The protection of our high school students was taken to an early Halloween extreme this past week to make a very important point.
Students who might potentially lose their lives due to the choices they make (or fall prey to the decisions of others) were on display in our hallways last Friday. These students dressed up to look as if they were literally walking corpses with signs around their necks indicating their cause of death.
The intent was to show the student body the impact of the loss of students at a “memorial” assembly where each student was eulogized.
When students, or anyone in our community, forfeit their life because of their own poor decision or by the poor decisions of others, it is a tragedy. The lessons we can learn from such an ordeal have been lived out in our community more times than I care to remember in the past 15 years.
Too often we believe incorrectly that a graphic representation of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on people will "shock" students into changing their behavior and make better choices. Too often these "educational" presentations simply glorify the bad behaviors and poor decisions that lead to the abuse.
Our culture has become inundated with graphic violence and base visual imagery that has made many children dismissive of the effects — or desensitized to the acts — of betrayal that drugs and alcohol perpetrate against their health and well being.
Instead of prescribing to the inclination of fear tactics and the showmanship of horrors, we could extend into our culture the positive aspects of living a life that is free from the debilitating effects of drug and alcohol abuse and celebrate the liberating value of making positive decisions and living a virtuous life.
We study the virtues of living such a life in our literature classes at the high school. It wasn't just the Puritan settlers who lived virtuously to please God but also Rationalists such as Benjamin Franklin, who became an American icon practicing his 13 virtues because he understood that it would help propel him to success and happiness.
Certainly there are many ways to reach out to our students and try to help them manage the influences of peer-pressure and live virtuously in a world that doesn't always celebrate such values. As educators, we constantly challenge each other to "raise the bar" of academic expectations and extra-curricular performance.
We should have the same attitude about student behavior.