“We ought to be trembling about the fact that the schools which have failed to teach academics are now presuming to teach matters of life and death.”
– Dr. William Coulson
“…I’ve sort of built my career in helping people try to die better,” explained California ICU physician Jessica Zitter during an NPR interview with host Michel Martin on February 25th of this year (NPR.org). “I’ve also realized that this [death] is no different a taboo.” Recalling a recent visit to a high school classroom, Zitter philosophized the benefits of teaching children about death, emphasizing the possible impacts that the act of changing the attitudes of youngsters could have on society in the future. “And that’s the kind of thing that I think really starts to make change in our culture,” she said (emphasis mine). “I was once accused by a renowned professor of medicine of deceiving my ICU patients…” she wrote in a 2013, New York Times article entitled, They Call Me Dr. Kevorkian. Dr. Zitter’s presence in the classroom is evidence of a seldom-discussed, yet monumental effort to alter the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors of Americans, specifically in regards to death. Predators always target the young.
Enter death education.
“Since death has been such a taboo topic, open and honest communication is essential. Such communication helps to desensitize students to anxiety-arousing items.”
– Death Educator Nina Rebak Rosenthal
Few times has something set off so many blaring warning bells in my mind as death education. “No administrator should be surprised to find that his staff is afraid of handling this topic,” stated an article in Phi Delta Kappan (McLure). Nevertheless, many educators – motivated by altruism and blinded by an unearned level of trust in the knowledge and intentions of the “experts” – willingly follow the leaders while remaining shamefully unaware of the harm that may result from their implementation of faulty, humanist eschatology and practices in their classrooms. I should know – I am a certified teacher.
I can hear the sales pitch now: First comes the generic, yet overreaching opening statement about “experts”: The experts all agree… blah, blah, blah… Kids need this… Blah, blah, blah… The opening remarks are usually designed to disarm teachers by appealing to the dutifully enforced, professional hierarchy. This is typically followed by two or three extremely brief arguments which appeal to educators’ rational thinking. Brevity is key: if you give the teachers too much time to listen, they might start thinking for themselves… Finally, it is time for the kill shot. This is best described as the stress inducing bombardment of teachers with anecdotal language which directly plays upon their emotions and, thus, smothers all inclinations toward independent analysis or hesitation: Parents don’t talk to their kids anymore or teach them about death, and they are at a disadvantage in life. It’s such a tragedy in our society…. Kids will be confused by all of the misconceptions in the world around them… Do you want the kids to learn about it from their friends, or on the street? Or, don’t you think it’s better they learn about it at school? It might help prevent suicide! (Of course, “preventative education” hasn’t actually been successful at preventing much of anything.) …It is actually pretty pathetic how easily we are tricked, how easily we are played.
Death education has been creeping into schools since the 1960’s/70’s, after the publication of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “On Death and Dying” (Blumenfeld, Newman, 2014). Kübler-Ross was the charismatic leader of a “New Age” death cult, spreading the message of a joyful acceptance of death. “The womb and the grave have been equated in mystery religions. … This is precisely the significance of Kübler-Ross’s choice of death and dying as her primary consideration as a charismatic leader” (Omega, 1985-86). Before long, the “progressive” teachers’ unions jumped into bed with the joyful death movement. We now have entire foundations dedicated to death education, such as the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Even Scholastic, Inc. is pushing death ed. Wolves travel in packs.
Thanatology (the study of death and dying) in the classroom can be summed up as the incorporation of death into the various academic areas of study. “Death by its very nature involves science and medicine, social studies and sociology, psychology, history, art, literature, music, insurance, and law,” wrote one death educator in the March 1973, NEA Journal (National Education Association). As death is so easily integrated into any subject, death education thus provides opportunities for classroom discussions on “the moral and ethical issues of abortion and euthanasia…” (emphasis mine).
Death education can take on two formats: didactic (lectures, videos, etc.) and experiential (simulation exercises). Twelfth graders may design their own headstones during art class or visit a funeral home to view a human cadaver as a science exercise on organ donation. After the suicide of a classmate – a “teachable moment” – eleventh graders may compose their own suicide notes. During a health and wellness class, ninth graders may be instructed to close their eyes and enter a deep trance in which they are to return to the moment that a loved one died. Seventh graders may add up the costs involved in planning their own funeral during math class or write their own wills in language arts. The words corpse, morgue, and cadaver may be added to the fifth grade’s spelling list. Third grade children may be asked to compose their own obituaries as a part of their creative writing unit. The kindergarten class may take a field trip to a mortuary or a cemetery while learning about communities. The preschool class may build caskets in the “blocks center” and take turns playing “the dead person” as a part of dramatic play.
“Class assignments were for students to write their own obituaries and suicide notes. They were told to trust their own judgment in choosing to live or die.”
– Jayne Schindler
Incorporating death and dying into curriculum requires teachers to abandon the role of instructor and, instead, assume the role of facilitator, quasi-therapist, and “reflective listener”; a reckless recipe for disaster. The classroom is transformed into a forum for group, pseudo-psychotherapeutic, “conversation circles.” Unfortunately, from these “’death and dying courses’, there are preliminary indications that this kind of education also leads to a greater likelihood of violence against self” (emphasis mine) (DiGirolamo). In fact, numerous educators have long acknowledged the harm that can be inflicted upon a student as a result of studying death in the classroom. There have even been several recorded suicide attempts by students which coincidentally followed periods of exposure to death education, such as in the case of Tara Becker who attended Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in the 1980’s.
“Death arouses emotions. Some students may get depressed; others may get angry; many will ask questions or make statements that cause concern for the instructor… Students may discuss the fact that they are having nightmares or that the course is making them depressed or feeling morbid…”
– Death Educator Nina Rebak Rosenthal
Psychologist William Coulson, who was one of the innovators of the psychotherapeutic techniques most often used in death education and who can be credited with the overly-psychologizing of America’s schools, has emphatically spoken out against the techniques he once championed. As it turns out, facilitating value-clarification or being a “reflective listener,” also called “nondirective education,” has been found to actually cause harm rather than prevent it, especially in children. Rather than helping young people understand death, our atheistic classrooms, dripping in moral relativism, are causing young people to feel immense confusion and anxiety. Teaching with ambivalence – failing to providing students with concrete knowledge of or a declarative sense of right and wrong – forces students to create their own set of values and ideas, regardless of how potentially dangerous or destructive those values and ideas may prove to be. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “To educate a child in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.” Yet, in the secular, humanist classrooms of America’s schools that is precisely what is occurring.
Back in 1990, Dr. Coulson was interviewed for an episode of ABC’s 20/20, “Death in the Classroom,” during which host Tom Jerrial asked, “Aren’t kids seeing more of death these days on television and with crack and violence in the streets… Isn’t there a need to educate them younger about death?” “It sounds like one of those things, Tom, that would be a good idea, except apparently it’s just not working out that way,” Coulson explained. “See, these interventions aren’t powerful enough, if you will, to keep the troubled kids out of trouble, but they are powerful enough to draw the untroubled kids into becoming troubled… What makes us think that American education is going to do a good job teaching death education? We ought to be trembling about the fact that the schools which have failed to teach academics are now presuming to teach matters of life and death.”
Yet, the Malthusian humanists who live amongst us – and those who pull the purse strings from abroad – do not have time for reflection or evaluation; not when there is an entire culture that must be changed, a world population that must be decreased, taboos that need normalizing, and generations of children that need desensitizing. Their eyes are always fixed on the prize, the pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow.
…Which brings us to the next problem of death education.
Enter George Soros, master puppeteer.
(…to be continued)
Citations + Resources:
- “Crimes of the Educators,” Sam Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, 2014
- John M. McLure, “Death Education,” Phi Delta Kappan 55, no. 7 (March 1974): 485.
- Nina Rebak Rosenthal, “Death Education: Help or Hurt?” Clearing House 53, no. 5 (January 1980): 224-26
- Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying (Vol. 16, No. 2, 1985-86)
- The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, “Death Education”
- Could ‘Death Education’ In Our Schools Also Be to Blame?, Joanne Saldiveri
- Citizens Commission on Human Rights, “School Classes on Death and Dying Lead to Student Suicides”
- Scholastic, “How Children Understand Death”
- “Teen Suicide: Is Death Education a Cause?” (Parts 1, 2, 3):
- Doctor Takes Death Education To High School Classrooms
- Death in the Classroom, Tony DiGirolamo
- Fallacies of Nondirective Education, William Coulson
- “What Good is Thinking About Death?” The Atlantic
- “Schools to Offer Students Lessons on Death from the Age of Three,” The Independent
- “Teaching Death Education in Schools,” Pat Lind-Kyle
- “Dying to Know: Situating Death in Schools”
- “The Rise and Rise of America’s Suicide Lobby”
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