How is death education faring these days? Omega, the journal of death and dying, is now 40 years old and has become a highly respected peer-reviewed publication. Its website says:
This Journal brings insight into terminal illness; the process of dying, bereavement, mourning, funeral customs, suicide. Fresh, lucid, responsible contributions from knowledgeable professionals in universities, hospitals, clinics, old age homes, suicide prevention centers, funeral directors and others, concerned with thanatology and the impact of death on individuals and the human community. OMEGA is a rigorously peer-refereed journal.
Meanwhile, ADEC, the Association of Death Education and Counseling, is holding its 35th Annual Conference in Hollywood in 2013. Its theme: “Reframing Images of Grief: Identity Transformation Through Loss.”
The issue of death education seems to have faded into the background. But we have found an interesting story from the past involving Columbine High School, the site of the massacre in April, 1999. It seems that back in 1985, Tara Becker, a student from Columbine High, went to a pro-family conference in Colorado to tell the attendees about death education at the school and the effect it had on her. Jayne Schindler, who heard Tara's testimony, reported:
Tara brought with her a booklet she had helped to compile for one of her school classes. This booklet was called "Masquerade" and was full of subliminal pictures and prose. Tara explained how she had been taught to use the hidden, double meaning, subliminals and how she had focused so much of her time and attention on death that she, herself, had tried to commit suicide.
A video was made of Tara's testimony and distributed nationwide by Eagle Forum. The video was aired on British television, and The Atlantic Monthly did a feature story based on it. The producers at "20/20" saw the video and decided to do a segment on death education which was aired in 1990.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)