The Controversy of Rachel's Challenge

At school we had an assembly about Rachel's Challenge. It is a program that carries out the greatest wish of a victim of the Columbine shooting. Rachel Joy Scott wanted everyone to treat each other with love and start a chain reaction of kindness. Her role models included Anne Frank and MLK Junior. Rachel was widely known for being compassionate towards people, especially the disabled, new kids, and the bullied. The presentation goes on to detail her friends' and family member's recollections of Rachel, with the regular slew of emotional music and reiterated quotes for emphasis. It ends by imploring the audience to accept Rachel's challenge and its five key tenements.

I could jump into the Mine of Controversy by talking about how America's worst shooting pales in comparison to some third-world countries, or how the lack of gun control in my country explains the amount of gun violence in America compared to so many other nations with stricter gun control. But I won't go there, because I want to talk about Rachel and the presentation itself.

Rachel's morals and code of ethics are basically my own - be the same color no matter the environment, be a good person so that if you die right after people will remember you positively, et cetera. I just don't keep my ethics in a diary or write letters to people containing such nuggets of wisdom. The thing with Rachel is that she actively embodied her own beliefs, rather than just preaching them. Her activism warrants high praise and is a rare thing in this world.

Rachel wrote down her morals and goals, which is why her family can quote them for Rachel's Challenge. That just shows that writing has enormous power to spread ideas and promote change. I was a little jealous that Rachel kept such detailed records of her day-to-day values and beliefs, because it allowed people to use them to spread her reputation after her death. With whatever conditions and possible exaggerations they tack on to get their points across. We don't know how accurate the presentation's depiction of Rachel is, but we can assume it is fairly accurate given that her family was heavily involved.

A problem some people have with the presentation is Rachel's inexplicable precognition. Rachel apparently knew she was going to die young, and that her goals would change the world. Both predictions came true. I do not find her precognitions ludicrous at all - some people just know things before others do, it's called Introverted Intuition if you're into Myers-Briggs typology. I have evidence that Rachel Scott was an INFJ, or more probably an ENFJ. Or, if Rachel did not have Introverted Intuition as a strong function, perhaps she was just a good guesser. Some people predict their own deaths. That doesn't mean that they know they will die at a certain age, but it could.
This phenomenon is probably unexplainable, but things like this do happen. Unexplainable things, like Rasputin's healing ability that nobody can fathom how it happened - but it definitely did happen, that much is undeniable. There are things nobody knows. My problem with including the dream coincidence is that it adds nothing to the overall message of the presentation. Adding such "spooky" elements only adds to the mystical, spiritual tone the presentation tries to frighten people with. I don't appreciate such scare tactics.

Continuing in the matter of controversy, a major issue people have with Rachel's Challenge is that it uses someone's death as a tool to promote change. While that method is particularly effective, it overshadows the significance of the other fourteen people who died. Rachel's Challenge also exploits the societal attitude that one should not speak ill of the dead, and so Rachel's virtues have a tendency to be more respected and believed than they probably would be if Rachel was still alive.

And who knows what Rachel was actually like in real life? Perhaps she was an old soul in a new body. It's likely that she wrote the words of wisdom quoted in Rachel's Challenge. But it's important to remember that a presentation is designed to have maximum impact. The amount that the presentation reiterated on its key quotes and qualities about Rachel made me doubt how much evidence the entire argument had. For example, the presentation mainly focused on Rachel's benevolence and wisdom, and conveniently omitted any negative qualities. While that portrayal is expected in such an argument, it calls into question the actual motives and personality of Rachel Scott. Would she actually have wanted a bunch of people touring schools, preaching about kindness and compassion? Would Rachel have minded that people use her as almost a martyr for love? We do not know.

Rachel's Challenge uses mainly ethos (persuasion using important figures or events) and pathos (emotional persuasion) as its weapons of choice. In my opinion there is less logos (logical persuasion) involved because the message Rachel's Challenge conveys is based in pure emotion: to be kind to people and live like it's your last day on Earth. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that ethic, the presentation needs some serious logos if I am to be won over.


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