writing down the sun

just because you can … part 2

Posted in what i'm thinking now by annie on June 13, 2008

The story out of Oceanside, California yesterday has parents, teens, and educators talking — really talking, apparently, even agreeing with each other. Can that ever be a bad thing?

Well — yes, if the talk and agreement is centered around a mass school-wide deception of incomprehensibly epic and cruel proportions.

Imagine: you’re a teen. You go to school Monday morning only to note that several classmates are absent. Weird, you think – or perhaps you don’t notice. Maybe you only notice when the uniformed state troopers start showing up with grim faces and even grimmer news:

Those absent classmates? They’re all dead. Victims of a horrible drunk driving incident.

You and your classmates, with the raw grief that perhaps only teens can muster for each other over the lives of those who thought themselves invincible, predictably — understandably — fall apart. There are tears. There is despondency. There is rage.

Yet this is nothing like the rage that is induced mere hours later when the rumors start to float around. First, just one or two students who were particularly grief-stricken, inconsolable, hysterical with grief even — then more and more, and finally when you all file into the assembly that you used to think was a rapidly planned memorial service for the dead, you realize you all know by this point:

This was all a hoax.

Your teachers, your principals, your fucking guidance counselors all thought this was a good way to get you not to drink and drive over graduation weekend.

From my vantage point of 20-odd years post-high-school, this is how I feel: what the hell were these adults thinking? Were they thinking at all?

This whole charade has the smell of one of those projects that somehow take on lives of their own. You know the kind I mean. They start with just a kernel of an idea, fueled by a good intention. But by the time details start getting added to flesh out this kernel of an idea, the whole thing is a fait accompli and no one can even remember agreeing to the damn thing in the first place.

So, good people get swept up in the tide. Do they question it? Maybe. Maybe somewhere deep inside there’s a tiny whisper urging a bit of caution, another look, a step back. Do they listen? Maybe. Maybe someone tentatively raises a hand in a staff meeting and says, ever so uncertainly, “Are we sure this is the way we want to go?” That hand quickly gets pulled down, though, when the response is dismissive.

The end result: no one stops and takes a moment’s pause. No one takes that crucial step back and thinks about it from the peculiar vantage point of after-the-fact.

And, so, I have no doubt that there are some stunned school officials in Oceanside this week, wondering how in the hell they became such universal objects of scorn and outrage. How? Simple. They got carried away, and didn’t practice the one skill I believe is most needed in this day and age, yet remains sadly absent from our public education curriculum: critical thinking.

There is no reverse on the DVD player of your life. There is, however, a “fast forward” of sorts.