Thursday, September 12, 2019

GCSE Suicide Note Exercise

A school in England gave students a bizarre assignment – and found themselves in hot water. 

It was actually based on JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls, a play which was adapted by the BBC in 2015. 

The exercise had invited the teenagers from Cheney School in Headington, Oxford to adopt the persona of a young woman in 1912 and pen a mock suicide note – this being supposedly part of their English homework.

Not surprisingly, it generated a storm of protests. One mother branded the whole thing a “massive fail”. 

In a statement this week, the school said they were "very sorry for any distress caused". 

The events of the 1945 play, which is a GCSE set text, are set in motion after the character of Eva Smith dies. She leaves behind a letter and a diary, but is never seen in the play. 

The school had explained that the suicide note exercise was part of a "wider topic on social responsibility". They assured parents that it was "delivered sensitively" and students who found it distressing "could excuse themselves from the lesson". 

The writing task has since been reviewed and "adjusted accordingly", they said, but stated that the curriculum had to address "many difficult issues". 

Even if the intentions are good, it is very dicey to introduce the topic of “suicide” – the idea itself can be confusing and confounding if not overwhelming and it can be especially difficult for young people to navigate issues associated with this delicate subject. 

This afternoon, I was at No 1, Jalan Kiara in Mont’ Kiara, KL to attend the Ireka Toastmasters meeting. I was both a speaker and an evaluator. 

I did a CC#7 titled The Day I Die – and my speech evaluator Tiggy Munnelly acknowledged that I could find humor even in a morbid subject like death. 

She summed up by saying my speech was “macabre, ironical and funny”! I’ll take it as a compliment, thank you. 

Photos from today’s meeting:

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