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Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings Paperback – Bargain Price, May 4, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the rarity of school shootings, a point carefully reiterated by the authors-anthropologist Newman (No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City) and four students in a doctoral program she directs at Harvard University-it continues to be a topic that both repels and fascinates. Through an in-depth study of two pre-Columbine shootings, one at Heath High School in Kentucky, the other at Westside Middle School in Arkansas, the authors attempt to answer two troubling questions: "How could these low-crime, family-centered, white communities have spawned such murderous violence? How did these particular families, known and respected by neighbors, teachers and preachers, produce rampage killers?" Because the book grew out of research the five contributed to a congressionally mandated study, the authors had extraordinary access to residents in both communities and are donating their royalties to the two schools. They interviewed 163 people whose lives were touched by the violent acts of 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson, who shot four students and one teacher at Westside, and 14-year-old Michael Carneal, who killed three students at Heath. Although many of the factors the authors address (e.g., bullying, media images of masculinity, teenage depression, access to guns) have already received extensive coverage, the authors' sociological approach highlights how these problems can ignite in a young child given suitable circumstances. Unfortunately, the book is marred by repetition and excessive charts, tables and footnotes; at times, it reads more like a joint doctoral dissertation than a study aimed at parents and school administrators. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Newman, Harvard professor and author of several books on urban issues, spent two years researching the eruption of violence in recent years in suburban America. She focuses on Heath, Kentucky, and Westside, Arkansas, about three years after those small towns suffered the widely publicized ordeals of shooting rampages at local high schools. Newman draws on interviews with 163 people in both communities, including friends and families of the victims and shooters, students at the schools, teachers, lawyers, reporters, and psychologists. Laws protecting juveniles precluded interviews with the shooters (aged 11 to 14 at the time of the shootings), although Newman includes an epilogue detailing their lives since conviction and incarceration. She also examines studies of similar rampage shootings in the last 30 years and offers theories about what pushes youth into such violence. Detailed research includes a social pyramid of one of the schools, a paper written by one of the shooters, and a table recalling conversations between students before the shooting. This is a heavily researched but highly accessible look at a troubling social issue. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Pbk. Ed edition (May 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465051049
  • ASIN: B000PUAHPI
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,917,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barbara Williams on April 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a pretty remarkable book. It is quite scholarly in nature, but gripping and accessible reading. As a teacher in a secondary school, I found it fascinating because it belies many of the popular misconceptions about schools and school shootings. It studies the students themselves, the school climates, the social pressures and situations, and the role of the family. I found myself nodding at various points and reading it aloud to whoever was in range. I have asked that it be ordered for our district's professional library. It's pertinent for any educator, but also for parents and concerned community members. It doesn't make me afraid, but it has made me reconsider some of the things I have taken for granted and it makes me more aware of student behavior and concerns. Above all it speaks to our need to better communicate within the school, and between the school and the family.
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Research like this is useful for anyone who wants to understand the Virginia Tech tragedy. School shooters such as Cho Seung-Hui are not born raging to kill. They are molded through abuse. Cho is a textbook example of the type of school shooter featured in these in-depth case studies - shy, socially awkward, and tormented by high school classmates.

The social climates at the high schools attended by school shooters are typically vicious and hateful, with rampant sexual harassment of girls and women and antigay harassment of less dominant boys.

At Columbine High School, the most famous school shooting site studied in this book, jocks reigned supreme. The state wrestling champion, the leader of a clique of athlete bullies and the symbol of injustice for school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, was allowed to park his $100,000 Hummer all day in a 15-minute parking space. The school indulged athletes' rampant sexual and racial bullying and physical abuse of others, including Harris and Kleboldand were given free license to abuse others. A coach did nothing when the athletes targeted a Jewish boy in gym class, singing songs about Hitler when he made a basket, pinning him to the ground and doing "body twisters" that left him bruised all over, and threatening to set him on fire.

Many of the school shooters featured in this book endured antigay harassment that contributed to their rage. Barry Loukaitis, who killed a teacher and two students in Washington state, was taunted by school jocks as a "faggot." Luke Woodham in Mississippi, who killed two students and wounded seven others, was often called "gay" by classmates. Michael Carneal, who killed three fellow students and wounded five in Kentucky, was labeled as "gay" in the school newspaper.
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Format: Hardcover
With the thwarting of yet another rampage shooting making headlines in Massachusetts, and one that allegedly involves the son of a chief of police, the relevance of Katherine Newman's study has been dramatically underlined. I read the book as the parent of teenagers and found it both chilling and informative. Chilling because it appears that the discovery of such plots is still often fortuitous. The excellent analysis of why these shootings occur gives no easy reassurance but does offer some help for us to understand and, hopefully, points to some ways in which we can help abort other shootings. "Rampage" is informative because the authors study not just what led to the news headlines but include an examination of how the communities coped in the aftermath of the tragedies. The book is easily accessible to non-sociologists without being sensationalist in tone. I hope it is being read by many educators and parents.
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I really enjoyed this book because my background educationally and occupationally deals with the mental health community. Thus I am all to aware of the social roots behind a lot of social maladies as it is thrust in my face on a daily basis. That being said, this book may not appeal to those looking for a quick, easy read like you'd get in People magazine. It offers not easy answers, and it is low on sensational details. It is more academic in nature than entertainment. Fact is violence of this nature is a complex issue affecting so many people directly and indirectly which this book labors to illustrate. The best writers show you what they mean rather than merely telling you, and this book meets that requirement. It demonstrates through interviews and statistical data just how these incidents came about and helps us understand how we can apply real world, community based solutions to help prevent future incidents. It does not go for easy scapegoats and adheres to no political agenda as far as I can see which makes it a worthwhile read for anyone truly interested enough to take the time to digest the facts.
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Katherine Newman offers one of the more complete and well-contextualized analyses of school rampage shootings, but focuses almost exclusively on two instances, ignores college campus shootings, and seems to suffer from confirmation bias on the exclusively male perpetration of such events.

The 1997 Heath (KY) High School and 1998 Westside (AR) Middle School shootings, on which the book is mostly based, offer fascinating and important insights into the role that small, tight-knit (and Christian) communities play in enabling the elements that contribute to rampage events. Newman also offers a valuable analysis of the often toxic adolescent social structure that is common to most school environments, with bullying and teasing as frequent a part of teen life as is bragging about getting even to prove one's status - which leads to both being typically ignored.

But the narrowness of focus on a limited number and variety of school shooting events may allow too easy conclusions to obscure the complexity of forces, motives and goals that are found in the whole constellation of campus-based mass killings, let alone other public forms of what Johnathan Fast calls "ceremonial violence" (such as likely just occurred at Fort Hood, TX).

For one, though firearms are by far the most common weapon used by school rampage killers, Newman limits her scope to gun-related events. As noted, she completely ignores college events.
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