At Johns Creek High School in 10th grade Literature and Composition class, we read multiple books throughout the entire year, and one book that we are focusing on this first semester is "Columbine" by Dave Cullen. It recounts the events of the Columbine High School shooting using facts and reports from victims, witnesses and any people involved. From what I have heard around the school, there has been some controversy regarding this book and whether it is appropriate to read in a school. Because there have been conflicting opinions on it, I decided to ask some of my classmates and friends what they think about the book and if it is appropriate to read in school and why. Here's what they had to say.
1. It really depends on the person you are.
“Personally... I like Columbine as a book, and I think that it is important to know what actually went on instead of just saying, 'Oh wasn’t Columbine that one shooting?' But if some students feel uncomfortable reading it and discussing topics like the ones in the book, they should not have to read it.” — Daniela, 10th grade
2. It is a part of our history.
“I think that although it is a touchy subject, it should be allowed. It’s a part of American history, as sad as that is. It’s a very well-written book that shows information that wasn’t originally shown.” — Emmy, 10th grade
3. The explicit detailing makes it interesting.
“I just find it interesting to read about. I think it’s how he tells the story, the background to build up to the actual event, just the things that went on behind the scene and how they were as people before." — Ashlie, 10th grade
4. Students engage in conversation with this book.
“I think that it’s really important for high school students to read books like 'Columbine,' especially in the suburban communities. The goal of students reading the book isn’t to scare them in my opinion, but it shows that it can happen even in sheltered communities full of innocent people. To me, 'Columbine' is so much more important to read than other books that we read like 'Lord of the Flies' and Dante’s 'Inferno,' not only because it’s the first time this year students have been engaged in reading and participated in discussion, but it teaches important themes, helps preserve the legacies of the kids who died, and it is important to expose high school students to heavy themes that can be controversial.” —Olivia, 10th grade
5. It helps kids our age talk about situations that we wouldn't normally talk about.
"Yes, I think 'Columbine' should be taught in schools because it sheds light to a topic that otherwise isn't discussed among our age group. Although it's a rarity for a school to be shot-up, it does happen and deserves to be talked about. Reading a book like 'Columbine' is no different than reading a book such as 'To Kill A Mockingbird.' They both shine a light on subjects that are otherwise not discussed." — Caroline, 10th grade
All my peers thought that teaching this book at a school is appropriate, even if it may be a touchy subject. I can definitely see their side, and now that I have finished it, I believe that is appropriate overall. But, I also think at times it is not appropriate for school.
In the worst case scenario, students could take ideas and perform the same things as the killers in this shooting. Yes, I know it is one-in-a-million chance, but it could still happen. This book has very explicit details of plans that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold used for the shooting, and we may never know what other students think about this book and what they may use it for. Yes, it is a part of our history, but sometimes events like this can scare students because of how real this may be and how even if the chances are slim, you never know what could happen.
There are still parts of me that want to lean closer to one way and other parts that make me want to lean the other way, but it is honestly based on personal opinion and their own experiences.