Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Here We Go Again With Sick Crap

I'm writing this post on Monday evening, as what I'm about to write is supposed to be kept secret.  It will be over by Wednesday afternoon, hence my scheduling of this post for that time.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, my school will be participating in the Every 15 Minutes program.  If you don't know what that is, here's a synopsis from a post I wrote years ago:
Genuine car accident cars are brought out to the field, and the whole school goes out to watch as actual emergency response personnel act out the scenario of a drunk driving accident. Pre-trained students are also involved, and have make-up on to simulate the wounds of the accident. The "drunk driver" is checked out by the police as the firemen use the jaws of life on the car to get a student out. A lifeflight helicopter transports the "wounded" student to the hospital, where they are pronounced dead and taken to the actual morgue. Throughout the rest of the day, pre-chosen students are pulled out of class by the Grim Reaper (in the past, it was our principal in the garb) every 15 minutes--they are taken to a site where they discuss the program, write "good-bye" letters to their families as if they had really died, etc. All of this is filmed, of course, and the next day at the Every 15 Minutes Rally the whole school watches the video and the students involved, along with their parents, talk about what it was like to simulate this tragedy.

To me it's emotional abuse. If there were any evidence at all that the program saved lives, perhaps I'd be more inclined to support it, but there is none. Not one piece. To toy with the emotions of teenagers for no measurable benefit, and to take two school days to do so--well, I've already said I find it manipulative and abusive.
This year we're upping the ante.  We're keeping the program a secret.  We're just going to spring this on our students, the goal being to go for "maximum effect".  To me, that means we're going to try to get maximum emotional trauma out of our students.  We want them to cry!  We want them to be scared!  We want them freaking out!  And that's the whole student body! 

And there will be no permission slips from parents, no excusals, nothing.  All students will attend.  But hey, we have chaplains and counselors and maybe even comfort dogs and coloring books at the ready if some kids lose their cool at our required, hope-you-get-traumatized event.

What's really sick is that the pre-chosen students and their parents will write letters to each other.  We have a woman at school who actually lost her son (in Afghanistan), and in the back of my mind every day is the fact that my son could very well go to that same godforsaken place within a year.  If the thought of my son's death crosses my mind, it's very real to me and I hide that thought in some deep, dark place in my mind and turn to something else.  I can't imagine what kind of parent can pretend their child is dead without losing their mind.  To me it's sick--but they're going to do it.  And then they're going to write letters to their "dead" children. And some of these letters will be read in front of the entire student body at Wednesday's mandatory gathering.  Maximum emotional trauma.

Some people really don't like it when I bring up these objections.  There is to be no disagreement, we do it, do it their way, and that's final.  I'd welcome the opportunity to have a study hall in my classroom for kids who don't want to attend or for kids whose parents don't want them to attend, but no one is being given that option.  Remember, it's all being kept a secret, we're just going to spring this on the students tomorrow.

This is public education.


Anonymous said...

From someone that would go to Christian camp every summer, make these large promises to God during a "spiritual high", then go back to my normal habits less than 2 weeks later, I have to agree with you. Emotional manipulation doesn't work. I'm not sure what a good alternative would be, but whatever it is I bet it's sure as hell cheaper.

Lily Rosenblum said...

Thank you for writing this post. It really means a lot to me now that I have gone through the EFM presentation. When I read this to my mom after talking About how emotional it was we understand your frustration. The way the school handled this maximum traumatizing event was BS. The way students behaved by snickering seems to make it a waste of time for most of the student body. Those that were affected including I, I think have enough damn smarts not to willing do drinking and driving. I feel that by sitting with our classes made some that were traumatized alienated because they weren't with their friends. I was lucky enough to have a friend to sit with but it was cruel to give us no warning. I feel the school undersoldl the emotional toll to what was written in parent emails and done a better job to give options to those who needed actual comfort and support. Although the stories, statistics, and emotions were very real, an explanation beforehand would have been useful. If only they had said something like, "What you are about to see is very lifelike. If you are easily disturbed please find the nearest exit to opt out." Thank you for this!

Darren said...

While yesterday's "accident scene" was taking place, one of the police chaplains started talking to me. "I can't understand how these kids can laugh at this", or something like that. I chose not to reply, but I was thinking, why wouldn't they? You're entertaining them! One car crashed upon another car? Cool! A convoy of police motorcycles and cars? Cool! Sirens everywhere? Cool! They knew there weren't really dead and injured kids out there. Had there been, I have no doubt the response would have been entirely different.

But getting upset that they don't react the way you want them to? Dude, welcome to my world. You've got to meet them where they are.

Duncan McElman said...

Not to mention this is paid for by the government (which means we all pay the price via taxes). In an age where a permission slip is required for girls to attend a simple breast cancer seminar, the fact that every student had to forcibly see their classmates and friends covered in blood with no warning is ridiculous. With that said, the helicopter was really cool.

-Duncan (5th Period Stats)

Steve USMA '85 said...

I do find in interesting that about visiting the CHP site for the program, they list no proven benefits of the program. Searching for proven results only leads to studies that state there are no long term effects. Sounds like an awesome program.

Dean Baird said...

Check Hades for frost; we agree on calling this program into question.

In my estimation, we do it for the grown-ups; it resonates so strongly with adult minds that it must therefore resonate with adolescent/teen minds equally. Sigh.

There is no evidence of efficacy. Colleagues deem skeptics / realists as heartless demons and justify the expense of time talent energy and money via the possibility that it might—just might—play a role in saving one life someday.

And they will challenge you to prove that it won't. Since no one can prove such a negative, E15M is enshrined as beyond reproach.

Interesting book:
Playing Dead: Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in Staged High School Drunk Driving Tragedies
Book by Montana Miller (Can be had on Kindle)

Interesting review:

There may be programs that are effective. But we won't even look for such, as long as we're so unquestioningly enamored of E15M.

Anonymous said...

"If there were any evidence at all that the program saved lives, perhaps I'd be more inclined to support it, but there is none."

Darren said...

That study discusses the students who actively participated in the program--note that it's 1651 students in 81 schools, or an average of 20.4 students per school. These are the "dead" students who were called out of class, had tombstones placed on campus, and wrote letters to their family and friends. This study does not address the effect on the school as a whole.

Additionally, asking questions of the participants, while perhaps the only practical way to get information, leaves a great gap between action and intent. The closing statement of the article:

"All research has flaws. These data were collected by agencies in each community that presented the program. As a result, data were often incomplete and attrition rates were high. Further evaluation of E15M will focus on two areas. We are interested in forming control groups at similar high schools in the nearby regions to make comparisons with participations in E15M. We would also like to investigate the extent to which the E15M program has an impact on students who participate less extensively (e.g., students who view the crash scene and attend the assembly but do not participate as living dead)."

I stand by my original comment.