Students asked to write suicide notes as assignment, parents obviously angry

Would you be okay with your 14-year-old being asked to write a suicide note as a school assignment? I ask because young teen students at the expensive private school York Preparatory School in Manhattan were asked to do just that. The English class homework was assigned by teacher Jessica Barrett and asked students to write a suicide note in the first person from the perspective of a character who kills herself in the best-selling book The Secret Life of Bees.


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Now, I don't think there is anything wrong with children of that age reading a book that deals with suicide or discussing suicide in class, but asking them to write a suicide letter in the first person makes me a little uneasy, especially since parents were not consulted about it beforehand.

Simon Critchley, who is a philosophy professor at The New School university in N.Y.C., recently taught a suicide note-writing workshop for adults and was quoted by the New York Post as saying: "I don't see why this is inappropriate at all. If it is, then suicide is a taboo, and I simply think we have to think rationally about our taboos."

I don't agree. It's one thing to teach a suicide note-writing workshop to adults or to assign it as a creative writing assignment to college students, but I think that giving young teens that assignment is different. Unless someone here wants to tell me that teens and adults are the same thing.

Sheesh, I remember seeing after-school specials when I was a teen that were supposed to warn me against anorexia and instead they got me thinking the lead character was amazing for being able to control herself so much. Or having a romanticized notion of famous people who died at a far too young age. I'm not saying that I was in danger of becoming anorexic or becoming famous just to die at a young age, but I am saying that I processed the information in a totally different way than I do now.

So, no, I wouldn't be okay with my child being asked to write a suicide note at the age of fourteen as part of their English assignment. Just call me old-fashioned.

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Topics: schools  contoversy  education