Our Blind Spot About Drugs

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 12, 2002.

  1. By Jonathan Zimmerman
    Source: Washington Post

    When I was a high school social-studies teacher in Vermont, one of my duties was to instruct a state-mandated unit on alcohol and illegal drugs. Our curriculum encouraged us to lead "discussions" about these substances, but there was one fact we could never discuss: They make you feel good. That's right: They make you feel good. You read it here first.
    And soon, New Yorkers will be reading it on the subway -- right under a photograph of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Earlier this week, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws unveiled a $500,000 advertising campaign featuring a quotation from Bloomberg. Asked last year whether he had ever smoked marijuana, Bloomberg told New York magazine, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."

    Slated for display in subways, buses and newspapers, the advertisements target ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's "zero-tolerance" policy against public marijuana smoking. Thanks to Giuliani's zealous enforcement efforts, the number of New Yorkers arrested for pot smoking in city streets or parks soared from 720 in 1992 to 33,471 in 1999.

    Bloomberg says he will continue to enforce the city's anti-marijuana laws "vigorously," and perhaps he should. Public pot smoking can create a menacing environment, especially for young children. It could also spawn a general disregard for public law and order, as advocates of the "broken-windows" theory maintain.

    But we should not allow these legal issues to divert us from the important truth that Bloomberg admitted: Drugs can be pleasurable. Indeed, a frank acknowledgment of this fact -- especially in American schools -- might hold the key to reducing our nation's dangerous dependence upon alcohol and illegal narcotics.

    Starting in the late 1800s, public schools taught children that drinking alcohol -- even in small amounts -- would damage their livers, hearts, eyes and lungs. After the repeal of national prohibition in 1933, textbooks corrected many of these exaggerations. In the guise of "discussion," however, schools continued to emphasize the perils of strong drink -- and the reasons that students should abstain from it.

    A similar pattern marks the recent history of drug education. Since the 1980s, most anti-drug curricula have stressed the physiological and psychological dangers of illegal narcotics. More than three-quarters of the nation's school districts adopted a single curriculum, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), which sent police officers into schools to lecture about the harms of drugs.

    In the face of mounting evidence that this approach did not deter narcotic use, however, DARE switched course. Rather than stressing the evil consequences of drugs, teachers and police officers now lead discussions about why people choose to ingest them.

    That's a welcome reform, but it won't work if we ignore the most obvious reason: a desire for pleasure. At present, educators stress every reason for alcohol and drug use except pleasure. Peer pressure, low self-esteem, parental abuse -- the list goes on and on. But nowhere do we acknowledge the plain fact that alcohol and drugs can promote euphoric feelings in the human psyche.

    A similar blind spot marks present-day sex education. Here, too, teachers are asked to lead discussions about the reasons teenagers engage in premarital sex. Only rarely, however, do our textbooks or teachers admit the clearest reason: It feels good. In sex education, as in drug education, pleasure remains the ultimate taboo.

    Why? Most adults probably fear that any acknowledgment of pleasure will increase the allure of these activities. But the students already know about the joy of sex, alcohol and drugs. They know it from film and television; they know it from popular music; they know it, sometimes, from their own experience.

    What they don't know -- or don't understand -- are the dangers that these pleasures can bring. But we'll never persuade our children to take heed of the dangers if we continue to lie or dissemble about the pleasures. Mayor Bloomberg had the backbone to tell the truth about both of them. Let's hope our schools follow suit.

    The writer teaches history in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He is the author of "Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America's Public Schools, 1880-1925."

    Source: Washington Post (DC)
    Author: Jonathan Zimmerman
    Published: Friday, April 12, 2002; Page A31
    Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company
    Contact: letterstoed@washpost.com
    Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com

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  2. Cool article SJ. It's hard for someone to say, "It feels really good, but don't do it because it's bad for ya"!!!

    Like tellin' a young'un Chocolate tastes great, but it will make ya fat and possibly kill ya!!
  3. thats actually a really good article, I wonder if that ad campain will do anything I sure hope so

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