Grace attended James Madison University has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school social studies in several states around the country.
The Columbine High School Shooting
On April 20, 1999, the United States was rocked by the shooting that took place at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. In the non-fiction book, Columbine, journalist, Dave Cullen, looks at the events leading up to that day, the actual shooting and the aftermath. This book is written for older students. Use these questions in your upper high school or post-secondary classroom as a spring board for discussions on gun control, mental health issues, and more.
As a side note, there may be scenes discussed in this book that are graphic and upsetting to students. Be sure to have a discussion with students prior to reading the book about what they will encounter.
General Columbine Questions
- What is your personal account of Columbine? Do you remember where you were or what your first thoughts were when you heard about the shooting?
- Think about the characters you ''meet'' in the book. Who stood out to you the most? Of all the characters, which one had the greatest chance of changing the events that happened on April 20?
- What is your impression of Eric and Dylan as their characters develop throughout the book? Does this change the way you view the Columbine shooting?
- Today, all Americans would agree that school shootings are far too common. However, people are very split on what a solution to this problem is. With your knowledge of school shootings and the detailed information in this book, what do you think the answer to the problem is? Could you see legislation being passed that would promote this?
Reporting and Writing Style Questions
- The narrative Cullen writes has been noted by experts as being different from the way many others have written about the Columbine shooting. How did this book challenge what you knew about Columbine and your perception of the shooters? What new information did you learn in this book? What piece of new information stood out to you the most?
- When recounting the attack, Cullen pulls quotes from what Eric and Dylan (the shooters) said the day of the attack. At one point, Eric says, ''I declared war on the human race and war is what it is.'' Cullen continues that he ''apologized to his mom. 'I really am sorry about this, but war's war.' '' In using this quote and analysis, Cullen drives home the point that Eric and Dylan planned to die in the shooting and that they intended for the bombs to go off and kill the entire school. Did you know this? What do you think about the fact that Eric apologizes to his mom in the middle of the killings?
- Since the novel was written 10 years after the shooting, Cullen is able to compare the Columbine shooting to other school shootings in the country. As a reporter, one problem that Cullen has with the press is the way that they ''award'' shooters with titles. For example, after the shooting at Virginia Tech, they said that Seung-Hui Cho has made a ''new American record'' in the number of people he killed. To someone with a mental illness that would lead them to an overt act of violence, this might be a title of glory they work to attain. What do you think of Cullen's analysis of the way the press treats the shootings and shooters? How should things be handled differently?
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