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DEAR ABBY: My son was required to read "Romeo and Juliet" in his freshman year of high school. It has always bothered me that this play is considered good for teenagers to read, much less required reading. The story ends with Romeo and Juliet committing suicide, which is considered "romantic."
Teen suicide is on the rise. I feel we don't need teens seeing this in literature as a romantic way out of problems. What do you think? -- MICHELLE IN CHUBBUCK, IDAHO
DEAR MICHELLE: The writings of William Shakespeare have long been considered classics of literature, and when students are assigned to read "Romeo and Juliet," it's done under the guidance of a teacher. The characters' suicides have never been considered a reasonable solution to the problem of their warring families not allowing them to be together; the play is regarded as a Shakespearian tragedy.
Suicide among teens does not happen because of blighted romance. It happens because the teenager is mentally disturbed, and friends and families are unable to pick up on cues that the young person is in serious trouble. That is why when someone talks or "jokes" about committing suicide, it's so important to report it so the person can get professional help.
I started thinking about how we've been doing a lot in the name of "the kids" of late. Janet Jackson's FCC Fine, David Letterman is now a perverted old man, we're apparently on the verge of child pornography on every corner...so is this "think of the children?" approach without the overly religious messages the next big thing?
It's a scary thing to think of fighting...and worse yet if we have to steer kids towards nothing but happy and positive stories.
Apparently she meant more than complaining about an old-fashioned English nickname that to our ears may sound a bit naughty, but her thought processes were too obscure for either my friend or me to follow.
But then I recall an episode at Waldenbooks in the 1980s when a parent complained to me about Charlotte's Web being on a school reading list, the objection being that the book features talking animals. Which is demonic.
The problem with these one-off wacky situations, which any reasonable person would consider unreasonable, is that if the offended person decides to make a public issue of their opposition, there will always be people rushing to join them, without even examining the work in question themselves.
I don't really understand this whole "protect the children" thing that's happening. What are we protecting them from? Are we trying to make it so that they're never exposed to things that might make them uncomfortable or something? Is death really something they should be ignorant of? It's all hogswallop, in my opinion. Sheltering kids from things isn't the answer. The younger generations are just going to continue to grow stupider and stupider. Sure, they'll have more empirical knowledge, perhaps, but no knowledge of life and truth and beauty and tragedy and everything else that's important in this world. The human race is definitely being conditioned to be too sensitive, nowadays.
We were laughing at the heart-attack most parents would have if they saw this adventure park today. It looked like it was mostly made from construction piece cast-offs and was designed to have kids be able to move around and build their own things. There were pieces of wood, pipe and tools to use. Rope swings were attached to poles that didn't have 3 feet of wood chips beneath them.
Nothing was made of plastic or pressure-treated anything. And all of the children survived to the 49 Up documentary filmed in 2006.
I think we've gotten a lot more "what if" paranoid. And now that we've cleaned up parks and safety equipment, we've got to get to media.
Same reason that Season 1 of Sesame Street does come with a parental warning as well. We can't play follow the leader like this anymore!
The current permissiveness regarding erotic literature is, I suspect, because of the relative unstoppability of the Internet, which allows images, considered even more reprehensible.
But, yeah - how much trouble would I have been n with my grandmother if I had touched drying sheets in that condition? =P