It’s too easy to stereotype drug abuse in our schools.
Gang-bangers, minorities, skaters, skin-heads and boarders are the images that follow the words “drugs and schools.”
Unfortunately, there appears to be a deeper epidemic growing quietly in many schools. An epidemic that left unchecked, will hasten the moral, societal and intellectual decay of our present culture.
My forty-five-year teaching career has spanned five decades, both coasts and public and private schools. During that time I’ve observed plenty of “typical” drug and alcohol abuse situations. They have ranged from kids who overdosed, smoked pot in the restrooms, found drunk in the hallway and got busted for selling.
In almost all those cases, the students involved were ones you sort of knew were doing drugs, and it was just a matter of time until they were caught.
That syndrome hasn’t changed. Those kinds of kinds still populate our schools and create most of the headlines in the paper or the twenty-second soundbite on TV.
Starting in the mid-to-late eighties an interesting decline in attention spans, decreasing critical thinking abilities and a growing difficulty in memorizing simple lists or terms.
Now in 2009, focused attention for many students is a foreign concept, memorizing material other than words to songs or movie dialogue is almost impossible, and thinking critically about anything is absolutely overwhelming.
Nothing stands alone in producing this epidemic of apathy, but some obvious reasons exist.
- constant use of EED’s (Electronic Entertainment Devices
- lack of requiring responsibility and accountability of students
- increased “enabling” by both parent and schools
- students raised in a “flat-screen society
There’s one more possibility that might be lurking in the background.
Students talk… and I listen.
Lately, over the last eight to ten years, there has been increasing chatter about weekend recreational use of drugs by the “good kids” in schools.
You know the kind. A solid “B” or “C” average, plays on a team, goes to church (at least sometimes), doesn’t dress goth, and doesn’t shave his head or tatoo her back.
Many of these students are normal enough to have divorced parents and actually know who their father is.
Some have part-time jobs and drive safely on the way to school.
Contributing to their academic decline, but hidden in “normalness,” is an insidious use of various kinds of drugs ranging from marijuana to prescription drugs to their own experimental use of varioius drug cocktails.
Recently I conducted an informal survey in my classes, asking my students to voluntarily answer the following questions.
- Do you personally know someone who takes drugs in any form?
- If so, what is their particular favorite drug?
- How often do they do those drugs?
- In your opinion, are they addicted?
- Do you think their parents know about their drug use?
- About what percent of your friends do any form of drugs?
Over eighty percent said they had a friend doing drugs, with marijuana being the most common drug used. Ecstasy was second, but closely followed by Vicadin, often stolen from a parent.
Generally, students did not think their friends were addicted, mainly because they did drugs only on the weekends. The large majority thought that parents had no knowledge of the drug use of their children.
Obviously this was not a scientific survey, and only represents the opinion of a small number of students. (less than 150)
If we assume, however, that even a reasonable number of these students were telling the whole truth, it’s obvious that a deeper problem of the use of weekend recreational drugs could be growing into a major problem.
Here in California, where the governor has openly favored the legalization of marijuana, students are already using that as a rationale that it’s okay to smoke pot.
As a person who works in a profession that deals with the mind, my intuition keeps shouting quietly to me that any substance or distraction makes the effective use of young minds more and more difficult.
No wonder schools have the reputation of expensive failures!
What do you think?