Have you ever been terrified? Not just scared, but afraid to close your eyes at night in fear of what nightmares your subconscious will throw up on you. And then, even more afraid to wake up in the morning because you don’t know what reality you’ll be brought into.
I didn’t. That’s for sure. I grew up in a sheltered home in the middle of suburban Washington without a care in the world. My biggest worry was whether or not I was going to get to school on time. So when I came to college it was a shock to me to be put into an environment where everyone was so different yet bonded by the fact that we all went to Santa Clara University. Obviously it was difficult for me to adjust. So when I showed up for Nicholas Leither’s CTW class on the first day of classes, I was expecting more shock and less understanding. This belief was only furthered when Nick showed up 30 minutes late.
On the first day, surrounded by 16 students that lived in the same building as me, I felt camaraderie. I wanted to be a part of this group. Therefore I took it upon myself to be as involved as I was capable of and to really learn from this class. That being said, Nick made it very easy for me to accomplish my goal. There were two main themes that were introduced in this two-quarter class. The first was “Food Porn”: the study of food and how ignorant can lead to people making decisions that can completely destroy the lives of others and of animals. The second was “Re(Search)”: the study of “the violent intersections between humans, animals, machines, and culture through food, agriculture, hunting, entertainment, war, and philosophy”. Throughout the two quarters of Nick’s teaching, he was always encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones and to find connections between the two themes of the class. Therefore, my new mindset was born. I was compelled to study the mindsets that people have and look out how ignorance affects a mass group of people.
Throughout the year, we worked on many projects that allowed me to try and comprehend the mindset of the majority. One of the first essays that I wrote for the class was looking at how adolescents eating in front of television led to unhealthy eating habits. I was first intrigued by this topic when I visited my aunt and uncle’s home during the school year, and I found that the kids would always eat in front of the television. They would return from school around 2 in the afternoon, raid the pantry, and flip on their favorite afterschool special. In a recent study, “adolescents who watched over two hours of television a day consumed more high-calorie snacks” (Rocketto). This was very apparent with my cousins. The children would reach out for snacks like Cheetos or popsicles instead of the fresh apples or carrots that I set out for them. There are chemical responses that also prove that the children were overeating these unhealthier choices in regards to eating. When they were consumed by the televisions, the kids would eat much faster than they normally would. An average human being takes about 20 minutes from the start of eating in order to send out signals of fullness (Zelman).
Obviously I was concerned. I didn’t want my younger cousins to grow up and find themselves facing health problems. I did some research and found mountains of data that proved that eating in front of the television was not beneficial to a child’s development. It could lead to the creation of bad habits and manners. Very often, when children are taught to do something, the habit sticks with them as they transition to adulthood. For example, a child that is taught that they should brush their teeth twice daily is much more likely to maintain the good habit in the future compared to a child that is casually reminded to practice this habit. Eating in front of the television can also lead to increased consumerism. About “37% of television ads and hundreds of shows dedicate their content to food” (Rocketto). This was apparent with my cousins. The mindless mantra of the big corporations that they heard on the television earlier would get stuck in their little heads, causing them to become familiar with the company’s products. In the grocery store they would look for the brands that they knew, instead of healthier or less expensive foods. The kids would easily recognize the bright packaging of unhealthy foods, like frozen tater tots, and would throw a fit when we did not purchase them. We would often see the classic “kid having a meltdown” when the name brands of foods were not bought. The children were also intrigues by the “prize” aspect of cereals and other foods and felt motivated to purchase them. There was an entire shelf devoted to the different toys in their home. These toys were often associated with the television characters that they had developed attachments to. The kids felt obligated to buy the foods just so they could receive the toy. They would not become upset if they received multiple of one but still felt compelled to continue buying more.
I concluded this paper by addressing how small actions always lead to bigger impacts. Whether it’s a simple habit formation of being distracted during dinner or not getting his/her first job because of eating messily in a lunch interview, the risks far outweigh the benefits of snacking while watching the television. I implored that my readers would find a way to turn off the TV and talk to their families.
After writing this paper was the first time that I felt fear from this class. See, to me, I was never afraid of turning on Netflix while I ate my dinner. Even today, I confess, I turned on a show while I had my lunch. Therefore, to find all this information that showed how truly horrific eating in front of the TV could be scared me. I wanted to continue in my ignorance and be happy.
After writing a paper on sustainability at Santa Clara University (SCU), a group paper on animal culture, and another paper on MyPlate, I decided to steer away from food a little bit and address the other theme of the course. Most of Spring Quarter, we have been talking about the novel Columbine. For those of you who do not know it, Columbine is a novel about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Dylan and Eric were the two high school seniors that committed the Columbine High School massacre. They killed 13 people and injured 24 others, along with committing suicide. The more we talked about the novel and school shootings in general, the more I was called back to my time working on the BullyPatrol. The BullyPatrol was a club started in my school to address any issues that a student did not feel comfortable talking to an adult about.
I started having dreams about school shootings and began to research them more, in an attempt to understand the people who committed these acts of violence. Thus was born my essay. After doing lots of research I found that school shooters are merely trying to regain control of their lives in a world tells them that they should be afraid and that they are insignificant in the overall scheme of things.
Throughout this essay, I weaved in the narrative of Jenny, a girl who I met on the BullyPatrol. She tried to commit suicide and her story really showed a person example of what it was that truly caused her to try and take her own life. I found that it was because she felt insignificant and out of control with her life. Therefore, I felt that she was a true parallel for the mindset of the many school shooters. After studying many cases of school shootings and looking at the statistics, I reached many conclusions.
First of all, many White Americans assume that school shooters are more likely to commit the egregious acts based off their race and the stereotypes that have been previously inflicted on them. In a study analyzing In-Group Bias done by two University professors, “people [were] arbitrarily divided into generic groups based on trivial criteria…[and] tend[ed] to favor their own group” (Chatman). However, the majority of school shootings are completed by privileged white males, not the racial minorities that are often suspected is often disregarded or unknown. Recent studies reveal that, “most school shooters are White males, with 97 percent being male and 79 percent White” (Xie).
Second, I studied many different cases of school shooting. I looked at Jaylen Fryberg, who committed the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Shooting, and killed some of his closest friends in an attempt to regain control of his spiraling life in which his mother had suffered trauma and he was a victim of bullying and depression. I also looked at Eric and Dylan and how the role of ‘collective responsibility’ played a part in their actions. I found that collective responsibility is the concept that not one (or in this case, two) person is responsible for an act. In the first of the two studies that were completed by multiple psychology professors looked at different “perceptions of a target group’s entitativity predicted judgments of collective responsibility” (Lickel). This translates to the understanding that Eric and Dylan were not entirely to blame for the massacre. The second study that was completed “tested perceptions of collective responsibility across a range of groups” and found that “perceptions of authority predicted judgments of collective responsibility for the Columbine shootings and was mediated by inferences of omission” (Lickel). The general public believes that collective responsibility is apparent in the Columbine Massacre.
Finally, I found that overall, the world teaches children, from a young age, that they need to be fearful. Imagine your childhood. The first lesson that most parents teach their children before sending them out into the world by themselves is to: ‘never talk to strangers’. Although this is a healthy lesson that teaches children that they should not be open to everything that others say and do, there is a deeper lesson that children can decipher. Society instills fear into itself and associates power with the ability to be harmful.
Therefore, I left my audience asking whether or not this fear is justified. The fear that is held in society has taken hold of lives across the country and caused people to take part in all sorts of harmful acts, such as genocide and animal cruelty. Countless children’s lives have lost their lives and taken the lives of others. School shootings are becoming more and more common in America. The UCLA shooting was committed by a student who felt as though he was being discriminated against by his teacher. America needs to change its viewpoint of how it looks at people that are different from themselves. It also needs to learn that self-worth is not determined by an individual’s social standing. Finally, it needs to start teaching its children about healthier ways to get these feelings out of their beings, such as communicating with those who hurt them and working harder.
Through this essay, I was able to conquer the fear that had once possessed me. I was no longer dreaming about school shootings, no longer uncomfortable to approach the topic. The knowledge that I had made me feel stronger and more willing to look into the future and help find a solution for the issues that are apparent in society. It has compelled me to work towards a better future for America. That is why, this summer, I will be working with children at a summer camp back in suburban Washington, where I hope that I can open the doors for the kids and help them out of their shells. Through my work, I hope that I can make a difference and affect the children’s lives in a positive manner.
Chatman, Celina M., and William Von Hippel. “Attributional Mediation of In-Group Bias.” Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology 37.3 (2001): 267-72. Web. 24 May 2016.
Leither, Nicholas. “(Re)Search.” Camino. Santa Clara University, n.d. Web. 7 June 2016.
Lickel, B., T. Schmader, and D. L. Hamilton. “A Case of Collective Responsibility: Who Else Was to
Blame for the Columbine High School Shootings?” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 29.2 (2003): 194-204. Web. 24 May 2016.
Rocketto, Leah. “Does Eating In Front Of A TV Make You Eat Worse?” Greatist. 17 June 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
Xie, Tiffany. “Mass Shooters Have A Gender and a Race.” Political Research Associates. 19 Jan. 2014.
Web. 24 May 2016.
Zelman, Kathleen M. “Slow Down, You Eat Too Fast.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.