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 The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold

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PostSubject: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeThu Jul 11, 2013 8:07 am

Okay, this is a piece about Dylan I originally posted on my Tumblr a few days ago. (Its companion piece, about Eric, went up last night. I'll post that one later on, if anyone wants to see it? Gave me a lot more grief to write than this one did, for sure.) In this piece, I have attempted to reinterpret Dylan's character acting solely on the premise that he may have been a 'gifted child'. I hope that some of it will be valuable!


The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold

“Dylan attended Normandy Elementary School in Littleton, Colorado, for first and second grade and then transferred to Governor’s Ranch Elementary School where he was part of the CHIPS (Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students) program for gifted and talented children.”

This statement is probably something we have all read before in at least one article, one interview, one story about Columbine and Dylan Klebold. The CHIPS program, as far as we now understand it, was a program you would need to be ‘pretty gifted’ for. AColumbineSite states that “it’s a safe bet that Dylan was extremely intelligent". All sources, even one (Dave Cullen) whose interpretation of the case is not always very sound, report his ‘brilliant’ mind as a standard fact. These are all statements that have intrigued me in the past. Right now, I feel it is finally time to take a closer look at what this means in terms of how we see Dylan and in how this has possibly affected the events of Columbine as a whole.

First, of course, we must determine what being gifted means. Being gifted used to be equated with having a high IQ, but later research indicates that being gifted should be defined in terms of multiple qualities. Not all of these qualities are intellectual in origin and may include things like motivation, creativity and a high self-concept. This broadening of the concept means that the sole reliance on the IQ-test as a means with which to determine giftedness and high intelligence has lessened over the years. (The current range of IQ-tests are ‘snapshots’ of a part of a person’s intelligence. If you have a bad day, suffer from depression, don’t make a connection with the person testing you, aren’t on the top of your game for whatever other reason.. there is a very high chance that your test results will be significantly lower than they may have been in the past or might be in the future. Furthermore, a large difference between the verbal and performance parts of the test may be an indicator of specific learning disabilities and/or of very high intelligence. As you can probably see, the test itself will not provide the full picture of how bright an individual truly is. It can be an indicator, sure, but there are a lot of other signs to look for in determining a person’s brightness!)

A researcher called Renzulli conceptualised three components of gifted behaviour that has since become one of the standard definitions. Gifted behaviour consists of behaviours that reflect an interaction among three clusters of human traits: above average ability, high levels of task commitment, and high levels of creativity. (Creativity, in this respect, is not just artistic creativity. It is also the ability to solve problems in unconventional ways, thinking about alternatives to reality through the thought process “if only", etc.) Being gifted in one specific area of intellectual development (say, language) does not always make you gifted in other intellectual areas (math, for instance). It is possible that there are numerous types of giftedness with their own unique features, but the definition Renzulli used is a recurring one that captures the multi-aspected nature of giftedness quite well. Gifted individuals overall also tend to demonstrate high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, a large vocabulary, excellent memory, and the mastery of actions with very few repetitions. Many gifted individuals are physically/emotionally sensitive and perfectionistic. They may have developed a habit of questioning authority.

Another very important aspect of giftedness is development. Gifted individuals tend to develop earlier than their peers in, well, virtually anything. They may speak their first word far earlier, be able to string coherent sentences together when their peers are still in the earlier developmental stages of language, learn to walk without ever having crawled, learn to recognise numbers and colours earlier than most of their peers, etc. This means that there is often a developmental ‘gap’ between gifted children and their peers that is not easily overcome. Some gifted children have definite problems when it comes to communicating with or relating to their peers because of the differences in things like vocabulary size, personality, interests, motivation, sense of humour, and thought processes. Many of these gifted children will attempt to downplay their own abilities, even going to the point of operating and visibly learning below their actual intellectual capacities. (One researcher I personally know always said that “it takes a very, very intelligent person to be able to have everybody fooled about their intellectual capacities".) These gifted children may get bored with school to the point where they become a statistic in the land of school drop-outs.

If Dylan Klebold truly was a gifted child (which, of course, we cannot know entirely for sure), it would stand to reason that his giftedness directly affected all aspects of his personality and his actions. Various sources cite his transition from Governor’s Ranch Elementary, where he was enrolled in the CHIPS program, to Ken Caryl Middle School as quite difficult. One component of this, which is most often named, was Dylan’s ‘painful’ shyness. However, there may also be another component that came into play. The CHIPS program was meant to be an intellectual stimulant to the children enrolled in the program. Brooks Brown states in No Easy Answers that the program was subjected to standard small-town politics. Intelligent – possibly even gifted — children got into the program, sure, but there were also children whose parents simply wanted to see them in such a program. And here, at elementary school, arises the first problem.

Gifted children who are provided with sufficient intellectual stimulation and the company of other gifted peers, as should have provided by the CHIPS program in the case of Dylan, will visibly ‘blossom’ in their overall way of being. Taking that particular stimulus out of the equation and dropping them back into a regular classroom, where they have the pressure to conform both their intelligence and their personality in order to fit in with the rest of their peers, will prove to be very problematic and often drives them firmly back into their shells. With the addition of children added to the CHIPS program through no merit of their own, the safe environment for a gifted child to blossom in was taken away again. There would be a huge possibility of miscommunication between the gifted and the other children through the developmental gap they could not possibly bridge on their own. Brooks Brown also states that Dylan and he got their first taste of bullying in the playground of Governor’s Ranch where other kids picked on them for being part of the “smart kids" program.

This particular type of bullying is something that every gifted child faces in many different aspects. Gifted children learn, from a very young age onward, that it is not good to stand out from the crowd in any way. (In my country, there is a saying that roughly translates as “don’t raise your head above the corn in the field". This is precisely the type of well-meant advice that is always given to anyone who stands apart from all the rest.) Even at elementary school, Dylan learned that the only way to fit in was to conform. To give up a part of yourself. If he was to have any peace at all, he would have to try to relate to a group that did not relate back to him.

Ken Caryl was no different in its expectations. Of course, Columbine wasn’t a whole lot better in that department either. By the time his transition to Columbine rolled around, Dylan must have been pretty used to the fact that he could not fully relate to most of his peers – and vice versa. There is a large chance that he may not have even tried to truly connect with any new faces at Columbine due to his growing desillusionment with other people his age. It may also explain why any testimonies about him are so diverse: quiet and rather shy may have been his general nature, but the occasional violent/angry streak some have reported may be the direct result of the ongoing desillusionment with his peers that I believe he went through. The desillusionment began during elementary school and would remain with him until that fateful day on 4/20/99. At some point down the line, I suspect he no longer cared about how he treated some people around him or what they thought of him in turn. It is likely that Dylan assumed that they would pass judgment about him either way, thus choosing in his later years at Columbine to act out in both school and his workplace.

It is very common for gifted children to not respond well to the pressure to conform to whatever expectations are laid on them. About one half of these gifted children will conform themselves to these expectations to the point where they no longer show their talent, intelligence and capabilities. They become the notorious underachievers: they will do whatever it takes to not stand out from a crowd. Many of them don’t finish their schooling when their behaviour is not caught in time. The other half will simply choose to kick back in any way they can. They will be disruptive in a classroom, often acting out and directly challenging any authority being laid upon them, and often adopt a certain “class clown" persona with which to mask their true intelligence. This is particularly the case when no academic challenges are offered with which to redirect their energies.

In Dylan’s case, a strong argument can be made in favour of underachievement. Dylan had the brains to get top-notch grades. He had the intelligence with which he could have applied himself to any given study and been successful. It is often noted in the same resources citing him as ‘brilliant’ that Dylan had a particular gift for math and technology. However, Dylan did not apply himself. He did the work he needed to do in order to pass a class, sure, but it was nowhere near the level it could be. The gifted child who’d once shown off his talents now only existed inside Dylan himself: he never chose to let that bright child out again in public. Throughout the years, this underachievement became a pattern. The pattern grew into anti-authority, anti-system even, and Columbine soon became everything that pattern rebelled against. The final act of rebellion was exhilirating, cathartic, liberating for one reason only: it was the true destruction of the self Dylan had felt forced to cultivate all those years.

It is not likely that Dylan himself ever was fully aware of this pattern and its ramifications. He had other things on his mind than how he progressed from elementary school to high school. Dylan was in pain. It was a type of existential pain that he would struggle with right until the very last day of his life. By the time of 1997, Dylan turned to documenting this pain in the journal he would keep until his death in 1999. The preface he wrote for this journal is very telling: "Fact: people are so unaware.. well, ignorance is bliss I guess.. that would explain my depression”. Dylan was perfectly aware that he was going through something big, here, but was so accustomed to solving his own problems that the act of reaching out for help became an insurmountable obstacle. His mother, in her essay for Oprah, writes that she believes that “Dylan did not want to talk about his thoughts because he was ashamed of having them". She states that she believes that “it frightened Dylan to encounter something he could not manage, since he had always taken pride in his self-reliance". It is very likely that this fear, and this self-reliant attitude, is what pushed him into self-medicating with alcohol and St John’s Wort.

Among the gifted, quite a few suffer from what is commonly referred to as ‘existential dread’. The fear of existence. The fear that this Earth is all there is, perhaps, and that this life is the only chance we get. It is a fear that runs so deep that it becomes second nature after a while. It roots itself firmly into someone’s entire line of being. It is most prevalent in gifted adolescents, like Dylan, whose desillusionment with the world is at an all-time high and whose view on the world is darker than the view of many of their peers. They see it all, know it all, hear it all.. the world’s problems served on a silver platter to an already hurt mind.. but the solutions locked inside the same mind do not come to the foreground. The gifted young have no clue on how to empower themselves enough to be able to change the patterns society carved out for them. With no one around to bounce ideas and thoughts off of, the existential dread may lead to suicide rather than to deeper quests inside the mind. When left unchecked, existential dread has the capacity to evolve into something even more dangerous: elevation above Earth. It is related to something that is referred to in New Age-minded environments as “awakening", in which the individual can see himself as more than just his body and as having a set ‘divine purpose’ in life, but the kind of elevation brought on by existential dread is far more nihilistic in its mindset.

Dylan cites various ideologies from different sets of spirituality and religious life in his journal. Some were fleeting mentions, whereas others were stronger ideals he tried to hold onto in his moments of existential doubt. His journal formed, perhaps, the only place where Dylan could simply be that bright but damaged young man he hid from the rest of the world. His writing is muddled with the shadows of depression, often turning self-deprecating and self-loathing in the process, and is often fragmentarised in nature. It reads as a stream of consciousness flowing out onto the page: there is little care for how coherent his thoughts may or may not sound. Even the romantic prose, including the loveletter he never gave to its intended recipient, dissolves into a rambling summary of why the enigmatic ‘she’ would never love him or want to be around him. Dylan fills in the blanks for everyone and assumes the worst, even in the safe environment of his own journal. It is a true testimony to the damage he suffered from the pressure to be someone other than himself. His depression may be partially rooted in the strain to be ‘normal’ and the need to adapt his thoughts and emotional responses constantly to the expectations of his peers.

Dylan knew he did not fit in well. However many friends he may have had on the surface, Dylan felt wholly alone. His journal, at a second glance, reads as an exercise in the perfect dichotomy of the truly gifted but damaged mind: the godlike pedestal and the omega of the pack are both equally and simultaneously present in his writing. Dylan places himself above humanity in one breath and throws himself under the bus the next. He seems to hold himself at fault for not getting the attention and affection he always wanted to have, but also has moments in which he blames society for not being on his level of intelligence and for not being able to find common ground with him. Fragments of his writing show deeper, almost philosophical, thoughts that would have blossomed in a welcoming environment. The boy who had once enrolled in the CHIPS program was still there, barely, hanging on for dear life trying to make sense of the confusion and the pain that had befallen him ever since those early years at Governor’s Ranch.

That little gifted boy, stuck in the now tall and gangly body of a teenager, eventually found a ‘home’ within the one person whose tale would become interwoven with his: Eric Harris. Eric, by all accounts, was a smart guy. His school grades were excellent across the board and continued to be so right until the morning of 4/20/99. It is unclear how intelligent Eric truly was, but he certainly clicked with Dylan on a level very few ever manage to achieve and uphold. Eric was a lot more careful in gauging what he could get away with than Dylan ever was. Dylan had the certain “devil may care"-attitude, carefully honed over the years of being an outcast, whereas Eric tried to maintain a carefully cultivated image of the unflappable liar. Dylan’s rage now came out in short bursts, fueled by his inability to manage everything he was feeling, and was just as quickly taken back into the reigns of control as it had erupted in the first place. Eric’s rage, in comparison, was a near-constant stream bubbling just below the surface of a smile. Eric had learned the value of patience and tight control over the years; Dylan was a lot more erratic and silent in his anger with the tendency to simply ‘erupt’.

In a way, it was like they both never left their childhood behind. Eric yearned for the lost years of his childhood, spent roaming around woodlands he would never get to see again, and never adjusted to the continuous uprooting that marked the years of his life. Eric may have put on a brave face and boasted about his superiority in both written word and on screen, but at the same time he was still that little boy who was always ‘the new face’ in a crowd of children and whose sense of devastating loss was strong enough to make his tight control slip just a little. Dylan had grown up in Littleton, but learned very quickly that there was no actual place reserved for him there. He had been pushed away and let himself be pushed away. Dylan yearned for a new existence that he believed he could only find in death. The romantic love he had written about would never be his in this lifetime, but his anger and disdain for the rest of the human race found a likeminded soul whose name would forever be intertwined with his own. Both boys were children still when they took up arms on 4/20/99. They would never allow themselves to grow beyond those years.

Alone, they may have been left floundering throughout life. Together, they were perfect. Dylan held all the fragments to ‘NBK’ tightly in his hands: the initial masscre plans, the need to break and defeat the system by which he had been held captive, the hatred of humanity brought on by a lifetime of mutual misunderstanding, and the vehement self-loathing that would eventually be his end. Eric was the glue that pulled the fragments together: the tight-knit and almost waterproof meticulous planning, the drive to make the initial destruction bigger, the endless biting frustration and the disdain for the human race, and the almost invisible self-loathing that seeped through the cracks of his being until everything finally came undone. When their moment finally arrived, they took it together. There was a level of blind trust between them that could only have come from a mutual understanding that went far deeper than that of any leader-follower scenarios. They were in this together – until their very last breath.

Columbine was more than just two angry teenagers taking up arms against their fellow schoolmates. Columbine was never the result of a follower finding a leader and of a leader leading a follower to slaughter. Columbine, instead, was the ultimate symbol of the destruction of the system-created self. “Today is the day I die!" would never again sound so liberating.
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Jaan




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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeThu Jul 11, 2013 9:27 am

Excellent and extensive post.
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeThu Jul 11, 2013 12:12 pm

Thanks so much for writing this and sharing it with us - it was a fantastic read Smile I would personally like to read your analysis of Eric too.
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeThu Jul 11, 2013 4:35 pm

Awesome post!

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Ignorance is bliss!-Dylan Klebold
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeThu Jul 11, 2013 8:59 pm

That was a very interesting analysis. Nice job! I agree with you on pretty much everything. I found myself especially agreeing with you on the aspect of Eric and Dylan hanging onto their childhood or having trouble letting go of it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeFri Jul 12, 2013 8:33 am

Thank you all very much! Smile Glad to hear that this piece resonates with you.
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeSun Nov 10, 2013 10:26 pm

This is a brilliant post!
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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeMon Nov 11, 2013 2:48 am

So very well-written. This deserves more than a tumbler/CM discussion board post. Should be an article hosted on a research website.

I'd love to read the other article on Eric's mind. Did you post it somewhere here, thedragonrampant.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold   The Gifted Mind: Dylan Klebold Icon_minitimeMon Nov 11, 2013 4:49 am

Thank you both so much! Smile

JayJay wrote:
I'd love to read the other article on Eric's mind. Did you post it somewhere here, thedragonrampant.
Yes, I did.. the endless frustration piece at that.. [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]!
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» The Downward Spiral & Dylan's Mind
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