St. Joseph-Ogden High School in St. Joseph, Illinois has implemented a pretty interesting assignment for its’ freshman and sophomore students. And the assignment literally looks like a lesson in death panels. As a part of their sociology unit, the students were required to participate in an assignment deciding the fates of ten fictional characters. In the assignment, the ten characters are all in desperate need of kidney dialysis – the lesson literally says, and I quote, “Unless they receive this procedure, they will die.” It then goes on to say the hospital only has enough machines to support six of those patients. “That means four people are not going to live,” the assignment states. “You must decide from the information below which six will survive.” The characters were described in the assignment, stating their occupations (lawyer, prostitute, et cetera). The students’ worksheets showed that the characters they chose to live were characters with the occupations of lawyer, cop, doctor, minister, teacher, and housewife. The ones left then to die were the ones with less socially acceptable positions such as prostitute, college student, ex-con, and a disabled person.
I don’t know how you feel about this, but I myself feel pretty vomitous about it. The school claims that the assignment was supposed to show students that social biases exist and help them gain a different perspective. I can see how this assignment may show them that, but I also feel like this is an extremely morbid way of learning and could potentially have no actual impact on their reasoning. For all we know, some kids may have came out of doing that assignment just thinking they had better be a doctor or one day they’re going to die from a hospital not providing them with kidney dialysis.
Any (good) school instructor would be able to teach their students about social values in a number of ways. A number of ways that doesn’t include them having to choose if a lawyer or a prostitute deserves life over the other. This could have been taught differently, no blurred lines there. It could have been and it should have been.
This would however be a great assignment for someone wanting to work in the Department of Health and Human Services.