The news — as usual — has been a source of deep disturbance over the last couple days. This morning, I saw the worst fears of a community — of a family — confirmed when the news reported that …
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The news — as usual — has been a source of deep disturbance over the last couple days.
This morning, I saw the worst fears of a community — of a family — confirmed when the news reported that a body found was that of a missing at-risk student, who took his own life. This, in the wake of a student walk-out at Cherry Creek H.S. on Friday in recognition of two student suicides over the course of the last three months, with a nod towards another suicide at nearby Valor Christian. And all this in the shadow of eight suicides over the last five-and-a-half years at nearby Arapahoe H.S.
Note the pattern. Note the geography.
These are not the children that we assume are growing up in horrors based on their geography. These are the children of the upper middle class, the affluent, the comfortable, from schools with high expectations and even longer litanies of accomplishments.
And their children are killing themselves.
Before I dive in, I’d better admit a couple of things: I am not a sociologist, a psychologist, or even any kind of certified counselor. I do not pretend to know the answer to the underlying cause, or what are the solutions. But, I do have some observations to share.
I know a former student, child of a friend, at a school that meets the description of all the schools mentioned above. She is bright, accomplished, and doing great at high school. She is also sweet, funny and beautiful. She lives in her phone. She has had a difficult time over the last several years making friends — she has a few, a very few, close friends, but nothing that would connect her to her school.
This past week, she was in tears. Tears of stress. Apoplectic. Paralyzed. Because she did not have a plan, yet, for college. The full-court press about college has been on for the last two years at her high school, and the cultural pressure about college started even before that.
See, the problem is, she doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. In other words, she is a very normal 16-year old. But she has classmates who have spent all of their vacation time over the last two years visiting the best schools in the country; she has classmates that applied to top-tier private schools and been awarded enormous sums of money; she has this *thing* looming over her head that, at some point, her name will be read at graduation with the name of the college she will be going to, and, for some reason, something has gotten into her head that a great school like Metropolitan State University is beneath her high school.
And, to make matters worse, she has a very normal pair of parents who look at the price tag for college these days and choke on their spleens.
I don’t know what the culture is like at Cherry Creek, but I think I have an idea. And I’d like to propose a simple thought:
We, the parents and teachers and administrators and counselors who are creating the culture that these children are growing up in, are killing our children. And, no, I am not saying we are responsible for suicide — I’m saying we’re putting more stress on them than any 16-year old is capable of handling, much less a generation of 16-year olds who are more at home in their smart phones than they are talking to each other. And if bullying plays a role, I would submit it is much like an additional bale on a camel’s back.
It is not coincidence that this epidemic of suicides and, by the way, school violence, is happening in suburbia, and not downtown.
Relax. Talk to your kids. Talk to your neighbor’s kids. Encourage children to talk to each other. Coach them, teach them, encourage them, correct them when they need it. But relax.
They’re young. Let them enjoy it.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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