One high-end suburban west high school; four scary, puzzling incidents within a single school year. On the eve of the first day of school, a young woman, stellar student, took up a rope and ended her life upstairs in her room. Last week a dude who seemed to have everything going for him did likewise. In October, a series of threats were inscribed on the school walls with reference to the Columbine High killings. Around the holiday break, the police were called in to locate an explosive device rumored to be in the school. In the latter two cases, boys were expelled and arrested.
Many claim these sorts of incidents arise out of the natural pressures of an environment rife with high-performers and even higher expectations. That certainly is a factor here in Concord-Carlisle, but I'm not convinced it's a cause rather than a symptom of the larger, more widespread problem. After all, the worst of schools in the poorest of neighborhoods have their own set of peer pressure issues... gangs, for one... and being cool or uncool in the neighborhood sense is always a difficult place for a kid to find the right fit. And bullying certainly has no boundaries... unfortunately, it's everywhere.
That second suicide kicked me hard, right in me bucket. Another voice mail from the school principal announcing another wasted life, followed by the email messages citing the same sources of grief counseling and "How to Talk with Your Teen" seminars. Call now... grief counselors are standing by.
The school doesn't seem to recognize that it has any responsibility except passing out information, but in some way, you can't blame them. It's hard to reach kids who don't want to be reached, and basically, kids don't trust adults easily or readily... certainly not teachers, school administrators, surely not other people's parents.
In a sort of an epiphany, I realized the only way troubled kids could get real help is from other kids, not adults, and the way typical American schools systems are designed and implemented forces them into isolation and the ensuing risk. It shouldn't be that way. Throughout most of human history, education of the young indeed took the entire village. Kids weren't bunched into same-age peer groups, separating them through most of their school life from the rest of society. People were taught mainly through an apprentice system, working with and being taught elders who do what the kids eventually will be expected to do.
Our narrow and now antiquated industrial age concept of public education forces many teens to depend solely upon their peers for support and nurturing in any spiritual sense, and most high school kids are often not quite good enough at that... nor should we expect them to be. We need a different system, one in which people of all ages can interact in a life-long, ongoing, educational process where the old will teach the young and elders will have more opportunity to learn from their children.