Thursday, April 14, 2011

LIFE and Death?

The letter L stands for LIFE.

As a writer of YA fiction, I love to observe the young adults around me and their reactions to life ... and death.  This week at school, they are participating in a program entitled: Every 15 Minutes

Parents received warning emails about the program. The email asked us to not talk to our youth beforehand but be prepared to talk to them at the end of each day. It's a two day process. Wednesday, kids were pulled out of class by a grim reaper. Their faces were painted white, and they were not allowed to speak to anyone the rest of the day. They are the walking dead. There was an assembly with a staged car accident (in the middle of the football field) with real students posing as the victims. Police, firefighters, EMTs, and a helicopter were all called in to handle the situation.

My middle child, a 16-yr-old son, was the first to arrive home today. I asked him how the assembly was. He laughed as he told me how cool the car accident was, with victims everywhere. His favorite part was the helicopter. I asked him if he thought it was funny. He said of course it was, because it wasn't real. He said the adults were just trying to scare them, but they all knew it wasn't real. So, it was funny.  I tried to explain to him why it wasn't funny.

My youngest child, a 14-yr-old daughter, arrived home next. I asked her the same questions. She said it felt really weird having the kids called out of class and designated as dead. Then her eyes got wide as she told me that a friend of our family was one of the "victims" today. My son laughed. My daughter scolded him telling him it wasn't funny. That it could really happen. She went on to tell me that the victims didn't get to go home that night. They had to sleep somewhere else.

Then, my daughter had friends come over for a class project. One of the friends is the brother of the "victim." I asked him how that felt. He shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal. I asked him if his brother really couldn't go home. He said that was right, but that all of the victims got to go to a place called "Fast Lanes" and drive cars and have a blast. I asked him if his parents were told ahead of time. He said they've known for two months this was going to happen.

My oldest child, a 17-yr-old son, came home later. He thought it was all kind of funny, too. And he thought it was cool all the victims got to go to Fast Lanes. I asked him why it was funny. He said it was because they don't drink, so they know it would never happen to them.

Well ... it could ... if he was texting, talking, joking, or otherwise distracted while driving ... or even in the other car that gets hit.

I understand the purpose of this program, but I'm not sure it's hitting home with the boys. Maybe it is with the girls, because they're all about drama ...

It will be interesting to see how the kids feel about the program when it's finished. However, my younger two will be heading to a State Speech Tournament tomorrow; so they will miss the rest of the program. My older son will be there, however.

Thursday more kids will be pulled out of class, their faces painted white, and labeled as the walking dead. Police Officers will read the obituaries written by their parents. Videos will be shown to the students.

Life and Death.

Every 15 Minutes.

Do you think these programs are helpful? Or do you think the adults are kidding themselves?


  1. Whether they are helpful or not, the kids are thinking even if it is for just a laugh on the outside you can bet there are other things going on in the inside. Boys are made to act tough, it is in their DNA. I think this program sounds great. Let us know what happens next!

  2. It's an interesting idea but I'm not sure it will help. I think only real life experience can truly change behaviour, hypothetical, staged drama is just too fake. Kids are too wary of adults, they've already had a lifetime of being told don't drink by drinkers, don't swear by swearers etc. There's no substitute for personal experience, unfortunately.
    interesting post, cheers.
    Moody Writing

  3. It's the typical false belief that adolescents have that nothing bad can happen to them. They are the exception to the rule

  4. Part of being young is believing one is invincible. It's a double edged sword, of course. A necessity needed to propel the next generation forward, and allow them to be all they can be. And yet, that same devil-may-care, I-can-do-anything attitude adds to their vulnerability.

    Interesting program. I think it will reach some students. Thanks for sharing.

  5. My high school had a program, but it was done a lot different.

    A flatbed truck brought a mangled car onto campus and left it there, unexplained, for a few days. Days later, we went to an assembly. The parents of the students who were killed in the accident came and told their story. (FYI the kids weren't the ones drinking...they were scholars killed by a drunk).

    Hearing the real story, seeing the actual car...that made all the difference in the world. There were no jeers or laughter because it really happened. Boys and girls alike were tearing up during the father's speech about losing two of his sons in the same accident.

    I've never forgotten it.

    I think your sons are not taking it seriously because it's a "program", and not something that actually happened.

    You may want to consider taking them to a head-injury recovery center/rehab/home so they can see firsthand the aftereffects of stupid decisions. Also remind them that like the people in my presentation they can suffer forever from other people's stupidity.

    At the very least, the program at their school is opening a line of meaningful dialogue.

    Christi Corbett

  6. Interesting idea but some people just have to learn from experience while others learn from others experiences.

  7. I know the students all realize it isn't real, but maybe a kernel of what they have seen and the message the program is trying to get across will rear its head when it is needed.

  8. I honestly think--even from an adult standpoint--things do not truly register until the real thing happens in our lives. I understand what the school is trying to do (create a sort of being-there experience). It is the closest they can come to a true scenario. Hopefully, your sons will at least remember it and process it differently later.

  9. It is an interesting idea, and even just reading about it gave ME chills. But it doesn't sound like it's having much of an impact.

  10. My kids school did this last year (I even participated in the accident - unfortunately, I didn't survive). At first, you could hear a lot of laughter but once the kids began acting out the roles - most of the laughter stopped. Hearing some of the (participating) girls screaming sent chills down my own spine.