Rea­sons to talk about ‘13 Rea­sons Why’

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

The con­tro­ver­sial Net­flix se­ries “13 Rea­sons Why” is hard to watch. It con­tains graphic de­pic­tions of teenage rape and sui­cide. You can cred­i­bly de­bate whether this sort of teen-tar­geted tele­vi­sion trauma is re­ally what our so­ci­ety needs at this point. But the fact is, it was made. It was re­leased on Net­flix at the end of March. It be­came wildly, in­ter­na­tion­ally, pop­u­lar overnight. From Dubai to Dublin, Hawaii to Hamil­ton.

In case you’re not plugged in, “13 Rea­sons Why” is a fic­tional drama, drawn from a young adult novel, about a teen girl who dies by sui­cide. She leaves be­hind 13 au­dio tapes for friends and ac­quain­tances, ex­plain­ing to each what role he or she had in the pro­tag­o­nist’s de­ci­sion to end her own life. As you can imag­ine, it’s not pretty.

But kids are drawn to it. They re­late. By the thou­sands, they re­port some of the cir­cum­stances – sex­ual as­sault, bul­ly­ing, thoughts of sui­cide – are harsh re­al­i­ties in their lives, or the lives of their colleagues.

The up­roar spurred an On­tario group called School Men­tal Health As­sist to is­sue a mes­sage about the show to school boards across the prov­ince. That mes­sage led to sev­eral boards de­vel­op­ing spe­cific po­si­tions and guide­lines to deal with the show and its fall­out. One pub­lic board di­rected the show would not be used as a teach­ing tool, and ed­u­ca­tors would not raise it in the class­room, but would re­spond con­struc­tively if the sub­ject came up. The Catholic board adopted a sim­i­lar po­si­tion, but while the pub­lic board put a no­tice on its web­site to com­mu­ni­cate with par­ents, the sep­a­rate board com­mu­ni­cated specif­i­cally with ed­u­ca­tors.

Both ap­proaches are rea­son­able. Some might won­der why not ini­ti­ate class­room dis­cus­sions about the show specif­i­cally, but men­tal health ex­perts have re­ported, anec­do­tally, that kids have been show­ing up at lo­cal emer­gency de­part­ments iden­ti­fy­ing the show as a trig­ger. Given that, it’s un­der­stand­able that ed­u­ca­tors wouldn’t want to use it as a teach­ing tool.

But is there room for some de­gree of proac­tiv­ity, in­stead of wait­ing for kids to raise the is­sue? A meet­ing for stu­dents in­ter­ested in dis­cussing the is­sues re­lated to the show? The fact is teens are talk­ing about this. Even with­out the vi­ral suc­cess of “13 Rea­sons Why,” we know, be­cause teens aren’t shy about say­ing so, that these is­sues are be­ing dis­cussed in the hall­ways, cafe­te­rias and the big world out­side school.

This is rem­i­nis­cent of the de­bate over mod­ern­iz­ing sex ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum. In this world, we don’t get to con­trol what gets cre­ated for our kids to see, hear, ex­pe­ri­ence and be sub­jected to. All we can con­trol is how we re­act to that. Be­ing wide open to dis­cussing these sen­si­tive is­sues, and ad­ver­tis­ing that will­ing­ness, should be part of that.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.