"Thirteen Reasons Why" Through the Educator's Lens

This is a reference I kept wanting to make in the Educational Philosophy class the other day, but I couldn't find it at the time. A couple days later, I'm still thinking about it...

In episode 8 of the Netflix series "Thirteen Reasons Why," based on the bestselling young adult novel on suicide, Hannah Baker's recorded voice says this as we see her entering a college fair:

"Dream big, they say. Shoot for the stars. Then they lock us away for 12 years and tell us where to sit, when to pee, and what to think. Then we turn 18 and even though we’ve never had an original thought, we have to make the most important decision of our lives. And if you don’t have the money and don’t really have the grades, a lot of the decision gets made for you.”

Read why Forbes thinks this series is "Netflix's Best New Show in Years"

My question for everyone reading this is, to what extent is this true? So as not to incite some deep, philosophical discussion on Truth, I'll word it another way: Do you think most or some high school students feel this way, and does that accurately reflect the state of our schools? Did you or someone you know feel this way in school? If so, should our schools be this way? I think most of us would answer that last question "no," but how can we address this, as educators, students, parents and other members of the community invested in education? 

And how do these questions fit into our discussion, classmates, on disciplinary literacy?

*Addendum: Just read in the Adolescent Literacy book, "We live in a complex world, one that requires us to make connections across multiple perspectives to fully understand and act in it. Yet in school, we teach students to live in a simplistic world, where questions are answered in a single text and complexity is eschewed." So the researchers agree with Hannah! Now if only they would provide us with some more detail on how to effectively change that...
Not seeing a lot of strong conclusions coming from the research the authors spend pages telling us about.


  1. Hi Caitlin!

    What an engaging and energetic start to your blog! I am intrigued by your question and I think maybe I should watch the show to learn more. This is a huge issue in the field of education today. Largely from personal experience, I can say that many students feel frustrated with what they perceive (real or imagined) as a complete lack of autonomy in their lives. I've seen first hand that facilitating choice and agency in the assignments and projects we design can help increase engagement in the immediate classroom setting, but your question is a larger one. It's about the system. It's about a 'college college college' push when there are viable alternatives that aren't equally respected. At the same time, I've worked with inbound exchange students from China who are also frustrated because the colleges and universities they'd like to attend value the critical thinking and independent approach of western student experience. I wonder how we can look at these issues from a global perspective. I hope we can talk more about this as a group. Way to raise an important question! :-)


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