Thursday, May 18, 2006

Feel like I could run away, run away... From this empty heart...

Have you ever heard about the "Shattered Dreams" program? Maybe it's not called that in your neck of the woods, but you may have a similar program. It's a week long series of drinking and driving themed events that the state puts on at public high schools once a year.

One day you'll have a video to show the kids; another day a police officer will come in to guest speak. Towards the end of the week a wrecked car will be brought onto campus and a drinking and driving related wreck will be simulated for the kids. They bring in police, EMS, Life Flight, a "drunk driving kid" gets thrown in jail... the works.

The final day is saved for the big act. That's where one of the administrators goes around from classroom to classroom, dressed as the Reaper, every 20 minutes (the average time between alcohol related accidents/injuries) and calls the pre-scripted name of a student to join him. After a brief absence, the student returns to class, dressed in black, and their face painted in white. They are not allowed to speak or acknowledge anyone at all, just like the actual dead couldn't acknowledge anyone.

Look, I want to give tons of credit and gratitude to the state's Alcohol Beverage Commission. They spend an enormous amount time, money and energy in hopes of saving many from such heartbreak and loss. If anything, I want to double the budget for such efforts.

The real problem is that I could have written this blog my first year at SLHS or when I was in high school myself because the program has not changed a lick since then. There may be a need to update the program. Facts are facts. We're a society that has gone from fainting in the theaters when first seeing Frankenstein's monster on screen to people that pay ten dollars to see Jason rip off some horny teenager's head for the 61st time. It's harder to make an impression on kids with violence; and I'm not sure the lyrics from a 1987 Johnny Hates Jazz song is fighting fire with fire.

Again, I'm sorry to criticize a program with its heart is in the right place, but painting kids' faces white just doesn't affect people like it used to. If anything, it is seen as a challenge to at least nine kids in your class to get these "dead kids" to break.

"Evan, don't say anything if you're gay. I thought so, Evan's gay everybody!"

"That's less make-up than you usually put on, Katie. Look on the bright side; black makes you not look as fat."

I guess no program is jack-a-ninny proof.

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