Saturday, September 11, 2010

Common Sense on Drug Stats

Every once in a while we get hit with the workshop that exists only to justify its own existence, while keeping the presenter employed. The drug-scare workshop is the prime candidate.
  1. Funny About Money went to one. They said 50% of CC students are coming to class stoned or high on multiple drugs.
  2. Our Drug Awareness Dude from the community center showed up with two suitcases of things to look for and police-approved fake samples of paraphernalia. 
  3. The ex-cop came in to show us those brain scans of druggies vs non-druggies. "Look at the "holes" in this one and at the nice smooth brain over here."
  4. The ex-druggie claimed to have taken this entire list of drugs and abused his kid, and here she is to confirm that he was an asshole. The poor girl stands there looking embarrassed as hell as he lists all the signs of alcoholism and drug use in your students and describes how he used to mistreat his family while under the influence.
All this time, I'm thinking, "Calm down. Scare tactics only work for a few minutes until people start thinking again." It burns me up. Here we are paying this clown a couple thousand to preach bullshit and take up a lot of time. Isn't there a better use of our resources?

The ex-druggie is spouting utter crap, trying to make himself look better in his own eyes. His daughter is still being abused and I have no sympathy for him. He's telling us the signs of alcoholism - slanty eyes in kids - and the admin are eating it up. No one is surprised when the email comes by the next day ... "Please stop asking kids about their parents' alcoholism." He's telling the kids the dangers of drugs and how they'll ruin your life. Most of the kids noticed he's getting paid a couple grand to speak to a gynasium full of kids for an hour. A few also noticed that he "wants to come back a lot because this is the worst school in the whole state and I'd really like to come back often to help you guys." Gee, thanks.

The ex-cop has gotten hold of some pictures that scare the bejeezus out of him, except that he doesn't understand them. "Look at the holes in this kid's brain." then, the best line, "See the awful colors? Those are caused by drugs."

Ahhh, it's a computer generated scan of activity levels, Dude. It's a graph. The colors were chosen for contrast. There are no physical holes, just activity levels below an arbitrary cutoff.

Then, there were the line graphs. No vertical or horizontal scale, no mention of what was actually being measured. "This is a graph of memory for a kid on drugs." Me: "Time in days, months? Number of items, type of items, first 800 digits of pi? What memories, what kind of mental tasks?" Him: "I don't know. I just got these graphs from their website." Me: "...."

But wait, there's more. There's the community anti-drug crusader.

Apparently, according to him, our students are taking any or all of over a hundred different types of drugs. He had displays in the two suitcases so therefore he must be telling the truth. We had problems: meth, heroin, speed, downers, pot, booze, cocaine, peyote, mushrooms, wine coolers and hard lemonade, injectables, glue and other inhalants -- even (this is no shit) "Some girls are soaking their hair scrunchies in gasoline so they can sit in class and sniff the fumes all period." Really? Don't you think someone might notice that? Doesn't this seem a bit far fetched?

So I asked him, "According to what you have seen and found, according to what the Police Chief standing next to you has seen and found, according to what the kids themselves tell you about what they've heard other kids are doing, what is really happening in this town?" "Alcohol, mostly. Marijuana."

What about the other things you're showing us? "Well, there was that one kid three years ago." Here's a little math for you: 100 - 2 = 98% bullshit.

Funny with Money was told by the college people responsible for policing and preventing it, that about fifty percent of students in a community college classroom, at any given time, are likely to be abusing some kind of drug, legally purchased or not, often more than one something.

"Substances" range from meth to over-the-counter cold pills and nostrums. So, the homeopathic "cold medicine" that contains less of anything useful or harmful than does the average placebo is also lumped into the statistic. And probably Hall's and Ricola.

Anyone else wondering why these geniuses are telling us all this? Maybe to justify their own salaries through irony? If this is such a problem, why haven't they done anything about it?

And seriously? Most community college kids are there on borrowed money and many are working fulltime, desperate for an education. They aren't going to class wasted, they're going to class tired. If they were wasted, they wouldn't bother going to class.

Why do I complain? Because overloading the classroom teacher with trivial bullshit that has no bearing on anything in their classroom is a lose-lose situation.

If you have us looking for wraiths that do not exist, then we will find those wraiths anyway and waste time, effort, soul, and most importantly, trust, barking up the wrong trees. Everyone loses.

If you tell us that slanty eyes in kids are a sure sign of parental alcoholism, then that is what the faculty will see. Don't be surprised if parents thus accused do not take it well.

If you tell us that 95% of our students are on drugs right now (via the ex-druggie, with the principal standing right next to him, nodding wisely), then we will misinterpret tired or worried or frustrated as "drugged." If you tell us that we should report everything, then an awful lot of nonsense will get thrown into the system -- parents will be called, kids will be called in, DYS will have to be notified -- because a kid had a fight with his girlfriend and didn't sleep well for the last two weeks.

That's how you lose when you are dealing with students.

You lose. YOU. LOSE.

Kids won't open up when they really need help. They will fall into the patterns you accuse them of. The parents will learn to NEVER trust the faculty or the school. The kids will withdraw from all of the possible support. Your school will take on a whole new feel and no one will like it.

If you try and tell students that the brain doesn't stop growing until the age of 25, so "Students shouldn't drink until then," you will come off as loony and hypocritical. Kids watch TV on Sunday for the football. We shouldn't expect the other messages to magically disappear: Alcohol is cool and very desirable and the perfect home has hundreds of cans in the fridge, strength and power are all-important (steroids and other PEDS), and women are supposed to dress like that.

If your presentation is mostly hyperbole and loaded with graphs you don't understand, your rhetoric will pass right on by. Kids are good at ignoring adult exaggeration and they hate hypocrisy.

Kids laugh at the lameness of the "Eggs on Drugs" commercials. They don't listen to teachers who bullshit them.

Is there a problem in my school? Yep.
Should the school discuss it? Yep.
Should we do something? Absolutely.

If you have information for us in the school, we will gladly listen to it and do our best to act on it.  Just follow one simple rule:

"Tell me the truth without exaggerating and stop wasting my time."

1 comment:

  1. Indeed--these things are so simultaneously overblown (there's so! much! drug use!) and simple minded (just say no!) that it's hard to imagine that kids could possibly take it seriously. One of the small reasons why it's good I'm in higher ed rather than a public K-12 is because I have a hard time not laughing at these things.