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Comments

Vantalbar

Okay, look at the book, sure. It's a subject that should be addressed. Pick a less insane assignment to do it with!

Katie

Maybe I'm just reading it wrong, but I thought that the teacher wanted the students to put themselves into the character for this assignment.
"The assignment was to be written in first-person, as if students were the character, and students were to include rationale for their suicide"
I would take that to mean they needed to analyze the character and write their version of the character's suicide note in first person, not make a mock suicide note for themselves with their own personal issues.

Nomnom

The article conflicts itself on that point, Katie. It's mostly written as if the student were writing their own suicide note - that's how I interpret the word "personal" here. But then that sentence says they're to write it as if they were the character. I can see how writing the note as if they were the character has merit - you have to analyze the book, etc, and they all should be able to do that. But writing one for yourself is horribly off color (to put it mildly). The unrelated incident of the French middle school teacher (which definitely does sound like writing as yourself and not in-character) muddles the article quite a bit.

jealoussin

I did an assignment like this is English when I was in high school, but it was a little different. It was: "You have died; either suicide, car accident, or illness. If you could write a letter to your loved ones, what would you say?" I agree with Katie that probably it was an assignment to analyze the character and try to connect with them.

Katie

I guess I'm just willing to give the teacher and principal the benefit of the doubt, especially since the headmaster claims he didn't receive any complaints about the nature of the assignment.
The article should be clearer about what the assignment actually was.

Red

The point that absolutely infuriates me is the father's claim of "We pay a lot of money for this school." A) Money doesn't give you the right to control the curriculum - let me see your teaching credential. B) Parents of public school students would have just as much right to be upset about the issue. C) THAT is what you're upset about? The MONEY?? I am livid at that absolute asshat of a father right now.

Becky

I think the better assignment would have been to have the students write about the repercussions of their death: who would be affected and how? What would they miss out in life? Etc.

The Singing Library Clerk

Having been sucidial myself, having as recently as last week struggling to fight the urge to kill myself, living in a family that whines and complains when the doctor has put me on anti-depressants and how "therapy doesn't work" - I actually wish a teacher would've assigned me this in high school. My sucicidal feelings have actually been laughed at by my family. Maybe, just maybe if a teacher had done this for me and read it I would've gotten help. Maybe people would stop saying "if you just excercise you'd stop wanting to kill yourself."

I think in a way it's a good assignment. Maybe this assignment will end up saving a life or two.

The Last Archimedean

I'm a little confused myself, and depending on what actually happened, my opinions would swing significantly.

If the assignment was to put themselves in the role of May and write a note as if they were her and committing suicide, I think it's wonderful and thoughtful; it requires you to really understand the book you've been assigned.

If the assignment had nothing to do with the book and the teacher was asking them to write a suicide note as if they were actually about to off themselves, that is absolutely chilling.

whyexactly

Katie: I was thinking the same thing. Whoever wrote this really needs to clear things up. From the sounds of it, the father misinterpreted the assignment and ran to the press in a panic.

Red: I think the father is implying that since they're paying so much for the education, that he expects better educators. Which of course is crap, but anyways.

Becky: Agreed, that would be a much better assignment (and to me sounds like a way of preventing suicide).

That french teacher on the other hand, is definitely an idiot, provided that what is quoted is exactly what was assigned.

Hellbound Alleee

I think this is just another way that parents who have no idea about literature, or teaching, or life...to complain about something and get attention.

This is a GREAT way to think about all sorts of things. Like death. Anyone who has any training in pedagogy knows that this age is exactly the time that kids start to learn about their own mortality. They need to seriously think about the consequences of suicide, the reality of death, and the very fact that their actions could cause them to not exist...forever.

Children think about a of of things that parents have somehow forgotten that they do. Parents need to seriously wake the fuck up and realize that their children are growing up and need to know things. Because NOT KNOWING THINGS IS NOT FUCKING GOING TO HELP.

I serious;y hate parents. You people become instantly stupid and insane when you give birth. You forget that children are fully formed humans. Not "potential" ones. And they are not attached to you by umbilical cords anymore.

Lee

Yeah, I'm kind of confused to what the assignment was. If it was a "list a bunch of reasons you should kill yourself" then that is beyooooond inappropriate. If you think a kid might be suffering from suicidal thoughts, just fucking TALK to them, an assignment for them to list all the reasons they should die is just going to encourage them to, y'know, die.

But on the flip side, if it's a "put yourself in the character's shoes and imagine why THEY committed suicide" then that's a perfectly reasonable assignment. So perfectly reasonable, in fact, that I kind of doubt it's the case. I can't imagine there would actually be an article about it if there weren't at least some controversy, and I just don't see anyone, anywhere, seeing the controversy in "immerse yourself in this book" in a literature class. (Unless they had an issue with the subject matter itself, but the article didn't mention that at all.)

AngryBadger

Speaking as someone who was diagnosed with chronic depression at age FIVE and has tried to attempt suicide; I don't see that much of a problem with this as a writing assignment, DEPENDING on how it was also handled later.

If it was supposed to be an empathy excersize, then it might actually help them help themselves, or other people with depression. When I get into my downward spirals, nothing makes me feel more depressed and wanting to end it all then stupid platitudes and phrases, because the person saying those obviously knows nothing about me personally, and thinks some generic movie quote or whatever is going to help? Please.

If they had to talk about how the assignment made them feel about the suicide thing, that would be useful too. Studies show that most suicides are actually spur of the moment, and not thought out and planned ahead of time. When they changed from gas to electric stoves in the UK, suicides dropped by a third, and never rose back up. Suicides off the Tacoma Narrows bridge dropped significantly when they put phones every 50 feet and a suicide hot line to call. So I also don't think an assignment would contribute unless they were already planning on doing so, or were that close to the edge anyways.

Also, they never mentioned any other assignments the teacher has given. What if the one before, or after was about hope in a bleak situation? What if this was just part of an emotional gamut the teacher was doing, and oh, no, he just happened to do a negative one?

Again, it all depends on how it was handled, and that information is sorely lacking here. And, again, as someone that has tried to kill themselves, I've seen people with 'good intentions' do a LOT worse damage then this...

Chicajojobe

I think the media is blowing this out of proportion. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that it was a writing exercise to get into the mind of a specific character, not that they were being told to write their own suicide notes.
And that kind of exercise...maybe is a good thing because the taboo is definitely still here.
The Singing Library Clerk is right this is a topic that really cannot be discussed except with people who've been there.
People who haven't don't want to hear about. They either laugh it off, or lash out at you.
This kind of exercise forces the writer to actually like think as someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, rather than writing about what they as outsiders think of people who attempt or commit suicide.

Skittles

Okay I have worked in mental health for the last 8 or so years.

1. Writing a suicide note from any perspective will not make you commit suicide, teenager or not. Frankly that's just not how it fucking works.

2. Making topics like suicide, rape, and abuse taboo topics for discussion makes it harder for people to deal with them.

3. Teenagers are not mentally retarded, sorry folks I know you want to keep kids safe but protecting them from thinking won't fucking do that.

4. The suicide rate in Utah is directly related to Mormonism and it's intolerance of homosexuality. So intolerant that Utah has the highest rate of homeless gay teens in the country because parents literally throw them out.

5. If you suspect someone is in danger of hurting themselves, just ask. Your asking will not cause them to do something they haven't decided to do. Seek help as well even if it's calling the cops find a professional to help them, whatever it takes to save a life is worth it.

6. Hey I get that knowing we all are going to die eventually no matter what, is fucking scary. However you can't take all the sharp edges out of life. That doesn't keep you safe it just makes life fucking boring like flan.

Seriously I've worked with more than one suicidal client and intervened a time or two in other ways. Every life saved is a good thing and every life lost is terrible. However treating suicide like talking about it is going to fucking cause it KILLS MORE PEOPLE THAN IT WILL EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SAVE.

TimmieHoe

I recall doing assignments where I had to think like the character, and this is how I interpreted this assignment in the post. Giving kids the knowledge of how a suicidal person acts and thinks can help prevent more from happening, as they can hopefully see the signs more clear than if they were never taught how suicide works.

Being diagnosed as depressed and having been suicidal, I actually like the idea of teaching kids about it. The only time I was able to get some help via an assignment was after we read The Crucible in gr 10. I don't remember exactly what the assignment was, but I pointed out that I'd like to be with my deceased grandfather more than anything and the teachers assistant sat me down the day after we handed the assignment in. Sometimes the only way for a kid to be noticed as suicidal is through an assignment that can give them the opportunity to speak out.

Sure I don't agree with writing your own suicide note, but I think the teacher wanted them to be the character in the book and write it as if they were her. We need more teachers and school willing to teach kids about it along with empathy and bullying and abuse, we need kids to understand and acknowledge it happens and they can help lessen it.

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