An English teacher at a posh Manhattan private school instructed students as young as 14 to compose their very own first-person suicide notes last month.
The teacher behind the assignment, Jessica Barrish, told her teenage charges at York Preparatory School to channel the depressive thoughts of May Boatwright, an unusually vulnerable character who ultimately kills herself in the 2002 novel (and 2008 film) “The Secret Life of Bees,” reports the New York Post.
“How would you justify ending your life?” the morbid teacher wanted to know. “What reasons would you give?”
Some York Prep parents weren’t thrilled about the ultra-grim literary exercise.
“We were pretty stunned at the scope of the assignment,” the father of a ninth-grader at the Upper West Side enclave told the Post.
York Prep enrolls students between the sixth and 12th grades. Annual tuition per student is slated to be about $41,000 next year.
Notable alumni of the pricey prep school include actress Liv Tyler, “Preppie Killer” Robert Chambers and a woman who used to be married to Calvin Klein.
The Post also talked to local philosophy professor Simon Critchley, an Englishman who teaches at The New School and who has taught a class for adults on how to craft a quality suicide note.
Critchley suggested that society shouldn’t get all irrational just because people kill themselves.
“I don’t see why this is inappropriate at all,” the philosopher sagely reflected. “If it is, then suicide is a taboo, and I simply think we have to think rationally about our taboos.”
The York Prep incident is at least the third instance of recent vintage of teachers asking students to write suicide notes.
Last June, a mother in England freaked out when she mistook her kid’s fictional suicide note for a real one.
In December, a teacher in southwestern France asked his class of 13-year-olds to write their own suicide notes for homework. According to Le Charente Libre, a regional French newspaper, the teacher was not satisfied with at least one pupil’s note. “Not precise enough,” he scolded. (RELATED: Sacre bleu! Teacher in France asks students to compose their own suicide notes)