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Death Panels 101? Chilling High School Assignment Makes Students Decide Who Lives and Who Dies


“Why would they go down that road — especially with freshmen in high school?”


A group of high school freshman in Illinois were reportedly required to determine who would live and who would die in a chilling class assignment that school officials say was nothing more than a lesson in social bias. However, critics argue it sounded more like a lesson in death panels.

The assignment, reportedly administered by the sociology unit at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, involved a fictional group of 10 individuals who are all in desperate need of kidney dialysis. If they don't get the treatment, "they will die," the lesson reads.

"But there's a problem," Fox News' Todd Starnes reports. "The local hospital only has enough machines to support six patients."

The next part of the assignment is down-right haunting.

"That means four people are not going to live. You must decide from the information below which six will survive," it states.


Starnes says he reviewed one student's worksheet and the student chose to save the doctor, lawyer, housewife, teacher, cop and Lutheran minister. That means everyone else involved in the fictional scenario died, including an ex-convict, a prostitute, college student and a disabled person.

While some critics, like writer Lenny Jarratt, who first reported on the assignment, say the lesson eerily resembles death panels, St. Joseph-Ogden High School Principal Brian Brooks told Starnes that it was just a lesson in social bias.

“The assignment has nothing to do with a ‘Death Panel,’” Brooks said, adding that the lesson was intended to teach students about social values and how people internalize biases based on professions, race and gender.

“The teacher’s purpose in the element of the assignment you are referring to is to get students emotionally involved in order to participate in the classroom discussion,” he added.

But Jarratt told Starnes that there are many other ways to teach students about social values and biases.

“Why would they go down that road — especially with freshmen in high school?” he asked.

Starnes also appeared skeptical, writing: "No matter what how the school tries to explain it, a group of young kids were deciding who got to live and who got a death sentence."

To read Starnes' full report, click here.


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