised geek!" you're empowering him in a seriously unhelpful way. HE IS NOT. He's just spouting off. If you want to hear the voices of disenfranchised geeks, TALK TO THEM. Not to Katz.
  • He's better known for calling for adults to sneak underage kids into R rated movies :P as for your suggestion, it's unrealistic. Adults do not establish the high school pecking order! Teenagers do that ALL BY THEMSELVES. I could see establishing 'havens' for subgroups that are picked on, the Chess Club or Computer Club etc. (and you'd damn well better be ready to include the Football Team in that, or you're a hypocrite- anyone thinking those jock kids are immune from insecurity is just stupid... they are human too, and they too are suffering adolescence) However, I've not seen Jon Katz implying any such thing- he seems to insist that you have to get all the teenagers to appreciate and celebrate each other, and that is ludicrous.
    The obvious counterexample was Haight-Ashbury, which I don't think Jon dares to bring up- it is a powerful mystique that seems to give credence to his simplistic calls for unity, but what people overlook is that the heyday of Haight-Ashbury was predominantly tourist teenagers from suburbia, that the movers and shakers of it were manipulative hustlers, and that by 1970 it had disintegrated into streetfights and drug killings- something the modern teenager would find more comprehensible.
    Not unity: diplomacy is what is needed today, the ability to negotiate between the various interests of the people involved in the war zone that is America. Jon is absolutely the worst person imaginable to be put into this role, because he is incapable of seeing past his illusory evil authority figures. What you're seeing, Jon, is badly frightened people, on both sides. If you understood that even for a second you might have a broader mind and be more capable of aiding the people you so dearly want to represent...
  • The problems are:

    1) This is a politicized issue. Thus, it is unlikely that the test will be completely objective. A school in Dallas already considers wearing Marilyn Manson shirts to be a "warning sign," and I wouldn't be surprised if more things along those lines started happening.

    2) Psychology is not 100% correct. If you violate the rights of even one person because of your psychological analysis, it's not worth it. In fact, it's possible that your labeling a non-violent person as "violent" and constantly reinforcing that they're sick and need to get help (when, in fact, they're not) could do more harm than good.

    I personally listen to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, KMFDM (in fact, the two songs the Columbine kids quoted on their webpage are among my favorite KMFDM songs), Bad Religion, Ministry, and a host of other "bad influences." I enjoy playing Doom2 quite a bit, and Quake or Vigilante occasionally. I am fond of explosives (though I don't get much opportunity to experiment with them).

    I wouldn't be surprised if one of these profiling tests (provided I answered it truthfully) considered me "violently inclined," even though that's about the furthest possible thing from my personality.
  • I saw this thing on TV.

    A person feels they might be in danger. In order to assess their real risk, they are put in front of the computer which then asks a series of questions about the suspect's behavior towards the potential victim. Based on this information, an expert system returns a value which tells the user how well-grounded their fear and anxiety is.

    That's just one mode of the program. I'm sure they will set it up to question the suspect.

    Both situations are frightening, because of the expert system involved. It's based entirely upon heuristics. In the case of school kids, the questions won't be "does this person own any weapons?", they will be "does this person ever play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(tm)?"

    The expert system is constructed to match behaviors of suspects to behaviors of past violent offenders. There are going to be a lot of false alarms.

  • Gifted kids are often "pushed" around by teachers who can't tell the difference between boredom and vandalism (they both end in "m", so they must be the same. Honest!)

    As a kid, I enjoyed trying some of the experiments a TV scientist (Professor Heinz Wolff) came up with. My favourite has to be his first, the Great Egg Race. (Build a machine, out of nothing more than household items and powered by nothing more than a single rubber band, that can carry an egg safely, as fast & as far as possible.)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:33AM (#1583753) Homepage Journal
    This is the first time I've seen a recycled story (last week, wasn't it?) that was longer than the original.

    However, he obviously wants feedback, so here it is:

    I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed by Jon Katz take on this. "Troubled" kids can be identified, and often fall into one or more of the following:

    • Alchoholic or substance-abusing parents
    • Emotionally absent parents
    • Controlling parents
    • ADHD
    • Depressive
    • Manic Depressive
    • Gifted (Above-average ability/intelligence)
    • Physically or socially "different"

    In the first 3 categories, the parents need help. It's not the child's fault that their parents are messed-up, but what good does it do anyone, least of all the kid, if everyone else says "it's none of my business"? And how can do you anything, if you blind yourself to there being a problem?

    In the next 4 categories (and there are probably a great many more like them), the kid needs help. Not counselling - ADHD isn't "bad behaviour" - but help as in appropriate teaching style & pace and a check-up by a COMPETENT pdoc. In short, the kid STILL doesn't need to be changed, it's their environment that's the problem.

    In the last case, the OTHER kids might need some kind of treatment, to be more tolerent, as might some of the staff. As above, it's not the kid's fault, but it does NOBODY any good to neglect the fact that SOMETHING isn't working.

    IMHO, this program approaches the problem with an Anti-Katz attitude - it blinds itself to the reality of the dynamics involved, as much as Katz has a tendancy to blind himself to the fact that sometimes action needs to be taken.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:07AM (#1583754) Homepage Journal
    Abosolutely NOT! The one thing kids DON'T need is any kind of "counselling". I'd thought I'd said that in my previous post, but maybe I didn't emphasise it enough.

    "Different" kids -MAY- need a mild chemical imbalance fixed. That's IT. And I repeat - any such imballance is MILD. However, if it exists, it'll often need correcting. This requires nothing more complex, intrusive or controlling than a visit to a doctor, and the taking of a pill in the mornings. That's IT.

    MUCH, MUCH MORE OFTEN, the problem is with the teachers, NOT the kids. Gifted, ADHD, depressed, bipolar, etc, kids become bored easily, each for their own reasons. If the teacher doesn't (or won't) make some kind of allowance for that, and adjust the material accordingly, the kid is likely to vent their frustration by being disruptive.

    (If I speak as someone who knows what they're talking about, I do. I was a voluntary teacher for a gifted program, and learned from many of the parents that the kids were "uncontrollable" at school. In the 6 months I taught them, I had not one problem requiring more than a "please don't do that" from any of them. That's because I made damn sure that the kids were free to speak their minds and were -active-, rather than bored, mindless parrots. Any time I hear of a teacher having a "problem pupil", I'd lay good odds on it not being the kid that has a problem.)

    ANY "pro-active" policy has to address the REAL problem, not the "make-believe, back-covering" problem that often gets reported. If there's a problem with a classroom, see what that says about the TEACHER, and what the TEACHER should do different. If there's a potential problem brewing, find out if the STAFF, or other kids, are responsible for the powder keg, so that it can be safely dealt with and the REAL, UNDERLYING ISSUES can be resolved.

    This is the problem with both Katz' view, and the "traditional" view. Neither think that "their side" could have any part in the underlying issues. I'm sorry to burst the illusion, but reality says that someone is, and it's not the Loch Ness Monster.

    IMHO, NEVER, EVER, EVER tackle surface stuff -BEFORE- addressing the underlying cause. If a house is subsiding, what's more important to fix - the foundations or a loose tile on the roof?

  • by stephend ( 1735 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:55AM (#1583755) Homepage
    I think it's important that there's a response to the issue. Jon's article may be a 'worst case' but it's not unreasonable.

    My take on this is that it's a bad thing, but if we have to do it (calming the nerves of worried parents is a perfectly valid reason) then its better than many of the alternatives. I'd rather have a computer doing the initial finger pointing. A machine doesn't discriminate on anything other than what it 'sees.' People are far less objective.
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:47AM (#1583756) Homepage

    Y'know, I bet its those Christians again. If the "self-proclaimed guardians of morality" would just stop harrassing the poor little geeks, then we wouldn't need these computer profiling tools.

    We could have our freedom! Freedom to be different, to indulge our base instincts without any niggling voices telling us that we are humans, not animals! We could live, free from the cruel repressions of those who want us to love each other.

    We could have world peace, or at least whirlled peas. We could stand up, hand in pasty hand, and share our victimization.


    Jon: we are all victims sometimes. Do you know when we become victimized? When we define ourselves in terms of how we've been oppressed. It's time to get over it. Yeah, school sucks. So you do better for your kids than your parents did for you. IMNSHO, Homeschool. But you don't spend your whole life dwelling on a sucky circumstance that you can't do anything about.

    Given your lack of identifiable geekiness, all I can figure is that you are trying for demagoguery with these "hellmouth" articles. The first one was good. The second half as good. The progression is geometric, or worse.

  • Damnit Jon, no "geek students" are "sounding the alarm".

    Sure they've been. I'd put down $20 right now he's been getting a steady stream of emails on the topic.

    I was scared rather shitless myself, considering I spent many a lunch period literally just walking around campus for 50 minutes because I had nowhere to go.

    Who knows what they might have had the studies to prove if they had my complete psychographic profile by default. I'd have been kicked out for getting to school late.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

    P.S. Those dead students? What's a bigger tragedy, dozens of students dead, or dozens of students being asked to leave their high school a year before they graduate because some yahoos shot up the school in their outfit, were weird, and made the cheerleaders nervous?

    P.P.S. Oh, you did hear that the Trenchcoat Mafia had nothing--zero--zilch to do with the Columbine events, didn't you? Yup, they didn't like the two kids either. Of course, don't expect to see that on ABC News. It was just in the police report that only Salon chose to cover.

  • Are you completely insane?!? I don't care how many people they unjustifiably throw out of school, it's only a fraction of the tradgy of a dozen kids getting murdered!

    I'm speechless... doumbfounded... agast that you would think something like that...I'm going to just presume that you weren't thinking too well when you said it.

    Let me rephrase the question, then.

    Suppose it's fifty years ago, and a town is paralyzed in fear--there's a serial rapist. He's found, he's black, he's lynched.

    Only a truly cruel and crazed person would violate the town women in that manner--something must be done to make them feel secure--no, to make the town more secure. The remaining black families must be run out of town, or live in eternal fear.

    Most are run out. Some stay. None feel secure.

    What's more tragic, I ask you? The women who were raped by the insane, or the families that were exiled by the righteous victims?

    These aren't idle questions. Stuff like this happened. In some places, it still happens.

    There are no easy answers, Ky'dishar. That those victimized lash out and create victims anew is probably the most tragic flaw in human nature the world has ever known. It's awful to see innocent children die; it's more awful to see innocent children losing their innocence by culling their herds in an act of retribution. That intolerance and unjustified hate was both denounced and practiced by the same mob scares me more than the acts of two deluded students.

    Respond, if you read this. I've actually been thinking about this alot lately.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky

  • There is a tangible difference between teachers being taught the psychologies of youth and mentorship and a test being used to single out The Different as A Threat.

    Filtering out the human touch in the name of increased efficiency is not the solution. One does not sooth psychic damage through machinery.

    If you think about it, teachers don't exactly get much respect either. In some respects, they're even more tragic than the outcasts that get left unprotected.

    Interesting how pretty much everyone in certain institutions is dehumanized to some degree...

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • The circumstances of the relative evils are not what's at issue here.

    It doesn't matter that Rape is less evil than Murder, nor that losing one's school is somehow less painful than losing one's home. Have you considered that a GED doesn't let you get into many universities?

    While there is an aspect of the potential, bear in mind that there were immediate responses in both lynch mobs--otherwise innocents were scapegoated and exiled, on the will of those who were once innocents. The mob acted in revulsion and horror at the unthinking, inhuman way their brethren was treated; they proceded to treat Those Of The Enemy in the exact same unthinking and inhuman manner.

    Do not look at this in terms of travesties of Justice. Look at it in terms of the human tragedy--the transfer of evil from those who committed grevious acts out of isolation or insanity to those who had neither.

    Think of the kids growing up in Kosovo who want nothing else but to grow up and kill some Serbs. Purely potential, yes--but utterly tragic; possibly more tragic even than the murder of their parents.

    Again, there are no easy answers. Maybe that's what bothers me about M2K so much.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:03AM (#1583761) Homepage
    I've been trying to bounce Mosaic-2000 around in my head for a while. After all, we're all screaming that Doom Does Not A Serial Killer Make, and neither does a penchant for trenchcoats. What if Katz is overreacting--what if this software program is really a way for knee-jerk bureaucrats to get their suspicions laughed at by an impartial analyzer? We know that expert systems used to diagnose heart attack systems can, in some circumstances, be even more effective than trained physicians at cross-referencing indications, contraindications, and other tasks necessary to come up--quickly--with an accurate solution.

    So, if heart attacks can be diagnosed accurately, why not violent behavior?

    After all, I may not be normal, but what do I have to hide? I'm not going to kill anyone.

    Us good people don't have anything to fear.

    Oh. I've heard that before, haven't I.

    Framing Mosiac 2000 as anti-geek is myopic. A psychographic dragnet such as this is quite possibly the most disturbing concept I've heard in quite some time, and should be on the top ten lists of every privacy advocate in the country. Suppose the data compiled was absolutely accurate--a fallacy I will address later--suddenly, a complete profile of your identity has been compiled automatically. Your character type, your likely reactions to various forms of coercion, your fears, your dreams, an invaluable pantheon of knowledge about how to control you and how to react to you--all sitting in a file, based upon answers you were compelled to supply.

    And that's if the data's accurate!

    It's tough to not see Orwell when people keep using 1984 as a study guide.

    Of course, the chances that such information might actually be accurate isn't exactly high. Yes, it's true that expert systems do wonderfully for heart attack victims. Heart Attack Victims don't usually intentionally lie about their symptoms--students do. What's so beautiful about it all is how natural it is:

    A close friend of mine grew up ill, and because of the pain she saw her parents experience from her illness, she learned to mask that pain from them and the people around her. Children learn very quickly--there are expectations of you, you are to meet them not in terms of reality but in terms of perception.

    Testers like Mosiac 2000, which cannot be written without an implicit bias towards a given desired social identity(non-violent passive, Mr. Orwell?), will quickly be seen as another overbearing set of expectations to fulfill. And children, masters of the art from birth, will learn to adapt to the tests, and "pass them" like any other standardized centrifuge of a test.

    Not that this is easy, or without consequence. Shoving your self into a corner has a way of making you even more isolated, even more wrong. Or, of course, it's just another way to fuck the system that's trying to do the same to you. Either way, useless data.

    But what of this semi-mythical test? How do we know that it doesn't really know what to ask?

    The fact that it was apparently designed using Grade A Felon Material probably isn't a good thing. Reminds me alot of the controversy when some serious yahoos took feminism way too far and posted fliers across their university containing the photo of one guy with the words underneath: POTENTIAL RAPIST.

    They picked the poor schmuck at random.

    In a world where every student is a potential assassin, where the mob demands the right to psychoanalyze on penalty of exclusion, where everyone and everything must be open and analyzed and identical and conformant and not too much and not too little and nothing in there any room for childhood?

    For finding oneself?

    How can you find yourself when the test already knows who you are?

    What do you say to the kid who the test claims will kill his family?

    Technology is a wonderful thing. Kids don't even need to grow up anymore; computers will do it for them.

    Of course, it won't work, at first. There will be problems. There would be gnashing of teeth. But with time, the psychographic profiles of the kindergartners will be compared with their profiles when they finally grow up to their violent and sexual destinies, and the next generation of kindergartners will be more correctly controlled.

    Who needs privacy. The babies are dying. You don't have privacy anyway, Mcnealy told me so, the babies are dying. You don't want the babies to die, do you? Are you a baby killer too?

    No. I guess I grew up in time.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • by Rob the Roadie ( 2950 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:06AM (#1583766) Homepage
    Of the 'geek' types that I know they are not remotely depressed/opressed to the point that they wish to take up arms for their cause.Sure these people are pissed off that their inteligence and ability causes them to be outcasts but they are okay with it. These people have the intelligence to transend this sort of discrimation.
    Of the 'goth' types that I know I see a common thread of 'Oh my god, everybody hates me, nobody loves, so I'm going off to school to kill everyone when high on drink and drugs that alter my perception of reality'. These people feel opressed. They feel descriminated against. They are prepared to 'fight the power/system' that causes the pain the percieve.

    But by focusing in on sterotypes -- Geek/Goth/Jock/Nerd/Brain etc etc --we are no better than the powers that be who authorise and endorse the deployment of this sort of personality profilling.

    Is personality profilling ever going to give us accurate results? I could kill my lover and get off with a few years in jail by claiming a crime of passion. I could storm in to the office of my 'pointy haired boss' and stab him and claim tempory insanity and get let off! If I have no history of violent behaviour and I do not fit into any 'profile' this could happen and frequently does!

    So what am I saying? This sort of profiling does not work. We live in a diverse cultured socitity. We live in an age of information. Who can say what makes people commit these actions? No one can. Everyone can suggest actions that can contribute to actioning of violence but sometimes people just see red. Reason goes out of the window and violent acts just happen. Fact.

    What can be done? I suppose that the only thing that can be done is generate a socitity that allows us to act individually without fear of oppression. But we are a long way from this while software such as this is permitted into our lives.

    As a little a side - at sometime I will learn to spell!
  • Might this program be a violation of a few items from the Bill of Rights?

    From the fifth amendment:
    ...nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;...

    From the sixth amendment:
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

    Or, just maybe, the sacred first:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    What's everyone else's thoughts on this? Any lawyers out there care to comment?
  • Yes, thank you, I know the meaning of sarcasm. Been doing it for years.. :)

    The point is that the use of this particular bit of sarcasm didn't really make much sense, since it is not same groups pushing anti-evolution and pro-Mosaic2000 ideas. The ONLY reason I can see is to try to stroke the ./ community, which I find somewhat offensive.

    Just because it's sarcasm, doesn't mean that I can't take issue with it. It's like the guy who thinks he can say anything he likes to long as he smiles and says 'Just kidding!' afterward.


  • by John Fulmer ( 5840 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:57AM (#1583774)
    From the article....

    >Why not get to the really dangerous people loose
    >in schools, maybe programming Mosaic to hunt down
    >and identify religious fanatics such as those who
    >believe in the literal truth of the Bible and
    >reject Darwin and evolution? Aren't they a threat
    >to school science programs?

    First off, just because you have a religious faith (of any sort) and may not believe in Darwinism, does not instantly make you a fanatic OR dangerous. And doesn't mean do you necessarily object to the teaching of the theory of evolution.

    And teachers and school administration staff tend to be more liberal, not members of the religous right. And the one teacher I had in high school who WAS a dyed in the wool, born-again, Bible-thumping Christian, was my science teacher for 3 years, and we covered quite a lot of Darwin, and no Creationism, except in a few personal editiorials in private.

    Second, this is nothing but bait. Due to the large reaction over the Kansas evolution, I get the idea that this is an attempt to influence readers using an already popular reference completely out of context. The school/evolution debate has NOTHING to do with Mosaic2000, and the idea that they are somehow related is wrong.

    There is a lot of 'content free' information here. In this article we see the statement "The level of teen violence is at it's lowest point in years" (sic), yet we see no references or research. I'm not arguing the point, but it is NOT an accepted fact. We have one anonymous e-mailer that Jon mentions, quoted several times. What about the rest of the e-mails? Nothing quotable?

    I once liked some of Jon's articles, but now I'm starting to view them as attempts at pandering to the ./ community, who really doesn't want it. I don't like the idea of Mosaic2000 ('Lies, damn lies, and psychological exams') any more than the next geek, but let's talk about it honestly; good, bad, 'warts and all', and not just try to stroke the geek community.


  • BTW: It's the 2nd Ammendment that provides the right to bear arms. :) It doesn't effect the rest of your statement, but for everyone else's accuracy....

    As for sugestions, I have a few. ;)

    First off, nobody can guarantee 100% saftey. Anyone who says they can is selling something. There will always be problems unless you know how to achieve utopia. As for the question you state, how much freedom am I willing to give up for saftey? None.

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty nor saftey." - Ben Franklin

    It's often quoted, but do you really understand the point? Since nobody can provide a guarantee of saftey giving up liberty for it is stupid. It may work for a short time, but the criminals WILL find a way arround it. Then the price you paid becomes worthless. And then we go for another round where the government asks us to give up yet more freedom for saftey. Round and round we go... where does it end? For me, it ends here.

    Now that I have been negative, I will offer potential soultions. I don't guarantee they will work, But you asked. ;)

    1) Remove the government monopoly on schooling.

    In order for this to be effective you must also remove the tax burden for the people that is used to pay for it. The government schools can still exist, and they can be paid for by the people that use them just like the 'private' schools. For the needy, there are charitable organizations that can help there.

    This would allow for competition in schooling. People could choose where they wanted thier kids to go to school. Kids that have special needs could go to a school that caters to those needs. "Gifted" kids can go to a school that has accelerated learning programs. etc..

    2) End the failed War on Drugs.

    It's a war we can't win. And we have only made the problem worse in fighting it. See the statistics for crime durring prohibition. Crime skyrockted, and fell back down after it was repealed. People also said that repaling it would mean we would have drunks running all over the place. Everyone would be wasted all the time, they said... it didn't happen. Alcoholism dropped. The Drug War is exactly the same thing as prohibition, it's just a different class of substance.

    How would it help to end this for the school violence problem? In some areas there is a big problem with drug 'turf wars' and gangs. This extends into the schools at times. It also helps get the guns into the hands of children since there are so many kids with them allready. Ending the war would reduce crime across the board, and cut away the proffit from drugs. Gangs would have nothing to fight over, and most would not be able to afford the illegal guns and ammunition anymore. If you declare a war, is it any wonder there is shooting?

    3) Lower the tax burden.

    High taxes are a large part of the reason people have to have 2 incomes. If one parent could stay home with the children it would help restore the traditional "family unit" that everyone is so sad to see going the way of the dinosaur. The loss of family values is also blamed for the increase in school and kid violence/crime. So fix the problem. Lower taxes back to the point a single income will let people get by. They will have to decide for themselves, but I know a LOT of people that say one parrent would be home, if they could afford it. In most familys I know, the second income basicly pays the taxes. There is no excuse for this in a free nation. The colonies rebelled over far lower taxes then we now face to create this country. That should tell everyone something.

    It should also be noted that school violence is dropping. I agree, one is too many. But if the trend is a decline, why mess with it? You acknowledge that nobody can guarentee saftey. We should keep a close eye one it, and make sure it stays that way. But if it's going down and government gets involved it will probably go back up. That's the track record government has throughout history.

    The stuff I mentioned above would help a ton. In the mean time, we should be educating the people. Teach them to keep thier guns locked up so that kids can't steal them. Trigger/Action locks at a minimum. Get them to be parents and teach thier kids. There is no pancea, no quick fix. But maybe we can all get involved a little and make a long-term soultion to the problem. Without having to lose any freedoms either. It can be done, but are people willing to work at it? Time will tell. As you said, what price are you willing to pay? Is a little work worth it?

  • > I'd rather have a computer doing the initial
    > finger pointing. A machine doesn't discriminate
    > on anything other than what it 'sees.' People
    > are far less objective.

    if it really worked like that, I'd be absolutely /floored/. reason: it doesn't see anything. the people who see things are the school administrators, who may or may not have biases against particular students. you think they won't know or won't figure out fairly quickly what makes a child "disturbed" to the program? and, as impartial as they will try to be, it's not hard to be swayed when you already think someone is disturbed, to push them a bit over the edge in the ratings, purposefully or no.

    I'm not quite sure about the program. It looks exactly like an old DOS program that I had where you ranked people 1-5 on things like intellegence, introvertedness, etc, and it came up with a profile. the technology in itself isn't bad -- and these people sound like they know what they're doing. however (and you knew that had to come in somewhere), it sounds like a pathetic substitute and surrogate for teachers, counselors, and administrators... and what this program does to a school is ultimately determined by them.

  • by Jeremy Lee ( 9313 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:34PM (#1583793) Homepage
    Generally I like Jon's stuff. I can see why he's gone into incandescent rant mode here. He suffers from the curse of believing that people will act rationally, given a chance to reflect.

    What Mosaic does is irrelevant. It is just a technical justification do continue doing what the majority really want to do anyway, but can't justify otherwise. It's an artificial way to produce evidence. Drag any student in front of a 'psychological testing machine' and you'll likely get an angry reaction. He scored an 8! Great, now we can punish him, like we always wanted.

    US Culture is simply no longer capable of rational discourse or action. Jon has gone to fury because he doesn't want to admit this. Which is funny, because that's the problem. Somewhere, you guys picked up a massive superiority complex, and so you can't actually admit that there's anything wrong with America(TM). The taint is everywhere. It's part of your cultural doctrine.

    And since America is perfect, by axiom, then any yawning pit of hollowness inside your soul must be your problem, and anyone shouting "No! This is all wrong!" must be silenced. Because they might be right. And you don't want to think about that.

    At least, that's the majority view. And you can't change it, either. It's deep-seated, and reinforced every time they go through the daily American grind or shop at the strip-mall with their babyboomer friends. Something sucked all the life out of your country in the last few decades. I think it was rampant capitalism, or maybe the cold war. Russia seems to have suffered a similar, though more spectacular, fate.

    Russia is actually an interesting example. Now that their country has obviously collapsed, they're free to go into crisis-management fix-it mode, and make some of those hard choices. They may very well come out of this strong and vibrant. That would be irony.

    So, just do what the physicists do. Wait for the old generation to die, and a new one to take it's place. The kids are the future. Well educated and flexible, they'll rebuild your sagging culture.

    Oh, that's right...
  • by ajm ( 9538 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:53AM (#1583794)
    Yep, more overreaction. The people producing Mosiac are not idiots, they're not get rich quick merchants and they have actual experience producing software that is used to evaluate threads made to federal judges etc. The book "The Gift of Fear" written by the founder is most interesting. He certainly does not think that just because you are different you are dangerous.

    It is likely that the program will be able to successfully identify people who will act violently. And this is a very good thing.

    The two obvious problems are false positive results, and the way those "identified" are treated. Unfortunately that's going to be in the hands of the same sort of people who thing evolution is a bad idea.

    I think the program itself is a very good idea. It even probably works. What needs careful handling is who gets profiled and what happens to those that the program "identifies". That's where people's efforts need to be concentrated instead of on pointless venting against profiling.
  • ARGH! I should have reread my previous post one more time before submitting it! It reads like I'm disagreeing with the post I followed up to, when in fact I agree with and merely wanted to expand upon one of the author's points ...
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:00AM (#1583797)
    Acessing Defense Data, Defendent 000000.

    Accessing Prosecution Data, Defendent 000000.

    Processing, Defendent 000000 ...


    Pupil: "I know my rights! I have a right to an attourney, and a real court of law!"

    Administration: "You're a problem child. You don't have any rights."

    This is a paraphrase of a scene from a Max Headroom episode ("Blanks"). I always considered this to be one of the less realistic, and less prophetic episodes of the show (many of the other themes, such as organ theft, pervasive monitoring and security, and economic crimes carrying heavier punishments than violent crimes, have come true a scant 10-15 years later to varying degrees).

    Funny, how that which we least expect to _ever_ be tolerated, has now become accepted, even defended, in a forum where one would expect people to be more acutely aware of just how destructive this kind of thing can be. It isn't about geeks, it's about all of us (and this includes geeks). Geeks may be marginally more vulnerable, being slightly outside of the mythical, homoginized average, but everyone is a potential victim of the misuse of this kind of thing, and if history is any indication, misuse is exactly what we can expect.

    Labelling children as "troubled" or not, with or without the adjective "potential", is destructive. People have a tendency to live up (or down) to the expectations society has for them. Even a potentially troubled child can end up being a positive influence in their school and community with the right support and expectations. I fear, however, that the label this screening will place on many children will make that kind of positive outcome much more difficult, if not impossible. In many cases it will probably insure a negative outcome where such would not have been the case otherwise. Then, of course, there are the inevitable false positives ... and the young lives they will harm, possibly even destroy. If the overreaction on the part of school and government beaurocrats after the Colombine incident (not to mention numerous other witch hunts in recent history) is any indication, I think it is absurdly naive and optomistic to expect this sort of test to be applied in anything even remotely resembling an approprate use. Frankly, I find this sort of institutionalized stamping and labelling of children to be a far bigger threat to their ability to grow up and become productive members of society (whatever disadvantages they may start out with) than an entire army of drug dealers combing the hallways for new customers would be.
  • From the Mosaic 2000 homepage []:
    For example, if asking about firearms, a Yes/No question could not stimulate as fair or complete an exploration as a range:
    __No known possession of a firearm
    __Friends known to have ready access to a firearm
    __There are firearms in the home
    __There are firearms in a home frequented by the student
    __The student owns his own firearm
    __The student recently acquired a firearm
    In the absence of other evidence concerning the other questions asked by the program, it would appear that Mosaic actually provides a fairly realistic analysis of the probability of student violence. However, I found the following question and non-answer from their FAQ to be very disturbing:
    Can the system brand a student as dangerous?

    Most often, MOSAIC-2000 will help establish that a student does not pose an elevated risk of violence.

    In other words, yes.

    What's worse about a tool like this is that mere possession of it can lead to accusations of liability on the part of the school in the event of a violent episode. If the software predicts that Johnny is going act out violently and no preventative action is taken, the school could very easily become a target for legal action if something happens. As a result, school administrators will be encouraged to take action in situations which don't warrant it, and to take the strongest action possible. Past experience with school administration has convinced me that the opposite threat - that of a wrongly accused child's parents threatening the district - won't scare administrators away enough to prevent this.

  • by Boolean ( 15853 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:27AM (#1583806) Homepage you lie your ass off. I'm still in High School. I have had several suicide tests / depression tests already and the first term isn't over. When Mosiac comes around, I do 1) lie my ass off and say what they want to hear from a "normal" kid OR 2) Do what I did on all the other tests which is fill in every answer and stick a big ole MYOB on the bottom. When the teacher asks you what the hell you think you're doing and that this is serious you ask "Why, this was supposed to be an annonymous test, why are you looking at mine? If you didn't look at mine, how do you know this?" That gets them pretty mad, but eh, its funny to watch them try to come up with an answer >:)

  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:37AM (#1583813) you lie your ass off.
    That's an excellent solution, but only if they ask you questions. Do you ever sit by yourself? Do you engage in subversive activities such as reading when you could be playing football? Do you point out that your teacher is occasionally wrong?

    But before we continue attacking the teachers, it's important to remember one thing: they're doing it for the good of the kids. The fact that they're clueless and making a bad situation worse is unfortunate, but ultimately they're on the side of the angels.
    Why do I mention this? Because the first reaction of angry /.ers is to blame the teachers, flame them, and otherwise convince them that computer nerds are dangerous. Rational argument is the only solution. Of course, you've still got to convince the teaches that an argument is worthwhile.

    I don't know the solution. But I do know it involves education.
  • Is Katz (and others who have "sounded the alarm" over Mosaic) overreacting? Maybe. But there is value in examining the worst possible outcome of any new tool. It helps to be prepared for the bad things that might emerge as unintended consequences of things like Mosaic, even if they never occur.

    It's a bit hasty to assume that it's going to single out the people who are different

    No it's not. That's what it's meant to do. The important part is to distinguish between the different-but-harmless person (the geek or goth who listens to loud music or dresses funny), and the different-and-dangerous person (the geek or goth who blows up abortion clinics or shoots up the school). Can Mosaic do that? I don't know.

    Mosaic is a tool. It can be used for good or evil. Please use only for good.

    Unintended consequences are inevitable. Unforseen consequences are not.
  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @08:25AM (#1583818)
    I've been very sympathetic to Katz and his advocacy for alienated youth in the past. I still think that mature adults (and by this I do not atuomatically mean that adolescents are immature, merely that there is a perspective that comes with time; the one and only quality of wisdom that youth necessarily lacks) need to reach out to teens, to embrace them as they are and welcome them into the family of adulthood.

    "Being different" isn't, for the most part, really different. Instead it arises from a basic desire to establish an identity, a unique personhood, especially in the face of a sort of commercial conformity that some young people embrace and others despise.

    What is sad and tragic is that each attempt to create an identity is immediately co-opted by the marketing machine and sold back on MTV (and every other media outlet).

    This leads to a sort of vicious cycle where youth goes to greater and greater extremes in the natural quest to be not their parents, teachers, or other adult authorities. Once targeted marketing made the great discovery that younger people are less careful with their money than older people, what would have been unthinkable now appears on prime-time TV. Look at how long it took the "hippe" youth culture to move to the mainstream. Compare that with any youth trend today from Goth to body-piercing. It's instantly a product.

    I, for one, think we (meaning adults, or if you prefer, people over 30) should be a lot less uptight over teen identity, and a lot more concerned about the commercial debasement of our self-expression.

    That said, I think Katz is hitting off the mark here. This "screening" is a bit unfortunate, but I see it as an effort to identify young people who might need a concerned adult in their lives. It's far from ideal, but in a world where otherwise healthy, affluent children are killing themselves and sometimes killing others, its about damned time adults and institutions started to pay attention to young people. If this tool becomes a way to make contact and start listening to the real emotional needs of young people, then it is a good tool. If it becomes a way to sort young people into the "good" ones and the "bad" ones, it's a bad tool.

    Basically, I think Katz is jumping before there is something to jump on.

    As for me, my approach to young people is: Respect them. Listen to them. Involve them. Love them.

    Any youth who is respected, listened to, involved, and loved is unlikely to kill himself/herself or others. The rest they have to figure out for themselves.
  • Careful reading of the NYTimes article suggests that the Mosaic 2000 program is used to vet whether individuals who make threats have potential for violence. Nothing suggests that this tool will be used for random evaluation (like random drug testing) or targeted evaluation of individuals perceived to be weird, odd, or different.

    OK. Scenario. A school principal (or counselor, etc.) sits in his office thinking about a kid in his school. The kid is disrespectful to teachers, wears strange clothes, talks abour strange things, and is in generally weird. True, he hasn't threatened anybody (yet), but there is that useful program on the computer that was installed last month. Now, it's just evaluation, right? Evaluation never hurt anybody...

    Willing to evaluate the percentage of principals who will say to themself: "That's not right. The program is only for those who made threats. I am not going to do this"? Something approaching zero will be my guess.

  • I'm a recent graduate of highschool, though I still work at one. I personally am appalled at this idea. First of all, lets face it, students lie. Especially if there is a fear of getting in trouble. If I was given a test that is supposed to identify the "violent" students I would fear that if I was identified as one of those students I would get hassled or get in trouble, and thus I would lie on the test and present myself as someone who is always spewing daisies and roses and wouldn't hurt a fly.

    If I was in a particually f*ck'em up mood I would answer the test as insanly as possible, making everyone freak out. If the question is stupid, such as "Do you play role playing games" I would answer that I live role playing games, I play them instead of sleeping at night, and that I am one with "fill in a role playing character here". If it is a question of how I would react to someone bullying me I would answer something like ripping their toes off one by one and shoving them down their throat then hanging them upside down from the flagpole by their feet and watching their blood pour down on them. Needless to say, I'd turn some heads. ;)

    Tests are highly inaccurate, especially when you're trying to use general questions to find non-general answers.

    The second point (okay, so I've already covered more than one point so far, I never keep track of these things) is why? Will the students be forced to take this test? (If the answer is no, then I expect hardly anyone to fill out the test, why work if you dont have to?. ) Why should students be forced to fill out a test with personal information and to what good does it do the school? If I get treated differently or excluded from things based on my answers to the test then it is discrimination. If that's the case, then we really haven't made it that far in all these years. Sure we allow (politically incorrect, not meant to be offensive to anyone) blacks, asians, mexicans, etc into our schools now and we dont limit them from doing things, but instead we limit people that fail a certain personality test and treat them different. Basically as a friend of mine puts it so well "Same sh*t, different toilet).

    Am I a geek? Yes, but why should that matter? I'm at school because a) I have to be and b) to learn, I'm not at school to have people try and decide if I am violent or not (a personal subject) through impersonal means.

    I personally am a nice guy, I'm not violent at all, and I am not insane (been told many times I am craZy with a capital Z though), I don't do drugs, I'm not an alcoholic (dont drink), I'm not gang banger/skin head/racist/body piercer/etc. I'm the type of guy mothers wish their daughters would date, yet I would be the first to be singled out based on this test if I answered honestly, because I'm different. I like role playing games, I'm a longer, I don't like crowds, I cringe at the thought of public speaking, and I'm very emotional. I was teased and tormented in school when I went to an actual school, and I still get it now at times because I work at a school still (kids can be so cruel), but I also know the consequences of my actions, and I know the value of a human life. I was brought up with values and morals, and with real parents, not with the Telivision/Internet/etc to try and act as a parent. I was brought up being taught what is right and what is not, and also being shown by example. Things like the V-chip and filtering software just give parents one less thing they have to do with their kids, and one more thing to screw the kid up in life.

    That's not to say this is always why a person does something. Face it folks, life is unpredictable. You may get it right 99.9% of the time, but there is always that one person or that one time when it is different. I liked the idea of having somewhere to call if someone threatens you or if you for some reason think someone is going to do something drastic but thats as far as we need to take it. Other than that just keep your eyes and ears open.

    Enough rambling, just remember, just because I'm different doesn't mean I'm going to rip your toes off and feed them to you. ;)
  • That teachers and administrators must be more sensitive (and less judgemental) to students' issues is a great start. Paying them more might help (it's certainly one of the reasons I quit teaching and won't go back), and disallowing preferential treatment of any class of students is important. But singling out a class of students doesn't help, and while dress codes are annoying (I think they're stupid myself) unless they are specifically tailored to discriminate against a particular student population they are harmless. When I went to high school, it was a huge deal when they changed the dress code to allow boys to wear shorts!

    A school where learning was the only focus is probably impossible. School is supposed to nurture social skills, too. Those who chafe against the notion that you shouldn't be forced to socialize in school only serve to identify themselves as less than socially skilled. That's OK, but those people need to find a way to live in society, and that's part of what one goes to school for. (Please, no home schooling flames, it's a different thing entirely.)

    As for having teachers be more involved with students, and for dealing with all students case-by-case, there are practical considerations. Liability issues raise their head. Teachers get a little TOO involved with their students (rare, but less so than school shootings), and when making judgement calls on discipline problems and such, administrators get harassed for treating students unequally, hence the tendency to have strict codes of conduct and following them to the letter. Blame the lawyers.

    The trend is toward hiring more people who are MORE specialized, not less, so they can provide better instruction. This seems to be another socialization issue, but fo those who think being a teacher is easy, please keep in mind that any decent teacher has to be much more than just smarter than her students. Teaching is a craft whose subtleties should not be underestimated. I would place with them (not administrators, not astronauts, not anyone else)my highest respect and esteem because they are craftsmen of the highest calibre. No, they aren't all perfect, some aren't even that good. But those who are good, are a kind of good we need more of in this country.

    I know in asking for positive suggestions I open a big can of worms, and Kaatz won't answer because he has even fewer constructive things to add to the debate than most. The problem lies with each of us. Parents need to pay more attention to their kids than their careers, and instill in them values and respect for others, even others undeserving of it. Administrators need to take less programmatical approaches to students. The educational community (places that teach people to be teachers) need to do a MUCH better job. Administrators and teachers are filled with theories of learning, theories of development, and a vast array of really useless information, but seldom deal with simple things like classroom management, or, How to keep most of the people in your class in the room at the same time. And the media just need to get its collective head out of its collective ass.

  • by lythander ( 21981 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:12AM (#1583841)
    Mr. Katz:

    OK, M-2K sounds like a bad idea for use outside of threat evaluation by law enforcement in very specific situations.

    While geeks are no doubt affected by this nonsense, everyone affected by this is not a geek, and not all geeks are. The old-fashioned, stereotypical pocket protector-wearing geeks are probably still safe. There are lots of Goth-type people and other groups who wouldn't know a mouse from a hole in the ground who ARE affected. You play this up to make it seem more topical for /. and I think that's wrong.

    Even more to the point, by calling for "geek unity" (for lack of a better term). By uniting together to form a group to protect themselves, you form nothing but a NEW clique, and you water down the driving force of geekdom (and for many of these other groups) -- individuality. Once this new clique forms, groupthink begins to emerge, and geekdom flounders. You're basically advocating a group to protect itself by divesting itself of it's quintessence. Geeks won't get picked on if they just stop doing what it is that gets them picked on. Great solution.

    Further, you nitpick every attempt made by the world at large to prevent violence. I understand that you have legitimate issues with curtailing free speech and freedom of expression for youth (or anyone), and these are always issues for society to deal with. At what price freedom? But in your polemics about "the man" you rail against the injustice heaped upon youth by well-meaning, if misguided adults. So I ask -- what positive do you have to contribute to the debate? Put yourself in the position of an educator or parent. List 10 practical steps that a school could take to guard against this violence. That's all. Be constructive, contribute.

  • As the parent of three "gifted" (highly intelligent) children, I agree. Gifted kids can be more trouble than "troubled" kids. I know that my youngest is going to be pushed towards ridalin (sp?) by some know it all teacher when he gets to first grade. If he's engaged in an activity, he's fine. When he's bored, get starts to get into trouble. At the tender age of four, he likes to build my Technic Lego sets. He can sit for hours and build. Or play games on the computer.

    When the batteries of tests come his way, I hope that they find what he needs to reach his potential, and not stifle his free spirit and creativity. At a glance, it sounds like the test has some merit behind it. It's the double edged sword -it can be used for good and evil.

    ObHumor - we used to get the career guidance tests once a year in high school. The goal was to see what weird career you could get the computer to spit out for you. I got a Toastmaster Botanist one year.
  • ok, so maybe i regularly packed semi-automatic weapons at the Chess Club and Debate Team meetings. the only bastard who ever took one from me though was the bully in the Computer Club who hogged the 2400 (we only had a half dozen Apple ][e's and one modem).
  • by Wah ( 30840 )
    If you want to hear the voices of disenfranchised geeks, TALK TO THEM.

    why do you think I hang on /.?

    For the media at large, it helps to have a spokesman, that term may turn a thorn in your side, but that's what NBC would think of him. Besides most, if not all, of this applies only to high school geeks, the ones in extremely repressive environments. The ones accused of diabolical schemes because of their choice of dress. Us older ones have usually demonstated our value and others recognize that. If Jon wants to try and help, and I think help (or at least spreading the word) is needed, all the better for him.
  • Harrison Bergeron

    Is that the one where they strap scrap metal to the guy to make him weaker, and interrupt his thought process with loud music every few seconds to make him dumber? I could never remember the name of that one.
  • by Wah ( 30840 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:50AM (#1583880) Homepage Journal
    There is only one way to beat back the violence that is destroying our children. We must attack it it's very root, destroy any of the underlying factors that make violence possible. It is only through a complete eradication of violence that, uh, well, schools will be, um, safe. Everyone chant together now "Kill the Violence, kill the violence, kill the violence."


    "I think it's a wonderful tool that has a great deal of potential, and I hope it's properly used by the schools," said Andrew Vita, associate director of field operations for the ATF, which has used the Mosaic approach to investigate abortion-clinic bombings.

    "I hope it's properly used by the schools" Yes, I'm sure most will have the extra time and funding to get counselors extensive training with a black box that spits out your violence quotient. Wow all the way from 1 to 10, I'd hate to be on the line of 7 (angry, but safe) and 8 (will blow up school if left unmodified).

    Nothing like getting an institution like ALCHOHOL, TOBACCO and FIREARMS, involved with the kids. I can't wait to see how they deal with a standoff with some high schoolers...

    Jon, it looks like you've become the voice of the disenfranchised geek. Congrats, represent them well, maybe a voice will be heard above the braying of Britney, LFO, and Insane Clown Posse. Luckily most of the social disruption sorts itself out by college, y'know, that part of education without metal detectors, violence aptitude tests, and orange jumpsuits (or whatever your school colors may be)
  • I'm not going to pay it, so I can't read Jon's linked source first hand.

    Oh well, there's no sense in trying to evaluate something firsthand, let's just give in to the hysteria.

  • Hey, this AC read the article, and maybe it's not an anti-geek tool, but an anti-violence tool.

  • I found a working lijnk [], and saved $2.50!

    Thanks AC.

  • How about the right to carry a pocket knife?

    The kid killing kid that I referred to used a knife. If the 12 year old had known she had to walk through a metal detector to get to school, maybe she wouldn't have carried a knife.

  • So you have no problems with your kid setting off the metal detector because she has a house key in her pocket and having armed guards rummage thru her backpack, purse, pockets, etc.? Your daughter will probably grow up to be a good little sheep. Or a rebel, and who could blame her?

    Don't I have the choice of telling my daughter how to get through a metal detector without setting one off?

    "Put your keys in the plastic bin, walk through the detector, pick up your keys."

    In a similar vein:

    "Drive just over the speed limit, don't drive erratically, don't run red lights, and you won't get pulled over, since you're white. You can even drive with 1/4 oz of marijuana and never be picked up."

    "Don't smoke a joint in front of a police office, unless you want to get arrested for a political statement."

    It's not a question of freedoms in this case, it's a question of "learning environment". Why don't you have armed guards in your house, mandated by the government? You'd be much safer, and it wouldn't be impinging on your freedoms, would it?

    If several times a week there were fights and violence in my house and a murder every few years, and I didn't want to get caught up in that, yeah, I might consider armed guards in my house.

    I'm thinking metal detectors with unarmed guards is silly, anybody wanting to do a Gotterdammerung on their school wouldn't be deterred by a stern glance and a warning beep.

    I suppose the proper solution is to chicken out and move to the suburbs, where student on student violence doesn't occur (I'm being sarcastic, I live in the city, and I think Columbine,etc showed that the cities don't have a monopolyon violence).

  • First off I don't know if this Mosaic thing is good or bad since no one knows how it works and what criteria it uses.

    You can get a good idea how it works by looking at the web page,, but that takes work.

    Ok granted metal detecters can be useful but what he is saying is that when our kids grow older they will no longer feel threatened by their loss of privacy.

    This is a valid point, don't I have the option of telling my daughter "metal detectors are a necessary evil, they infringe on your privacy but I think the deterrent affect they provide is more important"?

    I am married and we are planning children. I for one do not want my children to become mindless cows not aware of the killing hammer behing the next turn.

    Good for you, remember this conversation when your children go off to school, and think if you want your 12 year old to be a foot soldier in the war against metal detectors, or if you prefer him/her to grow up first and then decide his/her own fate.

    Well, I for one will teach my daughter not be a mindless cow. I'll tell her why her school has metal detectors and why I'm in favor of them, why we have a large dog, why someone took her pumpkin from the garden, etc.

    How does being in favor of metal detectors in schools make me a mindless cow? Is it the same as being in favor of DWI laws make me a humorless prude?

  • I have no problem with metal detectors in places where they are appropriate.

    This is my point!

    The city high schools my daughter will attend are unfortunately dangerous, a short term band aid is metal detectors, a longer term one is reducing the poverty in the city.

    Does laetus have kids? Where does he/she send the school if he/she does?

  • Statistically your home is far more likely to be the site of a fight or murder than your childs school. IT hasn't happened yet, just as the people being tested have not YET done anything violent. But it MIGHT, so shouldn't you let the government put armed guards in your house JUST IN CASE?


    Where did you get statistics comparing the rates of violence and murder in an inner city high school versus a white, middle class home with two parents and no guns?

    Or are you comparing all schools (including placid suburban schools) and all households (including those with single parents, guns, substance abuse, etc).


  • You make a good point PhilosopherKing, can you give some links to occasions where people went berserk and killed people with clubs and shivs (and The Cryponomicon doesn't count).

    There are a lot of deeper problems, single family homes, poverty, lack of love (the murdering girl in question was afraid the victim was stealing her boyfriend).

    Even if people are just EVIL, how do you propose you find them and lock them up? Maybe someone somewhere can take a look at previously diagnosed EVIL people, right some profiling software to determine if a threatening person is EVIL, ...

    oops, never mind, Katz will get mad at me.

  • There are not fights several times a week and a few murders a year in each school. Those statistics are for larger areas. There is about 1 fight a year in my school and never a murder.

    I'm glad for you, but I'm talking about the Rochester, New York, City Schools. There are fights in the schools, there are murders every few years there, though mercifully it has been about 3 or 4 if I recall since the last one.

  • you need a moving van.

    That's called white-flight, and leads to sprawl.

    I like the city, I like the older houses, I like living in the cities, I'd rather stay here and work to make the schools better.

    Anyhow, the point of Columbine and that school in Georgia was that "even nice, upper middle class white suburbs are not safe anymore."

  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:50AM (#1583916) Homepage
    Novel concept, I went to Gavin De Becker's web site [] and from this article> I found a list of profiling characteristics. []

    Dr. McGee had over 60 categories of information on classroom shooters and about 80 inclusionary and exclusionary criteria, arrayed in spreadsheets and tables. And here was where he caught me. As the slides displaying this information commenced flashing on the big screen at the front of the darkened auditorium, I began noticing an eerie congruence between his profile of the school shooter type, and the actual traits of the boy who had murdered my son... member of alienated group; appearance of normality to adults; negative self-image and unstable self esteem; average to above average IQ; covert vandalism and dishonesty; distrustful and secretive with adults in authority; interest in real and fictional violence in the media; motive vengeance and achievement of power; mixed personality disorder with paranoid, antisocial and narcissistic features... the list went on. The fit was uncanny. McGee told us, for example, how in their fantasies, school shooters pre-select victims, witnesses, time, place, location, means and course of action. I recalled testimony from the criminal trial to the effect that my son's killer had repeatedly and publicly rehearsed his fantasy of shooting up the dining hall at the evening meal.

    And this interesting characteristic:

    These kids were middle class male Caucasians averaging 16 years of age, who felt socially isolated and who had ready access to guns. Other kinds of information were surprising. These kids were NOT drug addicts or alcohol abusers, and they had no documented history of severe mental illness. Aside from an occasional preference for dark or camouflage clothing, they presented a normal appearance to adults. They were not pierced, tattooed scary looking kids, and they were not high-profile trouble makers. They were, generally, of above average intelligence.

    Hmmm, can we categorize these as geek or goth characteristics?

    characteristic geek goth

    alienated group maybe maybe

    appearance of
    normality to adults maybe no

    negative self-image
    and unstable self
    esteem* maybe maybe

    average to above
    average IQ presumable maybe

    covert vandalism and
    dishonesty** maybe maybe

    distrustful and secretive with
    adults in authority maybe maybe

    interest in real and fictional violence
    in the media *** maybe maybe

    motive vengeance and achievement
    of power no no

    mixed personality disorder
    with paranoid no no

    ready access to guns no no

    * this sounds like a typical adolescent, GH
    ** does cracking count?
    *** does AP history count?

    You can make almost any adolescent fit these characteristics, but maybe in summation they mean something.

    You'll notice a lack of computers in the mix, too.

    I had to fudge some of the Goth stuff, not really knowing any Goths anymore.

  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:04AM (#1583917) Homepage
    If this "Mosaic" software asks questions like "Do you spend more than 15 minutes a day on the Internet?", "Do you use IRC, MUDs, or chat rooms on a daily basis?" and uses the answers to those questions to judge whether or not a kid could be potential "trouble", that's a Very Bad Thing.

    It doesn't.

    Students will probably never see Mosaic, it's for administrators.

    From the NYTimes and Gavin De Beckers's web site [] it asks questions like:

    What kind of access to firearms does the student have?

    __No known possession of a firearm
    __Friends known to have ready access to a firearm
    __There are firearms in the home
    __There are firearms in a home frequented by the student
    __The student owns his own firearm
    __The student recently acquired a firearm

    I'm guessing from the context of the web site, but if student Joe Geek was just dumped by his girlfriend and he sent her a threatening invitation to the prom (ala Go with me or it will be an unforgettable Prom, and your last prom!) and Joe Geek just bought a gun, maybe Mosaic-2000 will flag him.

  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:18AM (#1583918) Homepage
    The list:
    armed guards at school entrances, hallways, etc.,
    metal detectors, ...

    Speaking as a parent who will be sending his daughter to a school district where kids have killed kids, I'm fine with metal detectors and armed guards.

    What freedoms do metal detectors restrict? The freedom to bring a crowbar to school in your backpack, just in case you need to pry open an air vent?

    I also had to pass through a metal detector when I did jury duty, and when I went to the airport. I don't feel particularly threatened or impinged, or even less free.

    What freedoms do armed guards restrict? I just hope they're better shots than the Columbine wusses.

  • by laetus ( 45131 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:04AM (#1583920)
    MOSAIC is another step in a long, sad list of well-intentioned safety measures that in the future will have a very negative impact upon American freedoms.

    The list:
    • armed guards at school entrances, hallways, etc.,
    • metal detectors,
    • random locker searches,
    • regulation of speech via speech codes,
    • electronic ID cards for access to school areas,
    • and now, psychological profiling and record keeping.

    This is really so sad. Maybe you don't see what I see, but I see a generation of young Americans becoming accustomed to and desensitized to the tools of a police state.

    When they graduate and enter the world at large, they will be coming from a heavily-restricted environment and perhaps will be less willing to question lawmakers and special-interest groups who would propose laws that restrict our freedoms in the name of safety.

    Some hope? []
  • When they graduate and enter the world at large, they will be coming from a heavily-restricted environment and perhaps will be less willing to question lawmakers and special-interest groups who would propose laws that restrict our freedoms in the name of safety.

    Isn't that the point of schools, after all? The American school system owes much more to Henry Ford's need to have well-disciplined factory workers than it does to any romantic notions of educational enlightenment. That's why so many high school grads are functionally illiterate these days.

    Will MOSIAC catch the winning football team captain who savagely beats his girlfriend? Only if the chances for winning State had already been lost... what about the out-of-control rich kid whose parents are quick with the lawsuit? Expensive legal action is a bigger threat to schools than mass violence, which makes the profiling choice baffling.

  • And considering what constitutes a "threat" to some teachers, we do have something to be worried about.

    A family friend's son got suspended for two weeks when he was in fifth grade for telling the teacher "I want a blow job out of town!" when he didn't even really know what the phrase meant. I can see explaining to the kid that you shouldn't repeat what's on bathroom walls, but TWO WEEKS OF SUSPENSION?!

    There's also the whole issue of my SCA group's heavy fighters and fencers losing their practice site because the idiot suburban school district we were supposed to use decided that legal adults engaging in a martial art in a safe and supervised fashion after school hours is still a violation of their zero-tolerance for weapons policy.

    If an unbroken epee is a "weapon," I'd hate to see what a "threat" is to these folks. Hell, I had a bad day at work and was joking about wanting to burn everything on my desk. I'd never actually DO it, but had I said that in a school, it'd have been a threat, probably ... even though I was honestly just blowing off steam.

  • by fable2112 ( 46114 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @03:12PM (#1583923) Homepage
    Well said!

    There are generally two problems with profiling IMHO: the profiles are too general, and they are frequently based off of stereotypes rather than data. And right now this has affected my life and the lives of my friends in some ways I'm plenty pissed about:

    1. Lots and lots of well-meaning friends telling me to break up with my boyfriend because he supposedly fits the profile of an abuser (divorced parents, "troubled" high school years, slightly erratic job history, and what could be called a "fascination" with weapons). I *know* that the only way he'd ever hit me is if I take up SCA heavy weapons or he takes up fencing and we're BOTH wearing armor. And yet the concerned inquiries persist. Meanwhile, the piece of slime that abused my housemate for two years set off no such alarm bells -- his parents were still together, and did I mention he's gay? :P

    2. Carload of guys coming back across the border from a Canadian fencing tourney. Four young white long-haired males. All their stuff gets picked through for any possible sign of drugs, and their fencing foils almost get confiscated.

    3. Another friend of mine (this one female) who fences was given a lot of grief by her doctor at her last checkup because he was absolutely CERTAIN that she was being abused. Now, mind you, this doctor knows that she and her husband are both highly skilled fencers, but just based on her age and the newness of the marriage, he made rather an ass out of himself asking repeatedly if she was being abused. *sigh* What a pain in the neck that must've been.

  • Yeah...I don't know if I buy the hypsterism either. Katz does seem to provoke some interesting conversation, but like the very media he scorns he is just as sensationalistic and hyped.

    Katz says that the people who make this product have already proven their legitimacy in many real world cases. He also goes on to ask if it will be used to pick out bullies, etc. Well, I hope it IS. I hope it IS used responsibly. No matter what the program says, it is up to the administrative staff and faculty to decide what to do. We have to hope /they/ have common sense and reason. Unfortunately it does seem that a program like this /might/ actually give an excuse to those who are already punishing people wrongfully to do it more there may be legitimate fear in that.
  • by Saige ( 53303 ) <evil.angela@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:25AM (#1583932) Journal
    Is it me, or is this an overreaction to the Mosiac article we've already seen?

    We don't know how it works yet. We don't know what factors it considers important, and which it doesn't. It's a bit hasty to assume that it's going to single out the people who are different, the "geeks" as Katz likes to call anyone who's not a conformist.

    Perhaps they've actually done something GOOD with this program. Perhaps they've found more of the real issues that can influence violent and troubled kids. How do we know this tool isn't a good thing, finding people in danger before something happens?

    If it turns into just another geek profiling tool, then I'll gladly join in the chorus about how bad it is. But I'm not going to do that until I know that's how it's working.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @08:38AM (#1583935)
    > tests of this kind are designed to pick up liars.
    > For example, they will ask you two differently
    > worded questions about the same topic.
    > Would you describe yourself as punctual? Yes/No
    > Would you describe yourself as patient? Yes/No

    ...which is probably the other reason why most of my high school teachers and university profs always reminded us to "read every question on the exam before you start writing down answers" :-)

    Personality Profiling 101:

    Knowing how to spot these kinds of questions is a very useful life skill, whether in a Geek Profiling situation or a job interview. For an excellent example of the "ask the same question different ways" techique in action, and for an opportunity get some practice, play with this version of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter [].

    First, answer with "the truth" - your honest answers to the questions. Then, when you've read your results and realized that the questionnaire is only measuring "yes/no" answers along four orthogonal axes, try to give the "right" answers for an "all-yes" or "all-no" score on the axis of your choice.

    Advanced class:

    Note that someone who scores "perfectly" - with zero inconsistent answers, less so on Kiersey, but probably more so on something more sophisticated, like Mosaic, is likely to be spotted as a liar. Humans are inherently fuzzy things, and some degree of internal inconsistency is to be expected. Doublethink is normal.

    If your answer to "Do you believe in non-violence" is "yes", and your response, 10 questions later, to "What if you saw your wife boinking the milkman" is "I'd ask them to please stop and put their clothes on before inviting them both out to dinner to rationally discuss our differences of opinion on marital fidelity", it could well be as much of a red flag as "I'd cut them into little chunks with my big mofo chainsaw and cook and eat them both, and then throw her goldfish in the microwave for dessert! Muhahahaha!".

    (In my obviously-contrived example, a "right" response to the wife question would be "umm, that'd totally such, uh, I dunno, I hope I wouldn't like, freak out completely or anything", particularly if your other answers "If some bozo cut me off in traffic, I'd just let him get up ahead and get busted for speeding, he's worth making a fuss over" are generally consistent with nonviolence.)

  • Katz's articles seem to be getting more incendiary and less informed every time...

    The program (which none of us has seen anyways) sounds like it is a lot more sophisticated than Katz suggests. It appears to have been utilised in reputable places, and has a lot of expertise behind it. I got the impression from the original article that this tool used a lot of factors and comparative information to judge what school administrators input about a student. It says that it differentiates between those who are just making threats and those who will carry through on threats. If that's true, it sounds like it might be useful.

    I certainly didn't get the idea that geeks would be singled out by this tool -if used correctly- and persecuted. I think clueless teachers/counselors might create a profile for a geek/non-coformist, but it sounds like this program is designed to judge such a person unharmful. Of course, all this is dependant on the fact that Mosaic 2000 works like it says it does and that administrators use it properly. And mistakes could still be made. And confidential profiles could be disclosed or not discarded or whatever...

    But I hardly think it's worth the uninformed FUD, that Katz is spreading. We all need to learn a little more about this program before we judge it. Sure I'm wary of it, but at this point, hardly panicking.

  • Would you want the ability to buy a house, get a job, anything in your life to be in the hands of your worst enemy?

    Um... whoah... buy a house?? get a job??? where did you get the impression that this program will affect those things?! This program is supposed to identify who among the students who make threats is likely to carry through! As I stated, there would be concerns about confidentiality and what was done with this information after you left the school.

    However, I think you've picked up on too much of Katz's FUD. A single teacher would likely have very little ability to change the output of such a program ... it's not going to rate you based on how much your teacher's dislike you! I imagine such a teacher would have to make up a lot of imaginary incidents before it could rate someone unharmful as dangerous. And besides, it's a program designed to help identify possible problems... if it's used properly (and isn't that the REAL issue here?) it will allow administrators to find out who isn't a threat and whose actions need to be taken seriously.

    Of course it could be abused, like EVERYTHING school officials control. The point is, that the program might be useful or at least harmless if used PROPERLY. That's always an issue though, and if they didn't have the program, they'd have soemthing else. Better to use a program that has a knowledge base behind it to judge a student, than an educator who doesn't know much about what indicates an actual threat, as opposed to a perceived one. This is a tool like any other. If abused it will cause harm, if used properly, it could help. If you're so worried, go find out more about how it's worked and been used in the federal court system and at Yale. Neither the original article nor Katz's feature offer much more than speculation and opinions.

  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @09:02AM (#1583949)
    "Sports is not the antichrist here... and yes, football IS a sport. As little as I personally value it, that sport brings in a lot of money for the highschool... money that is also funneled into educational projects and clubs."

    Yup, there is truth in what you say. Physical education is part of a balanced curriculum. But surely you understand that football (and I enjoy watching football occasionally myself) has been elevated to a position of artificial importance?

    If the school football team wins a victory, it's a big deal. Time is even taken from classes to rally spirit prior to the game and celebrate victory afterwards. Team heroes often get laid. Buses are provided to transport the team. There is even an officially endorsed team of attractive females to encourage the male football players and spectators by shouting and wearing skimpy outfits. This sport is valued so highly that regular occurrences of paralysis and maiming in children do not derail it. Where exactly is the social value in paying so kids can act violently with the full approval of their peers and parents? And they think DOOM is desensitizing?

    When the school's debating team or chess team (assuming they still have one) wins, where is the recognition or encouragement? Why do they have to provide their own transportation to the match? Why do students laugh at their victories (at least until some team hits the state or national finals -- then suddenly they're "our geeks")? Seems this kind of rivalry would benefit commercial sponsors much more in the long run, but as you say, there is *no* money in it at all.

    Testing students for violent thinking thru a test, then sending them out to actually break bones on the gridiron, or cheer such mayhem on, seems a little contradictory to me.

    If it were up to me, I'd can the test and keep football. But I'd also get the money completely out of all kinds of football but professional. *Especially* high school football -- because engaging in a dangerous sport for *any* reason other than the love of it is the wrong reason.

    Money to fund sports and other competitions needs to come from somewhere. Why do I have the feeling that most of it goes to adminstrators with fat salaries and corrupt vendors of materials with sweetheart deals? Maybe because throwing more at the problem does absolutely nothing for students?
    I think it's time we consider a federal standard for education with individual schools only responsible to themselves and that standard. That eliminates untold bureaucrats, promotes choice in education, and keeps deals for materials very small and hard to control or corrupt.
  • I agree with most of your points, but think you need to forego a little of your animosity... did someone lose a girlfriend, or get beaten up a few times? :)

    Sports is not the antichrist here... and yes, football IS a sport. As little as I personally value it, that sport brings in a lot of money for the highschool... money that is also funneled into educational projects and clubs.

    Playing a sport in highschool is just as valuable to a student as joining an academic club, national honors society or any other extra-curricular activity. You learn a lot of things while involved in a sport... including, but not limited to:

    Organizational skills
    Elation and Disapointment
    Interaction on Many Different Levels

    These experiences and skills prove highly valuable in college and when entering the work force... no matter what field your interest lies with.

    Sorry to bring back unpleasant memories.

    I have nothing against sports, I wrestled in high school, I enjoy watching football and baseball, I like playing soccer, I hold a first degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. HOWEVER none of that should be state sponsored school administered activity. It should be a seperate thing, ie the REC Department that most counties have.

    In my high school the football team was allowed to have as many fund raising events as it chose, as well as getting money from ticket sales and directly from the school. Every year the team got new uniforms, new pads, new shoes, new helmets, new everything. The wrestling team, the baseball team, and the volleyball team got nothing. We brought in money from ticket sales, bu were only allowed to have 1 fund raising event per year. Other sports got shafted for football. NONE of these sports should be school sponsored activities. They should all be overseen by the Recreational department which is funded by the parents of the kids playing the sports and the ticket sales for the games.

  • I believe it should be a scool's responsibility to sponser extra-curricular activities. This includes sports. Would you suggest the schools also stop supporting theatre and putting on school plays? A lot of money goes into this extra-curricular activity as well.

    I bitched and moaned in high school and college about how the football and basketball teams got the royal treatment as well. But I am now able to see around that. Football and basketball are simply the nation's most popular sports. By fostering good teams, schools increase more than just ticket sales. The whole school benefits from this notoriety.

    I wish to peanuts that other sports were more popular however... but that is the way it is right now.

    yes, I do think they should not be putting on plays. An elective theatre class would acceptable, which was a regular class and where everyone brought their own materials for set design and such. And if they wanted to have a play, free of charge, then that would be fine too.
    I don't mind Phys Ed as a class. If we have Phys Ed, why do we need football??
    Oh, and many counties in Georgia have seperate Arts programs like ARTS Oglethorpe (my county) which put on plays and are funded by the community.

  • If several times a week there were fights and violence in my house and a murder every few years, and I didn't want to get caught up in that, yeah, I might consider armed guards in my house.

    Statistically your home is far more likely to be the site of a fight or murder than your childs school. IT hasn't happened yet, just as the people being tested have not YET done anything violent. But it MIGHT, so shouldn't you let the government put armed guards in your house JUST IN CASE?

  • Really?

    Where did you get statistics comparing the rates of violence and murder in an inner city high school versus a white, middle class home with two parents and no guns?

    Or are you comparing all schools (including placid suburban schools) and all households (including those with single parents, guns, substance abuse, etc).

    All of both. Because you can warp statistics to justify anything, so just to be safe, you should do whatever the government tells you is a good idea, eh?


  • Getting back to the guards in schools thing, I don't see how guards impinge on freedom or "prepare students for a police state" as a previous poster said. Are the armed guards really as autonumous as you're suggesting? I'm sure the guards don't have enough power to do whatever they want to whomever they want, do they? Students would complain and then parents would complain if the guards went too far. I see guards in schools as a deterent to anyone thinking of trying something really naughty, not as a tool of big brother to bring the kids down. We have police all around our communities, do you think we live in a police state in our towns? What's wrong with expanding that protection to our schools?

    Yes, I do think we are creeping towards a police state where the cops have far too much freedom to accuse and arrest anyone for any reason. Who defines what is 'Naughty'? Is holding a rally against some of the schools rules 'Naughty'? Is Refusing to participate in a pep Rally 'Naughty'? Refusing to say the pledge? Wearing black trench coats and piercing your eyebrows? This is not the business of the school or the security guards to decide.

  • It sounds like you're suggesting these armed guards would be "moral crusaders". I'm not suggesting that at all. What I meant by "naughty" is violence, plain and simple. The guards would be there to stop fights, or in an absolute worst case scenario, react to a gun being drawn. They're not there to determine if a South Park shirt is appropriate, or, as you say, piercing your eyebrow is appropriate. In fact, if they start harrassing a student without provocation, I think the guard should be reprimanded. This moral crusading should be left with the teachers and, more appropriately, the parents.

    So if the Parents and Teachers decide that having a pierced eyebrow is indicitive of possible violent tendencies, and instruct the security guards to keep close scrutiny on those children who do have pierced eyebrows, you would be ok with that? 'Moral Crusading' is by definition ludicrous when applied to anything short of Violence. Everyone can agree that attacking someone is bad, threatening them is also bad, rape is bad. But it never stops there, and if you think it will then you are naive and idealistic.

    Police Yourself! Fight Back Against Militaristic School Regimes!!
  • Why'd you have to ruin an otherwise good post with uninformed speculation like this?

    Spend a few weeks in my old high school. Maybe you'll understand my bitterness then. Our assistant principle was the former Agriculture teacher (Farming, yay...) I refused to memorize the political creed of an organization called the Future Farmers of America, because I wasn't a member of the organization. For that I was failed in his class and he continued to single me out throughout my high school career. Of course, I brought it on myself by believe the course description of a class called AgriSciTech. I thought it would have to do with geneticly enhanced plants, and things like that. Instead we memorized the parts of a cow, pig, etc... Worst waste of time in my life. Schools do NOT like to lose their funding, the government funds the schools, the schools do what the government says. The government responds to the loudest voices. If the loudest voices say 'We are helpless, we need you to step in and make our decisions for us' then that's what will happen, everywhere.

  • Of course not. I said my self that the guards would only be there the deter criminals, ie. those who would start fights, bring guns, threaten, rape, etc. There is a very well defined line between being a criminal and just being different and I'm saying that the guards would not be allowed to cross that line and police those who are just being different. So what if the parents and teachers decide that a pierced eyebrow is bad? That's up to the schools, it's a school policy. The guard is there to deter any violent or criminal act, nothing more. If a teacher asked a guard to watch a particular student or for a particular habit (such as an eyebrow ring), the guard should tell the teacher it's not the guard's job.

    So, it's not the guards job to keep an eye on 'potentially dangerous' people, But they are supposed to somehow deter violence by standing in the hallway? Well, what if the Teacher goes to the administration and the follow scenario plays out...
    Teacher: Little Johnny has pierced his eyebrow and is wearing a Korn t-shirt, I think he may have dangerous tendencies, can we check him with Mosaic?
    Principal: Well, if you think he's dangerous I guess we can.
    Principal and Teacher go to terminal and fire up Mosaic.
    Question 1: Student engages in self mutilation: (yes/no)
    Principal: Well, an euyebrow ring is certainly self mutilation. Yes.
    Question 2: Student is exposed to excessive violence in the home.
    Principal: Well, Korn has very violent music, and I'm sure he listens to it at home. Yes.
    Question 3: Student is Anti-Social.
    Teacher: Well, he does tend to eat alone, and stay by himself a lot. And he doesn't talk to anyone in class.
    Principal: Ok, well, that's a yes.
    Mosaic: Student is at high risk for violent behavior.

    Principal: We'd better have the security guards keep an eye on him in case he brings a gun to school.

    Security Guard: Sorry sir, it's not my job to watch specific kids, I'm just here in case something happens.

    Principal: Right, well according to the computer program Little Johnny is the person it is most likely going to come from. So you should watch him when he's around to be sure you're prepared.

    Guard: Ok, well, that makes sense. I'll keep an eye on him.

    Everything makes sense, they are doing it from all the right reasons. But it's still WRONG, VERY WRONG. What if the student brings a screwdriver to school for his tech class, the guard is watching him, he pulls the screw driver out near at his locker to take it to class and gets arrested for trying to stab the kid next to him. The security guard 'Saw' him try it. Kids life is ruined because he has a weapons violation and expulsion on his permanent record. Stuff like that happens today without Mosaic, Mosaic will just make it easier to convince the Guards that it IS their job to be a nanny.

  • How is your stereotyping of all schools based on your personal experiences in any way different than someone saying "The violent kids today all play Doom, therefore all Doom players must be violent!"? You are saying "My school forced me to do shitty things that I didn't like..therefore all schools will do the same thing." Both of these statements are taking a single data point (or a very small subset of data) and extrapolating them to the world at large. Both of these statements are patently and unequivocably wrong.

    I agree, you had 5 intelligent points to your original post, then you blew it with the speculation. Just because you are bitter doesn't excuse you from being called to the carpet on the exact same thing (stereotyping/profiling) that this thread seems to be up in arms about.

    I kind of expected the bitterness to be apparent and taken for what it was, my bitter raving about the school that opressed me. But, if you read through all of those hellmouth stories you'll see that my subset isn't all that small...

  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:30AM (#1583965) Homepage Journal
    It's been a few years since i dropped out of school, but i DISTINCTLY remember having to sign a quite large pamphlet the first week of each school year that pretty much revoked all 10 of the bill of rights.

    It was so enforced that if you didn't bring the pamphlet in the first week, you were automatically suspended until you did. Sound like horseshit?? Welcome to my highschool.. and MANY all around the country.

    Aaahhh, the dreaded 'Student Handbook' did you remember to read the fine print on the last page where it says 'I swear to indemnify and release from all responsibility this establishment for any harm which may result of my presence on the premises of said establishment' ? I refused to sign the handbook, they threatened suspension, I laughed and brought in 3 lawyers (The wonders of having a mother in the legal business) bye bye freedom destroying student handbook clauses.
    This was only one of the many protests I engaged in throughout highschool, following a grand family tradition. My father protested the conduct of one of the principals so well that he (the principal) was fired.
    It IS possible to make a difference, provided you have more money and more lawyers than the school.
    Of course you then get harassed by the administration and any time someone beats you shitless in a 2v1 fight you get suspended and they don't.... but those are the breaks, eh?

  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:50AM (#1583966) Homepage Journal
    List 10 practical steps that a school could take to guard against this violence.

    1. Teachers and Administrators must listen to complaints from harassed children and ACT ON THEM.

    2. Teachers and Administrators must realize that not all students learn the same way and allow for intellectual differences, preferably by seperate, merit based classes.

    3. No Dress Code. No stupid pointless meaningless rules about not chewing gum in class.

    4. Pay the teachers 2x what they are getting now.

    5. In order to perform #2, remove the football program from the school and instead funnel all of that money to the teachers.

    6. Do not give special treatment to students based on sports.

    7. Return to a institution of LEARNING instead of socializing and playing football.

    8. Allow free discussion of relevant topics in the classroom. Less lecture, more learning.

    9. Allow Teachers to have more personal contact with the students. Stop making the students switch teachers every class period, the subjects covered in high school are not so in depth that 1 person can not become profficient at all of them.

    10. Evaluate disciplinary issues on a case by case bases. Do not suspend all parties involved in a fight if 5 guys attack 1 guy and hospitalize him. Only suspend the 5 that deserve it. Instigate police proceedings against violent offenders such as the above example.

    I think these 10 points would EASILY reduce violence in school as well as raising the quality of our schools. But they MUST be instituted from kindergarten up to 12th grade. Not just in high school. We need to go back to educating our children instead of feeding them crap so they can regurgitate it for a test and forget it immediately afterwards.

  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @07:47AM (#1583967) Homepage Journal
    OK, I have to do this to clear up some obvious misconceptions concerning Mosaic 2000. Most of this IS redundant, but it has been scattered through the thread and ignored. Hopefully when it is put into one post together more people will read it and realize it.

    1. Students DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS regarding Mosaic. The Administrators answer questions regarding known behavior and then program gives suggestions for how best to approach the person in questions.

    2. Mosaic CAN NOT do anything on its own. All of the input and output will be determined by the same old biased administrators as far as Who to do things to. Mosaic just legitmizes that and tells them How to do what they would be doing anyways.

    3. There is NO WAY to refuse to participate in this except by removing yourself from a school where it is present.

    4. You CAN NOT fool this program without massively altering your exterior personality because you have no direct contact with the program.

    5. This WILL be abused by the school system to stop parents from protesting their blatant formation of a militaristic regime.

    6. The best way to stop this is to have your parents get in touch with some lawyers as soon as it gets implemented in the school system and GET A COPY of the program. Then make sure you ask the administrators what answers they gave to the questions asked, do it yourself and see what it comes up with. Also, check their answers since we know they don't know jack.

    Hopefully this will stop a lot of people from screaming 'LIE TO THE TEST!' and whatnot.

  • I would have done the same thing in high school.

    While I have no problem with testing being done, this testing should be implemented at a much younger age than high school. Most kids have learned to lie way too well by high school age. And it is much more difficult to council a high schooler (not saying a waste of time mind you).

    But if there are problems, they can and should be identified WAY before high school. I just see much more value to counciling at a younger age, when a lot of habits are still being formed.
  • 5. In order to perform #2, remove the football program from the school and instead funnel all of that money to the teachers.

    6. Do not give special treatment to students based on sports.

    7. Return to a institution of LEARNING instead of socializing and playing football.

    I agree with most of your points, but think you need to forego a little of your animosity... did someone lose a girlfriend, or get beaten up a few times? :)

    Sports is not the antichrist here... and yes, football IS a sport. As little as I personally value it, that sport brings in a lot of money for the highschool... money that is also funneled into educational projects and clubs.

    Playing a sport in highschool is just as valuable to a student as joining an academic club, national honors society or any other extra-curricular activity. You learn a lot of things while involved in a sport... including, but not limited to:

    Organizational skills
    Elation and Disapointment
    Interaction on Many Different Levels

    These experiences and skills prove highly valuable in college and when entering the work force... no matter what field your interest lies with.

    Sorry to bring back unpleasant memories.
  • It would be nice to get a response.

    While I actually enjoy most of Katz's posts, I have found myself vehemently disagreeing with him when the subject of highschool is brought up... ever since the end of the original Hellmouth series (those had merit).

    But this idea that parents/teachers/councilors/adminatrators are just trying to keep kids down is simply ludicrous. The one that made me laugh probably the hardest was "Go to the movie theatre and take a kid to see South Park day". I trully believe that the vast majority of parents and teachers really do have kids' best interestes in mind, and that they do know better than most teenagers.

    When I was in highschool, Katz would have been a hero to me... I knew it all, and everything was so unfair and no one understood me blah blah blah. But now I am a little older, and I continually suprise myself when I think "Yah know, my parents actually did know what they were talking about". While Katz may have the teenage anthem down well, he fails to rally those of us that have gotten over that phase.
  • I really do not believe this is the first step towards a Brave New World or a 1984 society. The tests are meant to merely serve as an aid. This is not the "end all means" here.

    This is not going to lead to them filing our kids into lines, feeding their responses into a computer and shipping them off to their designated groups. There is not some "master mind" behind all this... people really are trying to do the right thing.

    It is my hope that this will help teachers actually break down stereotypes... enabling them to make more informed decisions, not solely based on whether the kid is social or unsocial.
  • Filtering out the human touch in the name of increased efficiency is not the solution. One does not sooth psychic damage through machinery.

    Agreed. This system is intended to do the opposite. It sets a universal standard (and like it or not... you are not as unique as you think) that will aid councilors when dealing with children. It will encourage councilors, teachers and administrators to become more involved. This is the intention.

    As a parent, I would want school staff to become more involved in my child. And I want that to be based on more than just my child's appearance. If my child is anti-social then I want them to realize that, and to hopefully be able to work with him, WITHOUT assuming he is some kind of a threat.

    If my child does turn out to have warning signs of a violent nature, I want that to be identified as early as possible and adressed. Sometimes parents can not see that, no matter how involved they are (Columbine is an example of this). If there is a universal method used to aid councilors in determining these warning signs, I want it done...
  • by Rabbins ( 70965 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @05:33AM (#1583985)
    It was pointed out before that this is not "geek profiling".

    Christ, this makes it sound like the questions being asked are similar to:

    Do you like computers for more than the occasional game or internet and e-mail?

    Do you play any role playing games?

    Do you have acne?

    Are you skinny or over-weight?

    Do you play sports?

    It is not that simple! If you have ever taken an abnormal psych, or even a college level psych class you would know this.

    They are not looking for "geeks", they are looking for violently inclined kids. Most people realize that has little to do with geeks! There is something mentally wrong with violent students, and this profiling has, and does work in identifying them. It is not as simple as, "You are different or weird... therefore you must be violent and a danger to society". Gimem a break.

    That a universal method for testing kids may be implemented is not what I am concerned with. The real concern should be what do they do with these kids if they have been profiled as violent?

    When considering that, I believe we come to the real problem and potential for harm and abuse.
  • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:21AM (#1583997) Journal
    A machine doesn't discriminate on anything other than what it 'sees.' People are far less objective.
    You forget that people are going to be deciding what to put into the machine. People, falliable, prejudiced people, will be its eyes and ears. If some All-American kid tortures animals and bullies classmates, that may get ignored. A Goth, a geek or a pagan is likely to be in the system as "suspicious" even if they treat everyone and everything with the respect they're due.

    This reminds me of the computer selection process used by a British university a while back. Because it was "computerized", it was believed it "couldn't discriminate"... until it was found that one of its rules was to mark down the scores of people with very long names. It was very non-discriminatorily weeding out people with names like Chandrasekhar and retaining people with names like Smith. Face it, Mosaic-2000 is just CyberSitter, only it will weed people.

    Far from calming the nerves of worried parents, this thing will just reinforce the prejudices of the authors. Any school that lets it in the door should be subjected to a blizzard of FOIA requests to see exactly what they're doing with it, and then sue the district and the company into oblivion as soon as discrimination can be proven (either in actions or in recommendations). This thing has to be shut down.

  • by Ledge Kindred ( 82988 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:42AM (#1584004)
    I have mixed feelings about this whole thing.

    If this "Mosaic" software asks questions like "Do you spend more than 15 minutes a day on the Internet?", "Do you use IRC, MUDs, or chat rooms on a daily basis?" and uses the answers to those questions to judge whether or not a kid could be potential "trouble", that's a Very Bad Thing.

    However, I've heard a little bit about these sorts of software before and from everything I've heard, they're the end result of years and years of reasonably well-designed and well-executed research and instead they ask questions like "Do you express your anger or frustration by torturing or killing small animals?", "Have you ever been physically abused by parents or family members?", "Do you feel more comfortable expressing your anger and frustration with violent acts?" These are questions that might legitimately be used to determine whether or not someone might "need help."

    Even so, I'm still not convinced of the scientific validity of these tests because anyone of average intelligence can pretty well skew the results of the test by guessing what sorts of answers the test "wants to hear" since they are invariably of the "answer on a scale of one to ten whether you agree with this statement, with one being completely no and ten being completely yes." The "scoring" on these tests are simply average scores for the various answers from control groups and psychotic mass murderers (or whatever) and your tendency towards either "normalcy" or "psychotic mass murder" is simply based on who's scores yours most resembles.

    (I've been forced to take these sorts of "Personality Assessment Tests" by annoying employers and potential employers in the past and at the very get-go make sure I inform them that I don't believe they are valid tests of ethics, morals or personality and that I *will* "fail" it and then proceed to answer in the most outrageous way possible. Employers who know me well then ignore the test; those who don't and rely on the test to judge me I don't want to work for anyway.

    Some good skeptical analysis on these sorts of tests and links to more of same can be found here [].)

    Further, there is still the troublesome point that these "survey" answers are going to go into some Permanent Record someplace, which just emphasizes the fact that I feel this is a horrible invasion of privacy to begin with.


  • "When Mosiac comes around, I do 1) lie my ass off and say what they want to hear from a "normal" kid"

    Probably wouldn't work - tests of this kind are designed to pick up liars. For example, they will ask you two differently worded questions about the same topic. To use a grossly simplified example:

    Would you describe yourself as punctual? Yes/No
    Would you describe yourself as patient? Yes/No

    The two questions will be in separate parts of the questionnaire, to make it harder to remain consistent. There will be a lot of cross-referenced questions. The only way to appear "normal" is to put yourself into a "normal" state of mind... and if you can do that they aren't worried about you. =)
  • by net-fu ( 85849 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:09AM (#1584014)
    There's an awful trend in this country to give computers responsiblity for things that we cannot or won't do ourselves.

    I guess the idea is to dis-empower teachers and principals over the course of several decades, and then make up for that by providing a means of arbitrary decision-making (the computer). It's a great strategy, and I've seen it work very well at Universities. It has a tendency to leave the victim in a helpless state-- you have no person to complain to-- no one to blame.

    Would you let a net-nanny watch your kids? Would you let a computer drive your car? (And if you were in an accident, would you sue the software company?)

    The real Problem is that people have unrealistic and unjustified fears about school shootings.

    Some facts:

    1. The crime rate in America has been going down for the last 30 years or so. Don't look at the overall numbers like they report on the news! Look at the per capita rate. (i.e. crime/population)

    2. You're more likely to get killed on your busride home than shot at your desk.

    (btw.. missing children is the same story. By the time you weed out the kids who ran away, kidnapped by a parent, etc. it's only a handful that go missing each year.)

    People need to face their fears and take responsibility for their actions, and not make computers do their dirty work for them. The media needs to stop pretending to be objective and start offering real solutions.
  • Gifted kids are often "pushed" around by teachers who can't tell the difference between boredom and vandalism

    That's absolutely outrageous. There's a very clear dividing line between "boredom" and "vandalism", just as there is between having a child which is "gifted" and one which is "troubled". It's about US$75K per year, I think.

  • I don't know how I'd react to this were I still in high school. This time of life is already hard enough to get through; trying to find out who you are, what kind of things you're interested in, who your "crew" is. What this is going to do is drive a wedge further between the high school 'cliques'. Those who are ridiculed and ostracized will be more so, and those who are favored and priviledged are more so as well.

    Another thing that this brings to mind:
    As understaffed as schools tend to be (I assume most are equal or worse off than mine, which was a "preppy white upper class high school") they will most undoubtedly have student "office assistants" helping with this program. It tends to be the case that most of these office assistances tend to be the more "popular" people. What kind of security and privacy will exist in this program? As if it's not bad enough to be ridiculed for who you are, then they will also be ridiculed for being on the "watch list"

    In conclusion, this is something that, if implemented (which I believe to be a bad idea) needs to be done with the utmost of privacy and care.

    Charlie, who's very very glad he is no longer in a high school, so he would not have to be subjected to being on the school's "list"

    Child: Mommy, where do .sig files go when they die?
    Mother: HELL! Straight to hell!
    I've never been the same since.

  • by Mendax Veritas ( 100454 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @06:20AM (#1584045) Homepage
    Katz, as is his wont, has flown into a paranoid frenzy, his mind full of hysterical visions of every kid with a Marilyn Manson t-shirt being subjected to Orwell's Room 101 treatment. This doesn't really help me to understand the situation, since it reduces the article's signal-to-noise ratio drastically. I had to look elsewhere to even get a basic idea of what Mosaic-2000 really is, since Katz tells us next to nothing about it other than that his teenaged sources (in whose perspective he displays an amazing degree of confidence, considering how oversimplified and us-vs-them the average teenager's worldview is) don't like it.

    Not surprisingly, there is a website, [], promoting Gavin de Becker Inc. and its products. The site describes Mosaic-2000 as follows:

    "a method for evaluating students who make threats"
    This sounds good; they're not suggesting you run all the kids in the school through it to magically find all the killers. Instead, when threats are made, you use the system as an aid in trying to figure out how serious the situation is.
    "not a computer program, but rather an evaluation method that is computer-assisted"
    This is even better; they're not just asking the machine to evaluate people. Instead, they're using it as one part of a process primarily conducted by humans (trained ones, one hopes).
    "MOSAIC suggests to the user which questions are most likely to produce a quality evaluation."
    "MOSAIC-2000 does not make decisions; it is a tool that helps school administrators by identifying the areas of inquiry that experts feel will produce the best evaluation of the situation."
    It sounds like Mosaic is really just an expert system intended to be used as a guide in a counselor's evaluation.

    In summary: typical Katz paranoia.

  • by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Wednesday October 27, 1999 @08:51AM (#1584048) Homepage Journal
    I agree with Jon Katz that the development and distribution of software to "vet" students for violent propensities is cause for alarm. I think the participation of a federal Commerce Department agency (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms--a bunch of tax collectors in search of a more exciting mission) is particularly alarming.

    But I don't agree with Jon's assumption that this is tantamount to open season on Goths. I think this, instead, is something even more sinister.

    This is profiling.

    If you're an American you've seen the TV show. Breathless blonde babe bumbles across crime scenes developing "profiles" of serial killers. She's pretty, TV cops are always heros, isn't profiling a wonderful tool that the police can use to protect us from bad guys?

    The profiling technique used by technologies like Mosaic depends upon the premise that answers to certain questions can be good (or even absolute) predictors of specific tendencies or behaviors. For example, consider the question I just asked: "Isn't profiling a wonderful tool that the police can use to protect us from the bad guys?" Your answer to the question is almost an absolute predictor of whether you are white or not.

    Police departments across the U.S. have begun to use computers and statistics packages to study patterns of crime. In some instances it has been a tremendous boon to fighting crime. In other instances it has been a particularly heinous tool of racial oppression. Here's how:

    Several years ago the Pennsylvania State Police noted a big increase in drug shipments through northeastern Pennsylvania. They examined their arrest records to identify common patterns--and from those common patterns they identified a "criminal profile" of a likely drug smuggler. Based on that profile, state troopers started stopping cars on I-80 that met the profile--and obtaining search warrants to search vehicles based on no other evidence than that the vehicle and the driver met the profile.

    What was the profile?
    • The driver was a black male
    • The driver was alone in the car
    • The driver had an air freshener hanging from the mirror

    That, argued the police, was sufficient probable cause to stop any and every single black man with an air freshener on I-80.

    In recent months the New Jersey State Police have also admitted to specifically targeting black men on the New Jersey Turnpike. The crime of "DWB"--Driving While Black--has been a joke in the black community for many years. Based on discovery from a civil rights suit, the New Jersey State Police, and Gov. Christie Whitman, admitted that the cops were specifically targeting blacks.

    In theory profiling can help identify potential suspects. In practice, profiling has become a synonym for leaping to conclusions based on scant evidence. And the ability of many police departments today to filter database lists makes the potential for baseless profiling positively scary.

    For example, let's do a little profiling. Let's identify common characteristics of dangerous personalities, and see who fits. Here are some common characteristics of mass murderers:

    • White
    • Male
    • Late 30s to early 50s
    • Access to firearms
    • Owns multiple firearms, multiple calibers
    • Recent enthusiast for firearms
    • Often described by acquaintances as a "gun nut"
    • Highly educated, but generally below national average in income
    • Frequently has multiple, but meager, sources of income.
    • Cannot seem to keep one steady job for any length of time.
    • Experienced with computers.
    • Fancies himself an expert at role-playing games, especially computer role-playing games that glorify violence
    • Spends an inordinate amount of time online
    • Develops many relationships online--sees online acquaintances as true friends.
    • May even have traveled long distances to meet online acquaintances
    • May marry--but usually does not have chidren.

    Now--who might fit that profile? How about a white, male, 41-year-old man with a wife and no kids. He's a graduate of an Ivy League university, where he majored in Philosophy. He has not found work in his field, but instead has dabbled in several businesses. He runs a very small ISP (mostly as a labor of love) but depends upon his wife's income. He spends an inordinate amount of time online, playing games and emailing friends on the Internet. He is widely known on the Internet, and is viewed as a leading figure in an underground Internet community. He is regarded as a "hacker" and in his online writings he is proud of the term. He has recently become interested in guns, and right-to-bear-arms politics, and cheerfully characterizes himself as a "gun nut."

    We're talking, of course, about that dangerous criminal monster, Eric S. Raymond.

    In Pennsylvania you register with the county sheriff to get a license to carry a concealed weapon. (I do not own guns, but I am told by a gun-owning friend/employee that a "carry" permit and a handgun permit are the same price--so everybody gets the carry permit.) In Pennsylvania you also pay an income tax to your local municipality and/or your local school district. And, in Pennsylvania, utilities have to provide all sorts of information to the government about who they serve, in what counties, and so forth.

    I don't think it would be much of a stretch for the Chester County District Attorney to get a list of gun owners, and cross-ref that list with a list of people with multiple phone lines. And it wouldn't take much effort after that to establish which of those multiple-phone line gun owners had web sites. And you can't spend much time on ESR's web site without noticing "Eric's Gun Nut Page". Given the profile, the DA would be justified (or so he might think) in telling the township police where ESR lives that a potential maniac is living nearby.

    And since we're putting up posters about sex offenders (even one-timers convicted forty years ago) on every telephone pole, why not notify the community of gun-totin', Web-usin', multiple-phone-line-ringin' threats to society?

    Or maybe--just maybe--we should conclude that computer profiling is not just bad, not just unconstitutional, but evil. And stop it, before we lose what "inalienable" rights we have left.

    John Murdoch

  • As always, many of the responses here ignore the realities of life in the hellmouth. Overreaction? Not really, given what we already know about the people who actually run our educational system. Let's look at some reality here, from the test itself, to who uses it and why.

    The test itself is of a genre known as 'subtle psychological evaluations'. As the original article noted, these tests are very, very hard to beat, if not impossible. But there is one fatal flaw in all these tests; the frame of reference.

    The people who write these tests must make certain assumptions about social norms. After all, this is a social interaction evaluation we are dealing with. What are those assumptions? Even if the assumptions are statistically valid for the population of this country there are two issues that immediately come up.

    What if the student did not originate in this country, or was not raised according to the 'average' norms of this country?

    A statistical norm can only be applied to a group with any real certainty of accuracy, and even then the accuracy is the margin of error inherent in statistics. Nothing in statistics is guaranteed. This norm can not be used to evaluate an individual with any degree of certainty at all. In fact, these tests are about as useful, in terms of accuracy on an individual,as a polygraph.

    The researchers who create these tests know all this, and are careful to ensure that those who are paying for them ( a testing company, not the school ) know it too. The problem arises when the vendor withholds this information, or buries it in fine print from the end users, in this case the school administrators. The administrations are, then, using these tests without the full knowledge of their limitations or rules for interpretation. Now lets look at who is interpreting the tests - the school administrators. As a group, these people have proved pretty conclusively that they do not want to be bothered with hard questions - they want an easy answer to everything. An easy, simple answer... that is usually wrong. Don't believe it? In Texas, a youngster was set upon by 3 large bullies. He defended himself as best he could, but was suspended along with the bullies due to the district's 'zero tolerance ' policy. In Florida, a girl who was approaching her menstrual cycle took pills to school, available over the counter at any pharmacy for this time for women, and was promptly suspended for drug violations. These policies abound in the United States.

    Therefore, in my view, the school administrations have shown they are unwilling to confront tough questions with thought and work....they are

    1. Unwilling to put forth the effort required to understand the real meaning of the results of these tests.

    2. Unqualified, in general, to understand these results without expert guidance, and this is virtually never requested, because, in the eyes of administrators, this might cause them to be perceived as less than all-knowing.

    3. Adept at taking things out of context. I would be surprised if this test was used properly by any school.

    The reality is that we can expect this test to be used as a profiling tool to ease the conscience and burden of the school administrators of actually having to think. After all, they would say that previous behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour... and this is exactly their past record on using tools to 'reduce violence'

  • simply avoid taking the test?

    I mean, are they planning to f o r c e kids to take this profile? CAN they force kids to take the test? I'm not sure if it's even legal to get them to take the test without their knowledge about the test's purpose.

    As long as the options are clearly presented to the people that are to be subjected to the test, then this isn't as bad as it seems, I'd think. Either avoid it, or lie repeatedly so that it dosn't make any sense, just like we do with anonymous email accounts at uhmmmm Hotmail or someplace. For all Hotmail knows I could be a 93 year old widow with 15 kids and 200 grandchildren living in the Ozarks.

    I'd take it that it's somewhat more difficult to skew the answers on one of these tests, but geeks are smart, no?

  • I really don't feel like pursuing this thread much further, but I will indulge you a bit.

    This is the usual lazy statement of individuals who can't come up with a compelling argument but want to try and get in the last word anyways: "I have so many *better* things to do with my time than argue with you."

    1) Tons of gun need for any more

    You evidently haven't been paying attention to your own arguments, much less mine.

    Your original claim was that "easy access to guns" is a contributing factor to school shootings. You sought to end debate there with the ad hominem that anyone who disagrees with your premise "isn't serious about tackling the problem."

    Unfortunately, the premise is objectively and verifiably false. School shootings such as Paducah and Columbine are almost exclusively a phenomenon of the 1990s, but firearms were far more widely and freely available thirty years ago -- because they were orders of magnitude less regulated by all levels of government -- than they are today.

    For example, in 1967 I could purchase a brand new select-fire (id est, fully-automatic) military-style rifle through mail order, with no waiting period or verification of my age, criminal history, or mental/emotional suitability to own such a weapon. Today, assuming ownership of such a weapon was not prohibited by the laws of my state (which, in my case, it is) and assuming I could even find such a weapon for sale, I could only effect a transfer through a federally-licensed firearms dealer after enduring a thorough background check and paying a hefty tax on top of the many thousands of dollars the gun would cost. I would have to continue paying this tax annually for as long as I owned the firearm. Moreover, the newest firearm I could possibly obtain would be over fifteen years old, and if the background check determined that I was ineligible to own a firearm, I would earn myself, at minimum, a five-year vacation in Club Fed.

    If "easy access to guns" is indeed part of the problem, then you should have absolutely no trouble finding example after example of maladjusted 1960's teens using the rifles they brought to school and kept in coat closets or lockers for ROTC classes or rifle team practices shooting up their classmates. The fact that neither you nor other gun control advocates can do so simply underscores the false assumptions and faulty logic behind the "easy access to guns" argument.

    2) Gun ownership promotes civility. Guns for everyone ! (law abiding, that is)

    I have not made this argument. There is no basis for believing that gun ownership promotes civility any more than there is for believing that gun ownership causes crime. (Well. I take that back: there's slightly more. A study conducted from 1993-1995 by the USDOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention concluded that children who get guns legally from their parents and are taught to use them responsibly are substantially less likely to commit crimes of any sort.) However, it is true that private ownership of firearms has a powerful deterrent effect on crime. This has been demonstrated in criminological research (see More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott, Jr.) and by polls of criminals (a study conducted in the early 1980s by UMass Amherst researchers James Wright and Peter Rossi), but if you're still not convinced, perhaps you'd be willing to erect a sign on your front lawn reading, "ATTENTION CRIMINALS: THIS IS A GUN-FREE HOME".

    Federal gun legislation was passed several years ago that purported to ban the sale and possesion of assault weapons. The problem with the legislation was that rather than define the guns based on how they worked, the legislation was based on how the guns looked!

    The reason for this is simple: there is no fundamental difference between those fearsome military-look "assault weapons" and ordinary civilian-look firearms except appearance. Long demonized by gun control advocates and the media, "assault weapons" are simply semi-automatic (id est, one shot per trigger pull) firearms that share the cosmetic characteristics of military weapons: pistol grips, bayonet lugs, flash supressors, thumbhole stocks, and so forth. None of these features have ever been shown to have any correlation to crime rates -- when was the last drive-by bayonetting you heard about? -- and an ordinary .30-06 bolt-action deer rifle is substantially more accurate and lethal than, say, an AR-15 (the civilian, semi-automatic version of the M-16A2).

    But since you brought it up, let's pretend you're king for a day. First, propose a logically-consistent rationale that holds up to real-world scrutiny for outlawing the manufacture and sale of "assault weapons". ("They're scary-looking" is not adequate.) Second, define what an "assault weapon" is on the basis of operation rather than appearance, with the definition neither too broad (thereby including civilian-look firearms) nor too narrow (thereby excluding some "assault weapons"). Do both these things satisfactorily and you can have all the bans you want.

    This was all done under the stewardship of the NRA and its lackeys on Capitol Hill. You see, they realized they could curry public favor by pointing to gun legislation that they passed and they also realized that they would rack up right-winger brownie points with their base by passing innocous legislation!

    This is hilarious historical revisionism. The NRA and other gun rights groups fought tooth and nail against the Clinton administration's 1993 "assault weapons" ban, and have been lobbying for its repeal ever since. A major reason the Republicans now enjoy a slender majority in both houses of Congress is precisely because of gun owners' outrage at the Democrats passage of the legislation; a major reason the Republicans will likely lose their majority in both houses of Congress next election year is because they've pushed nearly as much gun control legislation as the Democrats, and renegged on their 1994 "Contract With America" promise to repeal the "assault weapons" ban. You really need to stop believing everything HCI tells you.

    Gun manufacturers modified their gun designs so that their new guns would not look like the guns defined in legislation. This allowed them to continue to sell assault guns unbidened.

    I'm not sure I understand your problem with this. The 1993 law bans the manufacture or sale of weapons that carry two or more of the offending features. How have gun manufactures violated either the spirit or the letter of the law by manufacturing and selling guns that only carry one of the offending features?

    This same tactic was applied when state and local govt's attempted to outlaw the sale and possesion of "saturday night special" type guns that criminals were fond of using. Once again, the laws were based on how the guns looked. Some cities found that after the guns had been redesigned, 99% of the guns were deemed to look sufficiently different as to be sellable under the law.

    Again, you're combining a thorough ignorance of the facts surrounding "Saturday Night Specials" (it might suprise you to learn that the term is a derivation of the racist phrase "Niggertown Saturday Night", used to describe usually-violent black neighborhoods in the 1960s) with historical revisionism on a grand scale.

    Put simply, the criteria for what is and isn't a "Saturday Night Special" are a moving target. Everyone agrees that gun manufacturers should be held liable if the guns they produce harm someone as the result of a malfunction or defect. However, nobody can demonstrate that guns classified as "Saturday Night Specials" are used in crime to any greater percentage than they make up retail purchase (id est, "Saturday Night Specials" make up X percent of crime guns seized, but also X percent of legitimate retail purchases, so there's no disproportionate criminal use).

    Furthermore, time and again throughout history, when artificial scarcities have been imposed on products with the intention of controlling bad behavior, bad guys have invariably managed to find workable substitutes, which leaves only the law-abiding consumers of the products adversely affected. Think of the Volstead Act.

    Le's examine California's recent high-profile ban of "junk guns" (let's use that term, since it's interchangeable with "Saturday Night Specials", and does not have racist origins) to get an idea of what such laws actually accomplish. As of January 1 of next year, California bans the manufacture and sale of any semi-automatic handgun that lacks a positive manual safety and/or fails certain drop tests and other bureaucratically-imposed safety requirements. This outlaws many inexpensive handguns, most of which chamber small calibers of ammunition and have small magazines. The primary consumers of these guns are lower-income people -- the folks at the greatest risk of becoming victims of crime. Ergo, they'll be priced out of firearms market and largely unable to obtain guns for self-protection unless they turn to the black market and make themselves criminals. Meanwhile "real" criminals will merely find workable substitutes for the artificially-scarce products -- higher quality firearms that chamber larger (and therefore more deadly) calibers of ammunition and have larger magazines. Does this sound like an advantageous plan to you?

    But it doesn't stop there: firearms made by Glock and SigSauer, some of the highest quality and most reliable handguns in the world, lack positive manual safeties, and so will be "junk guns".

    Inexplicably, law enforcement is exempted from the law; if a Glock 22 isn't safe enough for me because it lacks a positive manual safety, why is it safe enough for it to be the standard-issue duty sidearm for the Santa Clara County Sherrif's Department?

    You see my little misanthropic friend [sorry, I couldn't come up with anything cuter than snookems :>( ], your argument has a few holes in it. You can't judge the merit of a laws by numbers alone. If you want to be honest, what you need to do is actually examine what the law is really doing.

    You're attempting to worm your way out of a losing argument by changing the subject, friend: you started with "easy access to guns contributes to school shootings"; I debunked that myth, and now you're railing against the idea that quantity of laws equals quality of laws -- an argument that I've never made. That's called a straw man.

    It is not my view that, simply because we have N laws on the books, we therefore need no more laws. It is my view that virtually every form of gun control is irrational (read: doesn't make any real-world sense), counterproductive (read: does far more harm than good as a crime-reduction or crime-prevention measure), unprincipled (read: contrary to the fundamental principles of a free society), and unconstitutional (read: contrary to the plain language and historical context of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution). I would be happy to defend this position if you're interested, but let's do it through email.

    Ok. Let's examine your second argument. You use the NRA staple argument that widespread gun ownership has the ancillary effect of lowering crime rates. The implication being that criminals are reluctant to operate in areas where they are uncertain whether their intended victims will be packing heat. The state of Texas is always used as an example.

    This type of argument is what is known as sophistry. Upon face value it appears that your logic may actually make sense. However, the simplistic and deceptive nature of your argument is always disproven after careful analysis. To insinuate that the crime rate can ever be attributed to one single factor is sheer lunacy. But this is what you NRAphytes have been trained to do. If we were to suspend reality for a second and assume that you actually believed your own argument, we should then be able to extrapolate your argument to further prove its conclusiveness. Unfortunately, when we look around the world, we find very few cases to support your argument. Europe and Asia have very low rates of gun ownership, and yet they have remarkably low rates of violence and crime. Is there some phenomenom that makes America special? If so, I would appreciate it if you could explain it to me.

    As before, you're knocking down a straw man of your own manufacture. At no point have I said that there is a causal relationship between rates of gun ownership and rates of violent crime, anyplace in the world. In fact, globally, there is virtually no relationship that can consistently be found between nations' crime rates and laxity of gun laws. Gun rights advocates often hold up Switzerland and Isreal as examples of countries with lax gun control and very little crime without mentioning that both countries have national firearms licensure, which is something we abhor. Meanwhile, gun control advocates often hold up Japan and the United Kingdom as examples of countries with tight gun control and very little crime without mentioning that the UK's crime rate has been steadily increasing since the imposition of a tough gun ban, and that the Japanese both have a suicide rate that eclipses American gun deaths of all kinds, and do not place the same emphasis on certain civil liberties central to the American ethos. Put simply, global differences in crime rates are more attributable to cultural differences between countries than they are differences in gun laws, as observed in The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies, an award-winning book by criminologist David Kopel.

    I have noted, as other intelligent people have, the profound correlative relationship that manifests itself over and over again in the United States: here, in this country, private ownership of firearms and civilians' ability to carry concealed firearms appears to have a powerful deterrent effect to crime. Obviously there are other factors that can account for deltas in crime rates, but it is the business of criminologists to control for these factors to the satisfaction of peer review. Researchers such as John Lott and Gary Kleck have done this. They have won awards from their professional organizations and acclaim from their peers and critics alike. Their findings vindicate civilian ownership of firearms and liberalized concealed carry in this country, and offer a compelling argument that in the cost-benefit analysis over firearms, even using estimates most advantageous to gun control advocates, the benefits are greater than the costs. I invite you to look up their research -- it's all over the web -- and inform yourself. You might be surprised at how your views change after you actually learn about the issue.

    I could go on for hours but I'm actually bored with you now so I'm going to call it quits. I do want to thank you for the laugh though, as does my girl!

    I'm happy I could be a source of amusement. I apologize for calling you a moron initially; it's become apparent that your problem isn't congenital stupidity, but rather simple (and hopefully curable) ignorance.

    Have fun cleaning your guns tonight!


  • "Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither"

    - Jefferson

    How soon does our young Republic forget the significance of such words. I am 17, and a senior in my high school. Though I will most likely not see the results of such overreactions, I am deeply moved by the fact that we *allow* such things. Yes, we. Don't forget that bureaucrats do these things because no one stops them. They use powerful tools of deception that distort the reality of the situation. I would place a bet that the bureaucrats who run our schools would have loved to have this much power over us a long time ago, but until now, any attempts that were so obviously about nothing but control would have met most ardent opposition. The shootings, such as Columbine, provide a convienient excuse to deploy such things, and they WILL be used for more than anti-violence precautions.

    How many precedents do we need before we realize that such far-reaching powers will be abused? The school systems as a whole already have a piss-poor track record for their treatment of people who are different. Schools do not only teach the subjects of their curricula, they also indoctrinate conformity and obedience.

    Does anyone else find it strange that subjects such as mathematics, physics, and other sciences are taught formulaically and not conceptually? Though I earned A's throughout the class, I was so frustrated in Chemistry I and Chemistry II because the teacher gave us a formula and showed us how to plug numbers into it and nothing more. I took the initiative of figuring out for myself what I was actually doing, such that instead of memorizing a formula I could instinctively figure out how to arrive at an answer by reading the problem. This is a much faster process, one that involves the use of logic and critical thinking.

    Why do schools (and we are talking about Honors and Advanced Placement classes here) not teach students how to think, especially how to think critically? It goes beyond a lowest-common-denominator approach, and insinuates that they are afraid of what we would do if we were no longer sheep. The majority go along with it, after all, it is all they have been exposed to all of their lives. It is people like me, the ones who DO think critically, that clash with the school system so much because we resent their efforts to place themselves upon the pedestal of becoming our shepherds. I am not afraid whatsoever to voice my opinion; no matter what the punishment, my most deeply held beliefs yield to no one--after all, if they can be bought or coerced, what do they mean? I have clashed many times with teachers who wanted me to follow their example and never think for myself, and I have always prevailed because I will not back down and I have made myself quite versed in exactly what powers they have and do not have. Knowing your freedoms and expecting nothing less makes you far more of a threat to them than any gun-toting fuckup.

    In the end, they fear us, thus they seek to control us. It shows in their teaching methods, their willingness and indeed their eagerness to substitute fairness and human judgment with blanket rules & regulations, (such as the lovely zero-tolerance policies) machines, and superficial pigeonholing. Katz was quite right in saying that they have pointed the finger at everyone but themselves. They target all the superficial symptoms of violent minds, but they purposefully do not seek the roots, lest they topple their own tree of deceit and fear.

    I for one will not sit idly by whilst my freedoms are eroded. I am exquisitely aware of these issues, but my brethren to come will be from a climate which adjusts them to such actions. My school has not become an example of such Draconian measures as of yet, and I intend to speak with the administrators such that my voice is heard. Perhaps I will print up papers on this, and post them where they will be noticed, so that if these things ARE instituted, my fellow students cannot claim ignorance. Awareness is the key issue here. If all else fails, civil disobediance and perhaps outright sabotage of these systems (which, judging from the competency levels of my school officials, their systems will not be difficult to compromise) will send a message that this is not the right solution. There are many who will say that I should not show such strong resistance to what could be for my own good. To this, I answer that no matter what those who consider themselves in loco parentes may say, I know what is for my own good and what is not. Preventing violence is a worthy goal, one that will not be met by the usual tactics of blanket regulations and non-thinking bureaucrats. The school officials need to get personally involved, they need to get to know the students and show that they care about them and about what happens in their lives, that they are not despots looking for rebellions to crush. This is the only way real change will be effected. No tool that minimizes human involvement will ever solve the very human problems that can be caused by the daily abuses that happen at school at the hands of teachers, peers, and administrators.

    - Byron

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama