Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drug Education?

I had the most interesting guest speaker yesterday. I was, quite frankly, shocked. In CALM (Career and Life Management [10 wk course required to graduate]), they have different public educators come to speak to us from charitable organizations and agencies. Yesterday was someone from AADAC- Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. I was figuring the DARE routine- and for the most part it was. We went through the steps of addiction: No use, Experimental use, Social use, Misuse, Abuse, and Dependancy.
Think about where you are from- where do you think the majority of teenagers fall? In Texas, I would say those who were "druggies" fell under abuse, and those who weren't were no use, or rare experimental. In Calgary, most are experimental or social. There are extremes both ways of course, but most lie in the middle ground. It's not just the druggies that do drugs here, it's a large part of the student population.
The counselor supported this, saying most of the community estimated misuse, but stats show it's really experimental or social. What blew me away is she said this was good news, because it meant most of our generation was using drugs "responsibly."
I was like, "WHAT?" Since when is ANY use of drugs responsible??? Honestly, I am amazed that someone who works for a government agency would have that mentality towards something that is illegal for most (alcohol) or all (drugs) of the student population. Throughout the presentation, it was implied that if you are familiar with the drug so as to not overdose, and keep a healthy balance between drugs/alcohol and your previous interests (family, school, friends, music, sports, etc) it's acting responsibly.
What she fails to take into account is that when you are high or drunk, your senses are dulled. You could drive drunk once, and end your life or the life of another. You could get hooked: 90% of first time meth users get addicted, and only 3% of those 90% recover. After that, you will eventually come into financial issues, drug trafficking/other illegal activity, or hurt those who love you. People overdose. People get raped. People loose their futures. Today a speaker who dealt with sexually exploited youth made a point that the highest-risk areas for abusers to locate victims were areas where drugs and alcohol are usually found- parties, raves, clubs, even pool halls were mentioned. She said that they looked for youth with a low self-esteem. The AADAC lady said that people who "abuse" substances lower their self-esteem. How can a government-run agency teach people who the other agency ends up helping?
Not to mention, illegal is illegal. Who cares if you're drinking responsibly if you're 17? The government doesn't. There are laws for a reason, and though you may not see the benefit of them yourself or blatantly disagree with them, as citizens we must respect them. Imagine if people each followed their own laws. If a psychopath murdered someone, all he would have to do is say he doesn't believe murder is wrong, and he would get off.
My point is, the level of addiction for high school students will not reduce to no use until they are taught it is wrong. Although the speaker never went as far as to commend casual use over no use, little attention was paid to the fact that it was possible to resist the temptation and practice self-control. When parents allow their children to drink under their supervision and educators allow "responsible" use, they are creating a future who holds no respect for the law, others around them, and furthermore, no respect for their own bodies.


Kevin said...

I guess this kind of goes along with the argument about abstinence-only sex education, whether educators should accept that it happens and only contain it. It's controversial, but not unheard of.

Chelsea said...

:) See, I'm all for abstinence-only sex education too, so...

Chelsea said...

not to mention the possession of drugs alone is illegal. sex isn't. that was sort of my point.

Ken Wichert said...

Hey Chelsea,

I’m really glad you put a link to your blog on Facebook.

I’ve read a few of your entries but it was this one on drug education that really got me thinking. Your ability to communicate clearly and cogently assemble an argument is truly impressive – I suspect you’re a far more advanced and sophisticated thinker than most of your peers. While I absolutely agree with your conclusion that “no use” is the best decision for a teenager to make, I was uncomfortable with how you support this conclusion and would like to share some alternative thoughts.

In my opinion, the teenage years are critical for developing “good habits” – the ones that will make you stronger, happier and better able to deal with life’s ups and downs. By this definition, drug use is certainly not a good habit!!!

Your entry was triggered by an irresponsible comment made by an expert making a presentation to your CALM class. As a professor, my reaction is to consider this question – what is the purpose of the CALM program?

I conclude that the point is to help young people successfully mature into adults. Mature adults act responsibly by considering how their actions will affect not only themselves but also those around them.

A mature adult is able to think analytically and she has a clear understanding of her personal values and attitudes. Analytical thinking and clearly understood values allow someone to make the “right” decision – but the “right” decision for one person won’t necessarily be “right” for another.

So, I think CALM is trying to help students learn to make better decisions by building analytical skills and trying to form “good” values. (This is where the visiting speaker made an error in judgment!) Sources for learning values/attitudes include, for example, family, friends, religion and TV.

Now (finally) I come to discussing the point that I’m uncomfortable with in your entry and it’s in the nature of how humans learn. The most effective way that people learn and incorporate knowledge is through experience. This means that a person has to make a decision and then live through the results of that decision – for better or for worse. If one gets the result expected from a decision (a good decision), then his analysis and attitudes are reinforced. If it’s a bad decision, then he needs to adjust his analysis, attitudes, or both.

Learning through experience is a vital part of maturing, and we can’t gain experience unless we’re able to make decisions and live with the consequences. So, when we tell an adult-in-training that he or she should “just say no” or not do something simply because it’s illegal, the person doesn’t get the chance to make a decision, or worse, the person will make a decision with the purpose of rebelling – a way to assert personal control over decision making without fully considering all of the consequences.

In my opinion, it is better for educators and mentors to help equip and prepare a person (whether he/she is 15 or 50) to make intelligent decisions (independently of peer pressure) and act on them. And, educators and mentors need to be there to lead the person to consider if it really was a good decision – i.e. help the person learn.

[By the way, you hint at the cultural differences between students in Texas and in Alberta. I consider this a very interesting topic that I’d like you to explore in future blog entries. Cultural differences and adapting to new cultures is something I think about a lot living in Sri Lanka.]

Chelsea said...

I do agree with you about a different method of educating. I was sort of ranting about how I thought it was crazy she said that. I typed this up all at once and usually that means I don't think through things as clearly as I would have liked to.
I agree with your learning through experience, except many people DON'T have a bad experience the first time they try drugs. Drugs exaggerate emotions you are feeling, and usually if you're at a party, you're in a party mood. They don't feel bad till you use them to dull some sort of pain. Then the pain gets worse. [This is not from experience by the way, just what I've heard, so if you find it incorrect, let me know]. Relying on experience here is not the best method. You have to make the decision before you're faced with it.
What you probably disagreed with was the statement: "My point is, the level of addiction for high school students will not reduce to no use until they are taught it is wrong." Looking back, I probably should have explained that more. I once read a book called Dateable (which I cannot find right now for the life of me)something along the lines of "Guys usually won't strive to surpass your expectations. If you set low expectations, they have no insentive to do better." I found that quite true. Part of the way you act is from what is expected of you. True, there are some people who hold high values and don't compromise them, but they're rare. I found this applicable to teenagers too. It's why I think it's stupid to be engaged in high school- even if you're the most mature person in the world, you're still being treated as a kid and therefore, will act more like a kid. There's actually an interestng group that was set up with this mentality called the Rebelution. From their website, "The official definition of the 'rebelution' is "a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture." When you look around today, in terms of godly character and practical competence, our culture does not expect much of us young people."
So my point in saying that we should be told drugs are wrong is not that it should be done without explaining or just batently. I mean that unless adults show they disapprove, why should kids change? By saying it is possible to use them responsibly, they are almost promoting drug use.

Paige said...

You would loveee my morality class! lol

No but in all seriousness, well said.

Oh, and you're school sounds a lot like mine, in terms of freedom and independence but a LOT of work.