See Dick and Jane weep

Posted: Apr 19, 2002 12:00 AM
Home schooling is looking more and more like the only sane educational option these days. The latest news of the weird in our public schools comes from Seattle. Last week, The Seattle Times reports, nearly 300 students from two middle schools were subjected to three long days of gut-spilling seminars aimed at "creating a safe school environment free of teasing and harassment." Principals and teachers traded in phonics for histrionics. Children learned the Oprahfied alphabet -- A for apologies, B for blame, and C for crying. Uncontrollable crying. Kleenex must have made a killing. Here's how the Times reporter described the workshops: "Sitting in small circles, their knees touching, students shared their own hurt and the pain they had inflicted on others. The tears flowed. In some groups, half the Washington Middle School students were crying at once. Applause followed, as the seventh- and eighth-graders stepped up to roving microphones and declared what they would do to mend broken relationships with their schoolmates. Two boys shook hands after one apologized for making fun of the other, and said he hoped to be more supportive. "A girl owned up to snubbing an old friend. 'I'm sorry that I've been very distant and that I've chosen other friends in school,' she said. 'I'm going to work on that, and I'm going to be a better friend.' The girls embraced." All bounds of privacy and self-restraint were erased as seminar "facilitators" encouraged their young guinea pigs to confess whether they -- or friends or family members -- had ever faced addiction problems, sadness over the death of loved ones, guilt over teasing others because of their weight, or thoughts of suicide. The public sniveling and sniffling ended with a "final exercise -- hugging as many people as possible in two minutes, to the theme from 'Rocky.'" One child, showing uncommon wisdom, dubbed the dolorous debacle a "psycho cry-fest." It's only the beginning: This bizarre emotional circus may be coming to an unacceptably dry-eyed classroom near you. Sponsored by a for-profit company called Resource Realizations in Scottsdale, Ariz., and run jointly by a nonprofit organization called Challenge Day, the chief operator of these weeping workshops says he smells a "a huge potential growth area" in the public schools. Seattle students received information packets from Resource Realizations founder David Gilcrease. "While Challenge Day is a critical first step, a one-day learning experience only goes so far," Gilcrease wrote in literature distributed to the children. "To create truly lasting transformation in their lives, most teens need more." For starters, there's the company's three-day, $295 Teen Discovery seminar. This leads to pricey summer camps, parent-child workshops and retreats full of self-esteem-boosting babblers who teach participants such vital skills as learning "to interrupt unconscious mental and emotional cycles which tend to sabotage results." According to the Resource Realizations Web site, public seminars are also being run in San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Chicago. Unbeknownst to Seattle school officials and parents who raved about the workshops, Resource Realizations has a dubious history. It is connected to a shady racket of companies peddling kiddie rehab programs with names such as "Tranquility Bay" and "Paradise Cove" that have been accused of brainwashing youngsters. Yet, the Seattle schools' superintendent, Joseph Olchefske, seemed only mildly perturbed that the company coaching Seattle schoolchildren to get all choked up -- and then foisting their promotional flyers on the overwrought kids -- is also a defendant in several lawsuits involving claims of emotional abuse at its behavior-therapy facilities. Where are all those anti-corporate lefties who protest the commercialization of the schools -- you know, the ones always complaining about cafeteria junk food being stuffed down the throats of helpless students? These mindless p.c. workshops are junk food, too -- completely devoid of academic calories. Now, there may be legitimate private businesses out there that provide real help to families with emotional problems. But even so, they have no place in taxpayer-funded schools whose primary function is supposed to be filling students' heads -- not emptying their lachrymal ducts.