The Silicon Valley Suicides: article in The Atlantic

Link to online version here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

Summary: Palo Alto, CA’s public high schools, Paly and Gunn, are experiencing a second suicide cluster, after experiencing one a few years ago. Given the intensity of expectations for students at these schools (the article shares how Chinese billionaires buy houses in the district to get their kids the best education, that as many as 20 kids get into Stanford next door, etc.), this situation is being held up and discussed as an extreme example of what is happening with kids today.

My kids go to a public high school outside NYC and, typical with the NYC area, it is a very intense, competitive environment. Helicopter parents who have advanced degrees and high expectations. I can’t imagine how it could be ratcheted up a notch or two, but they seem to have that in Silicon Valley.

The poor kids. I went to high school right next door, at Sequoia HS in Redwood City prior to the Silicon Valley explosion. It almost feels like I dodged a bullet at the time…

Ugh. We found out last year that my SO’s 16 year old cousin has been cutting, to relieve some of the pressure. She has an older brother who is a complete disappointment to their parents, so all of the pressure is on her to excel. I know she’s getting therapy but I wish I could tell her, somehow, that this is the least phase of your life, and it can get better.

So tough. What is interesting (sorry for sounding clinical about a very emotional, important topic) is that the journalist doing the article cites studies done for these clusters. They tried to profile the vicims - were they socially maladjusted?; were they cutting or have other damaging responses to stress? and a few other hypothesized indicators. According to the reporter, NONE of those were correlated with who ended up killing themselves. The victims appear to fall into a “standard” demographic. There was a larger number of Asian American students, but it wasn’t clear if that was a factor or just reflects the demographics of Silicon Valley.

The Spartans used to just throw weaklings off a cliff. It was much more efficient that way, and there wasn’t a lll this hand wringing.

I read that entire article. JP Blanchard’s mom really broke my heart. “I should have stopped doing the laundry and just looked at him and listened.”

I appreciate the value of snark - this is the SDMB after all. But really - here in this thread? Dude. And your implication that these kids who commit suicide are “weaklings” is really not necessary.

It is not snark, let me make that clear. They are weaklings, they can not perform up to the standards considered acceptable.

I did not create this value system, others did. I do not support this value system personally; but I also am against doing things in halves.

For example, Aanimika describes a kid whose parents consider him a “Complete disappointment.” So, what do they do with this complete disappointment? Do they reassess their values? Do they try to see the positive? No. They just foist this ideology of narrowly defined success equalling virtuousness and one’s worth onto his sister. And what do they do with him? I don’t know - but if it’s anything like what I’ve seen or experienced in these situations, they just sort of write the kid off like a bad debt that can’t be collected.

Therefore, what do you end up with?

You have a point, Mr Nylock (Although I don’t think my name is THAT hard to spell!) They did just write him off as a bad debt. They have lots of money so they gave him an apartment and now we have this young man who has no social skills, no education, no forward movement, living in an apartment I can’t afford in NYC, doing absolutely nothing. Meanwhile his sister is suffering and working like a dog to try and satisfy and please everyone.

That being said, are you saying we should be throwing the kids off the cliff? Or perhaps the parents? Which ones are the weaklings? I don’t see it as being the kids.

Isn’t that type of parenting seen everywhere? You describe a toxic mindset, but is that all that is going on here?

That being said, are you saying we should be throwing the kids off the cliff? Or perhaps the parents? Which ones are the weaklings? I don’t see it as being the kids.
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Sorrry about the misspelling Anaamika :o I’m actually not exactly sure what I am saying to be perfectly honest.

The Spartans had one simple effective focus. It worked. The simplicity and consistency of their value system is admirable to a certain degree.

I feel as if in the US what we say and what we really think, what we really do, how we actually act and what we genuinely care about are all at odds. There is no consistency; and our secular value system, as much as can be ascertained, is a mishmash of woo, illogical, inconsistant reactionary ideas and emotions that only serve to create conflict and increase suffering.

Sorrry about the misspelling Anaamika :o I’m actually not exactly sure what I am saying to be perfectly honest.

The Spartans had one simple effective focus. It worked. The simplicity and consistency of their value system is admirable to a certain degree.

I feel as if in the US what we say and what we really think, what we really do, how we actually act and what we genuinely care about are all at odds. There is no consistency; and our secular value system, as much as can be ascertained, is a mishmash of woo, illogical, inconsistant reactionary ideas and emotions that only serve to create conflict and increase suffering.
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I don’t believe the Spartans are something to aspire to. They threw anyone who was moderately defective off a cliff. I don’t think that made for a great or awesome society.

No they didn’t. Hardly a society to emulate in any case!

We have a friend who is a teacher at one of these schools. Every now and then something slips out in conversation which pulls me up short – the last case was when she was talking about the security officers at the Caltrain crossing. I had no idea the situation was so horrible.

I couldn’t teach there.

Ideally there is a better way with better values. I myself prefer the Quaker and Unitarian value system; but these value systems have very little institutional or cultural impact in the US these days AFAICT.

The Spartans threw people off a cliff, If the research in The Atlantic is to be believed, our value system is to emotionally cripple and abandon our “weaklings.” But yes, we let them live.

On the other hand, societies do not exist in a vacuum, so weakness, even if tolerated and treated kindly by a particular country may not be allowed to exist in the grand scheme of things; i.e. in the macrocosm of the human species as a whole the law of the jungle (might makes right) still exists.

However, in this life one can realize all these things and choose for themselves what hill they want to die on; or putt in more poetic phrasing :

"There are so many prisoners, inmates, so many people to be judged. They don’t even have time to consider you as a human being. You’re filed through as in an assembly line. In some ways, it made me think of the fact that in terms of molecular biology, we have the same infrastructure as plants. So this entire notion of individuality is an illusion anyway. It is a direful delusion. There is no real individuality except for that which we project. But sitting in the cell block I realized that the pursuit of that so called individuality is everything I believe in. the fullest pursuit of those possibilities, of that “individuality,” even if it is an absolute failure, is the most beautiful failure I can think of.

  • Timothoy “Speed” Levitch

All this says is that they did not throw babies off a cliff. I never said they threw babies off of cliffs. I does support that they did throw people into the pit; they found lots of bones down there, just not baby bones.

If I was going to start throwing people off a cliff, and mind you, I haven’t ruled it out, first on my list would not be young teens who are only succumbing to extreme pressures. I’d probably start with that asshole rapist in India and extend it to all convicted violent rapists who loudly and determinedly proclaim the woman was at fault.

He is on the top of my list to wing from cliffs. The teens I think can be helped.

Did it really though? Depends heavily on what your definition of “worked” is. Sure, they survived for a while and were noted for some prowess in war (though they hardly conquered the world). But I’m pretty sure there weren’t any Spartans inventing computers, or the Internet, or smartphones. Yet all of those things happened in Silicon Valley. So obviously the latter must have the superior value system, if we’re going to get into silly reductionist arguments like that.

This reflection feels deep and complex. Sometimes it just sucks to be a parent, when you want the best for your kid, but make some incorrect choices. Sure, some parents are jerks, but the vast majority are well-intentioned but blowing it.

Some big pronouncement about Our Culture misses that parenting is about hard choices. Sometimes kids should be pushed to own their obligations more. Part of learning that life is hard, and hard work pays off. But knowing when and how to push and when to back off? We all blow it. I can see how living in that environment would be hard on a parent - the norms there sound so extreme.

I don’t remember quite that much pressure when I went to Gunn. Then again, I put a lot more pressure on myself that anybody else could have and it was also a long time ago. I always thought that the pressure was a little less than it would have been at a private school because you did have a variety of students but now given the demographics of the area I suspect that there may be a lot fewer lower-income students and less diversity. The Stanford statistics are a little misleading because the children of Stanford faculty members tend to go to these two high schools so there is automatically a higher acceptance rate. Then again, the top student in my class did kill himself the year after he graduated so who knows.

So…you’re saying there wasn’t that much pressure because in fact you put all the pressure on yourself? :dubious: