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The note was a wake-up call. A student's father requested an alternative assignment for his child.

I was teaching the novel "Lord of the Flies," by William Golding. It was part of the English syllabus for 10th-graders - a story about British school boys, ages 7 to12, marooned without adults on an island in the South Pacific. They devolve from civilized behavior to possible cannibalism. Just a story.

But the father did not want his son exposed to so realistic and compelling a tale about the power of evil. Since his son was a minor, he requested the school not be at odds with him on this all-important moral point.

He was the only parent in my eight years of high school teaching to make such a request. An alternative assignment was given. Plus, I scrutinized my lesson plans for teaching "Lord of the Flies" like no other unit I ever taught.

An adult variation, masquerading as "Gilligan's Island,"- the dark side - is being made for TV. As our cover story (right) highlights, a "docu-soap-cum-game show" television program called "Survivor" will piggy-back on the wave of new how-to-be-a-millionaire shows this spring. The show "maroons"s 16 contestants on an island off the coast of Borneo. Ten cameras will follow them as they build shelter, find food, and "get along." After every three-day episode, they vote, by secret ballot, one of their group off the island. The "survivor" is a millionaire.

These contests portray the almighty dollar as the answer to life's challenges. They exploit intense empathy with contestants; a private-sector spectacle that is a variation of how state lotteries dupe millions of losers into identifying with a few winners on the premise of something for nothing.

When "Survivor" airs, alternative viewing should be the choice of all of us, child and adult alike.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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