Death Panel Assignment in IL High School

St. Joseph Ogden High School in St. Joseph, IL just east of Champaign, recently gave their 14/15 year olds the death panel assignment below. This was given in the Introduction to Social Science class. The stated purpose of the class is

Introduction to Social Science (1/2 Credit)

Students will be given an introduction to several of the main fields in the Social Sciences. They will have units on psychology and sociology, political science, geography, and economics. This course is taught using hands-on activities that emphasize critical thinking skills. Students will take an active approach to learning about the world around them. Open to freshman and sophomores.

I have called the Superintendent and the Principal. There has been no response yet. The Superintendent is out for the next couple of days.


I have the following questions, which I have emailed to the Superintendent:

  1. Who created this assignment?
  2. Why was it created?
  3. Is this assignment part of Common Core Standards?
  4. How does this fit into a Social Studies curriculum?
  5. What learning standard does this fall under?
  6. Who approved this assignment?
    1. Superintendent?
    2. Principal?
    3. School Board?

UPDATE:  See what the mother and student had to say about the assignment.

UPDATE:  The following is the response from the principal, Brian Brooks

“The assignment you are referring to is not a “Death Panel” assignment.  The assignment is one in the sociology unit of our Introduction To Social Studies class.  The purpose of the assignment is to educate students about social values and how people in our society unfortunately create biases based off of professions, race, gender, etc.  The teacher’s goal is to educate students in the fact that these social value biases exist, and that hopefully students will see things from a different perspective after the activity is completed.  The teacher’s purpose in the element of the assignment you are referring to is to get students emotionally involved to participate in the classroom discussion, and to open their minds to the fact that they themselves have their own social biases.  The assignment has nothing to do with a “Death Panel.”

We encourage parents to contact their son/daughter’s teachers if they have any concerns about an assignment in the classroom.  That line of communication typically clears up any potential misunderstanding.”

UPDATE:  This story has been picked up by the following news outlets:


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About Lennie Jarratt

Small Business Owner, Education Watchdog, FOIA expert, Founder of For Our Children's Future

  • Dan_Stone_Rocks

    This is a common assignment for social sciences classes: it’s an exercise that’s supposed to teach you how petty people can be. It’s a loaded question. My 8th grade class had a similar assignment 14 years ago. Sometimes in social sciences you have to ask questions you’re not going to like the answer.

    • warnertoddhuston

      First of all there is no such thing as “social sciences.” Calling these areas of conjecture a “science” is laughable. Second of all primary education isn’t the place for that. College is.

      • Sam Sawyer

        I don’t think you understand what the word ‘science’ means.

        • warnertoddhuston

          And you don’t understand grammar.

          • Sam Sawyer

            Oh, no! I had a grammar?! Please show me.

          • warnertoddhuston

            insert rolling eyes smiley here.

          • juandos

            Yet another long on stupid libbie comment…

      • Dan_Stone_Rocks

        You’re seriously going to take on social sciences and the empirical method as valid forms of study?

      • Ronald Hunter

        When I was teaching, we called it ‘social studies’. We studied it, but a science, it is NOT.

        • warnertoddhuston

          Exactly correct. There is NOTHING “empirical ” about the social “sciences.” No one of any education would say so with veracity.

          • WildBillOckham

            “No one of any education would say so with veracity.”

            Did you ever think about looking those big words up before you use them?

          • warnertoddhuston

            Apologies for speaking over your head.

          • WildBillOckham


            Keep digging, Warner!

          • warnertoddhuston

            LOL. I love Internet trolls like you that pretend they are “zinging” people. Get a life. Better yet, get some education.

          • WildBillOckham

            Hee hee! Little fella’s cute when he sputters, isn’t he?

            Dance, Warner, dance!

  • Joe

    But it’s easier to get irate then investigate with a simple google search the method, reasoning, history of this question as it pertains to social sciences.

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  • Terri

    Liberal educators enjoy stirring emotions in the belief they’re educating using a different modality, which is the principal’s point. This assignment is designed to morally upset students into acceptance of the real lesson: that they have no “right” to judge people based on demographics and social stratification because it is culturally repugnant to the left. All people in a society should be judged equally valuable. Its erroneous on so many levels. I’d have my kid explore where to find more dialysis machines in nearby cities and arrange for transportation.

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  • Trey Reeves

    That looks like it was made on a typewriter. How old is this?

  • dafidil

    This assignment, ‘science’ or not, sends the wrong message to young kids. It makes the child decide who’s life is more valuable than the other’s rather than all life is valuable. This assignment is detestable… or socialist in training.

    • Dan_Stone_Rocks

      This case occurs on both the extreme liberal (socialist) and extreme conservative (fascist). This sort of assignment also teaches how easy it is to get people to go along with extremist, detestable social policies without them even realizing it.

      • NotRepubOrDem

        And as someone above said, this is not appropriate for schools below a college level. Let the kids learn basics. Their brains aren’t even fully mature until they’re into their 20s, and “programming” can be mighty powerful below that age. I remember such “values clarification” exercises in college – nearly 50 years ago. I can see SOME value in it, but would not want my kids (or grand kids now) exposed to it before high school graduation.

        • Ruu721

          oh kids are way more ahead now days than you think! unfortunately they need more mature education sooner now than ever

          • NotRepubOrDem

            First of all, you know nothing about my education or professional background, so your pronouncement that I’m not aware of just how far kids are “ahead” these days is ludicrous. Sophisticated, yes they are. But sophistication + pure knowledge does not equal maturity. Brains still aren’t maturing any faster than they did 50 or 100 years ago. Ask any neurologist or neuropsychologist. And it’s that maturity that allows for better decision making and true critical thinking. A 150 IQ twelve year old is still no more “mature” than any other twelve year old. They simply learn from their environments how to respond in ways that look more “adult” than the average twelve year old. Frankly, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was not a particularly brilliant idea, just for that reason.

          • Ruu721

            Wow…! You have all the answers! None of us should say a word! I didn’t imply or guess anything about your education or profession. I have children of all ages and experience with it and that is where I spoke. ..

          • NotRepubOrDem

            I never claimed to have “all the answers,” and don’t. But you claimed to know what I don’t know: “kids are way more ahead now days than you think!”

            That’s your words. You told me how much I didn’t know. Who arrogant can one get? And I merely stated the obvious (to anyone but you, obviously), that you DON’T know anything about what my education or experience is (that might, just MIGHT, possibly give me a smidgeon of insight into what kids know, or about brain development, etc.).

            You want to make off the wall statements about other people and what they know or don’t know? No problem. You just get to live with it being flashed right back atcha! And if you did happen to figure out something about my education, then your statement about what I do or don’t know (or “think”) is even more ridiculous.

          • Ruu721

            Wow text book. .you should get out more or llisten to others that have EXPERIENCE

          • NotRepubOrDem

            Oh, OK then. I give up. You know all about my (lack of) experience and social involvement. You win. I concede. ROFL!

          • Ruu721

            Say it isn’t so..maybe you will stop jumping all over everyone and taking it personal

          • WildBillOckham

            “you know nothing about my education”

            Actually, you’ve made a lot about your education pretty clear.

          • Danni Smith

            only done because the dems are afraid of losing votes as their fraud is being addressed, and the belief is the young vote dem. This was done for votes only, not based upon a real beliefs in liberty or freedom-eventually the dems may get the entire country-but as in any war all they get are the spoils-and the spoils will be so huge, because the greatness was once so huge-as in the bigger they are the harder they fall. I mean seriously, with do you get after you’ve sucked all the juice from the grape???

        • There’salways Acatch

          if children, even very young ones, weren’t already “programmed” we wouldn’t have issues with bullying. This is a lesson on empathy, sympathy and thinking outside the normal accepted values that create the culture to “bully” such as those doing so in this post. BTW, sciences gather, organize, analyze and report data, even when it is based on social conventions and or the lack there of.

    • luke mac

      i think you missed the point. the exercise is designed to show that we “cant” or at least “shouldnt” make judgements of worth based on eductionclass//race/gender/ or even *gasp* politics. the exercise is there to stimulate debate on this very idea.

  • Joe Dalla Chiara

    This is sick ! Who the hell would give a Lawyer a Two?

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  • Radiant Sunset

    I hate to burst your bubble, but this is not new. I had a similar assignment in my high school business law class in the 70s.

    • NotRepubOrDem

      Oh – so because it’s not new (yes, I had such exercises back in the late 60s also), that makes it OK? By that logic, because anti-Semitism isn’t new, but existed long before our lifetimes, and was particularly lethal 70 years ago, that makes it pretty much a no-big-deal thing now? Gimme a break. A bad idea is a bad idea is a bad idea.

  • axonneuron

    Death panels again. You people don’t have enough to do.

    • adapto1432

      Because in Republicanland, adults are only supposed to make decisions on capital punishment, which they probably believe should be expanded to things like theft, anyway.

      Hypocrites. They can’t even keep their hate straight.

      • Danni Smith

        No silly, not theft, Just treason, like 923 executive orders, multi-million dollar vacations, private golf lessons with tiger woods, violation of the constitution over and over, lying to the american people again and again, nuturing racism and planning for government collapse, instituting communism, inciting revolution, promulgating multiple classes of citizens with special privileges for some, like gov employees, AARP, unions, business, but you and I, spying on innocent citizens, using government employees and taxpayer funds to harrass constitutionally protected free speech political organizations and private law-abiding citizens, and going to bed because he had to go to LV knowing our citizens were being tortured and killed in a foreign land…and more to come, for sure, for certain, no doubt.

  • Aaron Fitzgerald

    I had an assignment like this that we did in class when i was in the eigth grade. It was a class assignment where 10 people were quarantined in a building with a lethal disease.The creator of the vaccine was in the building as well as a pregnant women. the various 8 others had redeeming and disqualifying attributes. The Question was put to us to determine which person received the vaccine. The thing was that they had only enough vaccine for one person and couldnt make more without the creator.
    I am 37 years old now so that must have been almost 25 years ago. These social questions then were meant to instigate arguments and reasons of who should be saved. after we all had decided to save one person we then had to have ethical reasons for our choice.
    This is nothing new.
    NO i am not a liberal, I”m just saying that not everything is a battle.

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  • adapto1432

    Since the Rethuglicans have shut down the Federally-funded kidney transplant program, all ten have now died.

    But they died nobly! For Freedom From Gummint Health Care!

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  • Percy Saunders

    The classroom assignment forces the student _past_ the moral issue – i.e., a human judging the value of other human’s lives. Forcing anyone to accept such a morally deficient premise as a given is imposing that lack of morality on the individual’s worldview, which for 14-15 year-olds is unlikely to have been well established. (Establishing a worldview that accepts the immoral premise is the intent, I believe).
    A good and just society would not allow such a “Lord of the Flies” scenario to be accepted as a reasonable circumstance and would encourage members to stand against it individually and collectively. All life is precious.
    The fact that this has been perpetrated on us for such a long time indicates the insidiousness of the U.S. educational industry, which, if folks would take the time to check out its history (John Dewey and his ‘democratic socialist’ promotion) would see that the cancer has existed for a long time and see how it has metastasized.

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  • Ranchman

    I’m so glad I moved out of Illinois many years ago. I would have never been able to let my kids go to school there.

    • Danni Smith

      Where did you go and are you finding it good there? So many of my compatriots are planning to leave, yet in quandries, because they were born and raised in Illinois and know little about other places for relocating.

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  • peterckrieger

    I had an assignment similar to this back in HS. I think (and I don’t recall the details clearly) that the situation was a bunker for survivors of a nuclear war, with room for 6 people; we had to choose from about 10 or so (similar to the one above).

    Since it was a religious HS, we were penalized for failing to choose the Priest (though other candidates were more useful for survival than the Priest).

    In reality, we make choices like this every day; though the outcomes are not usually as dramatic (and the existence of alternatives makes those choices easier). Our resources are limited, but the demands on them are practically infinite. Some people make far sighted choices; others make choices that indiciate a need to satisfy immediate gratification. Often the effects of those choices are unclear at the outset.

    I don’t find it surprising that it was a public school that put this together and if the objective was to expose biases, well, the teachers are merely “wearing the armor of Social Justice Warrior.”

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  • NotRepubOrDem

    The principal responded: “The assignment has nothing to do with a ‘Death Panel.’ ”

    What? Does he think people are stupid, or does he really believe that cr@p?!? Of COURSE it has to do with a “death panel!” Regardless of any other alleged purpose, it forces kids into the mindset of choosing who lives and who dies – regardless of reason. It’s more programming of kids, while denying any such thing is going on. Parents MUST wake up and discover what their children are being fed in schools – if they choose to leave them there at all anymore.

    • Danni Smith

      I’m only going to discuss the principal’s intelligent, if not, dishonest, response. The ethics is too mind boggling for me right now and also scary to think about at my age and personal stats. So, it’s semantics-first it is not a panel: Dear Mr. Overpaid and Unworked and Unaware of English language terms and words and definitions Brooks;
      A panel is either a slab of flat material or a group or body of people. There is only one young person deciding on their own who “will die”. Of course, this not a panel.
      Then death- the word death could be defined as having happened already, e.g., an event that is in the past versus die which could be interpreted as an act occurring, e.g., in the process of, i.e., state of being, as in dying but not having attained the state of death.
      Therefore you are correct, that a death panel is not what was presented, because the individuals had not yet died, whereas a death panel would be incongruent to decide who would die, when they have already been deathed.
      I trust you find my explanation is as superbly intelligent as yours, idjet.

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  • Ronald Hunter

    My answer would be that the lawyer could buy his own machine,as could the doctor. The cop should be protected by the city, or political entity he worked for, even if he had to go to a distant city for treatment, and the minister’s congregation and grown children could manage other care, or pray.

  • Ruu721

    agree with school, i have saw these too.. its about “what would you do” and applying importance to status and children, etc….

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  • Ellie K

    This is inappropriate because it broaches issues that are determined by family ethics and personal choice. Only parents should give guidance about whether a Lutheran minister’s life is more worthy than a lawyer’s. If a child is raised in a Jewish or Muslim or Roman Catholic household, maybe the child’s parent would not want a Lutheran to be saved. However, a rabbi, imam or priest would be deemed worthy. Schools should not be making any suggestions to 14 year old’s about such issues. This is not college! The school is not acting in loco parentis.

    Also, it is rude, disrespectful and factually incorrect to refer to the (black, divorced) policeman as a “cop”. Cop is slang. If correct titles and terms are to be taught anywhere, it should be in school.

    I keep thinking about the ranking chosen by this student. Save the lives of the physician, attorney, teacher, prostitute and housewife. Allow the disabled person and the college student to die, due to their lack of value to society. I am happy that the housewife and teacher were spared. This is a good child, who loves his or her mother, and teachers.

  • Chase Buchanan

    Hmmm. Personally I think the most important criterion is the age of the person-in-question’s children. I think that in this hypothetical, the woman with the three-year-old daughter should get the #1 spot, followed by the other two people with young children.

  • Exetarian

    The school’s principal ought to be asked this question:

    How does this word problem differ substantially from this one that was given to schoolchildren in Nazi Germany:

    “How many working class homes, which cost 15,000 Deutschmarks, can be built for the cost of one insane asylum at 6 million?”

  • KennethR

    I’d find a deck of cards and assign my response randomly. If the teacher asked I’d tell her I don’t get to pick who lives or dies and which life is worth more. I’d be thinking FU lady the whole time.

    • luke mac

      and you would pass with an A.

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  • Eileen Wright

    14-15 year olds have plenty of time to form their own opinions as they get older. This is a choice they will probably never have to make. One could infer eugenics from the assignment….we don’t want disabled people to live.

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