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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Exposing 9th Graders to Pathological Murder

     Students in an Australian high school didn't have to wait until college to enroll in a stupid, useless course. A 9th grade teacher in Corio, a suburb of Greelong, Victoria on Australia's southeastern coast, offered a forensic psychology course devoted to the study of serial killers. That begged the question: what educational goal was being met here? Was studying a tiny subculture of deviants with homicidal personality disorders a good way to give 14-years-olds a realistic perception of human behavior? Were these murderous degenerates worthy of this kind of academic attention? 
     This 9th grade professor of prolific, pathological homicide gave his (or her) students two weeks to complete a "Serial Killer Investigation Assignment." The twenty students taking the class were asked to complete ten out of a possible twenty "activities" related to the study of serial killers, their lives and their victims. Instead of the boring stuff, these students learned about American serial killers David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Ted Bundy, and the man who killed and ate young men, Jeffery Dahmer. The Australian students also studied Hannibal Lector, the fictitious, erudite consumer of human flesh. 

     What follows are some of the"Serial Killer Investigation Assignment" activities students could choose from:

     Draw a cartoon panel about how your serial killer murdered someone. This is a good one for a kid with artistic ability who has selected a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy. Gacy, an amateur clown, tricked his young male victims into handcuffing themselves before he slowly strangled them to death. Mr. Gacy buried the dead boys' bodies under his house in Chicago. The visuals here could be great. These students of sadistic, multiple murder could identify with Mr. Gacy who was himself an artist. Maybe they could copy his style and technique. Or maybe they could do a cartoon of him dying in the execution chamber. 

     Choose two serial killers, compare them and decide which of them is worse and why. This is a good exercise for  students who want to be  criminal defense attorneys when they grows up. A student might select Donald Harvey, the Ohio angel of death who murdered hundreds of terminally ill hospital patients by poisoning them to death. Mr. Harvey could be compared to Ted Bundy who raped and murdered dozens of young women. In choosing Harvey over Bundy, the student could argue that all of Bundy's victims were young pretty women, while Donald Harvey just killed old people who were going to die soon anyway. Encouraging a 14-year-old see the good side of a serial killer may not be a good idea.

     Write a poem about a serial killer. Probably the first question for the teacher regarding this assignment was: does it have to rhyme? Mixing poetry and violent death would surely get kids interested in writing on a higher level. Let's see, what rhymes with autopsy? That's a tough one.

     Create a serial killer board game with full instructions. This one is ambitious. But it's a good exercise because it forces the student to spend hours and hours thinking about sadistic, pathological murder. How about adapting "Chutes and Ladders" to "Tunnels and Dungeons," or "Whips and Chains." Maybe the student could convert a Monopoly board. Instead of real estate, the player lands on potential murder victims. In this game, however, there is no get-out-of jail card.

     Make a children's book which teaches them about serial killers. The goal here, I guess, is to get toddlers interested in multiple homicide. Full color illustrations depicting the various ways serial killers go about their business would be quite instructive. Teaching kids at a young age how to commit serial murder would be, I imagine, an excellent anti-bullying measure.

     Draw a floor plan of a serial killer's "dream house." This is a good assignment for students who want to grow up to be sadistic architects. It goes without saying that the dwelling would feature a torture chamber, a dissecting room, a library of snuff videos and a large but private back yard. I would also suggest a good ventilation system and a large incinerator.

     Ken Massari, the principal of the Australian high school that employed the 9th grade teacher didn't know about the serial killer course until he read about it in the local press. Apparently a parent had complained to the media. The principal pulled the plug on the course which including killing the teacher's homework assignments. To a reporter, Massari said that "Upon review, I made the decision to withdraw the assignment immediately and permanently, and our trained staff contacted each family to determine if any support was required." 
     While presumably fired and banned from teaching, the fate of this teacher was not made public.


  1. Jim, you are invited to follow my blog

  2. Maybe the kids will end up writing blogs about murders. I see you don't want the competition.

  3. How did this class get past the principal in the first place?