Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Winning the War On Drugs By Educating Our Youth

I got on my run this AM at about 7:30. It was brisk, but still t-shirt weather. I was headed down into the hood, about a mile and half into a good sweat when I spotted the drug machine at work. A dealer had tossed a bag (the kind we use to reduce plastic at the grocery store or carry books home from the library) attached to a line down from the second floor of one of the housing projects on this particular regular route of mine.

Across the street, I noticed a tall African American man - or at least he seemed to be African American. There was no way for me to tell if we really wasn't just another African immigrant or from one on the islands, but that's besides the point. If the mainstream media were there, they wouldn't bother clarifying this man's ethnicity. He was tall and getting out of a red, beat up, what looked like a Nova. He strode across the street with purpose and in about two strides reached into the bag, and pulled out a plastic baggy. Now, I'm not drug user or expert, but the stuff inside the baggy looked like drugs to me. And, by that time I was about 10 feet away from these two fine, upstanding citizens.

The man strides back to his car while putting the baggy under his overly big shirt and coat while the person holding the line hoists the bag back into the building. I ran on.

As I rounded the corner, I noticed I was about a block and a half from City Hall. About a half a mile later, I noticed a motorcycle cop and wondered if I should report this incident to the cop. What for? These two folks would have been long gone, and I didn't really see the person in the building. And, it was nearing 8:00 AM.

Later that AM, as I munched on my two eggs and toast swilled with dark Viennese Roast Coffee freshly brewed in the Italian stove top pot, I noticed an article about the failing schools in our City. Apparently, because of the court ordered desegregation directive ended, the schools are naturally becoming re-segregated. There was a scathing critique about how the resegregation is going to lead to the downfall of the schools, particularly in neighborhoods like I just ran through.

Then the thought hit me - isn't blaming the failure of particular student's test scores about the same as blaming a drug dealer for your addiction? Really, I don't think that it is purely the fault of the dealer that you might be hooked on whatever barbiturate you enjoy, nor is it purely his/her fault that there is a drug problem in America. Likewise, I don't think that the result of poor test scores for children is purely the fault of bad teaching or bad schools. The end user shares the blame.

There in lies the bigger problem. Like America's problem with drugs, the problem with education in America requires a broader fix than simply desegregating our schools. Perhaps, even, the only thing that desegregation accomplished was to statistically mollify the politicians. Actually, I don't believe that last sentence - indeed, all students benefit from interacting with people from a variety of cultures. But, we really have been kidding ourselves if we think that busing kids two hours across town when they have perfectly good schools in their own neighborhoods put them at a disadvantage because they have less time at home to do the homework.

Perhaps, if we were to turn the energy we spend on the failed war on drugs and used the funding to improve our schools we would accomplish two things: 1) do a better job at educating our youth, and 2) decrease the number of people who either use or sell drugs by educating them and illuminating another path for them.

These are just my raw thoughts on the subject and I will be ruminating over them as I go about my day taking care of my two sons. May post more, but I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on the subject.


Ken Grandlund said...

Ok- you know my thoughts on the drug war AND on education, but they always bear repeating again.

The drug war is a sham and a waste of people and resources. The illegal trade exists and grows only because it is illegal. Legalize, tax, return the savings and new income back to public programs. Including educating people about the realities of drug use and abuse (two different things entirely.)

As for education, it will never matter where we send our kids to learn unless parents support the schools and teach their children about the value of learning. This has to start at a young age and reinforced constantly in the younger yeaers or youth will grow up taking the path of least resistance.

Further. society has to stop paying lip service to "supporting our kids" while reducing their real support for children by working longer, spending more, abdicating childrearing to the tv. etc.

Segregation is inherently divisive and wrong, and serves no purpose than to alienate us from each other. True humanity and society requires a shared sense of togetherness, respect, and working together.

Rambling response I suppose, but as your thoughts were somewhat off the cuff, so is my response.

Eric2 said...

When I was studying these kind of things in college, my professor told us of all the studies that show that more drug education usually = more drug use. Odd huh? I think it is because the people doing the educating are not particularly good at it. But I might be wrong. The D.A.R.E. program has 0 proven effect, and some studies do show that drug use has gone up since its' inception.

windspike said...

Ken - thanks for the comment, even if you suggest it is rambling. I think you are right about the divisiveness of segregation. Even so, the issue is more challenging to correct than with a simple cross town bussing program. Indeed, the situation is exacerbated by the issues of class and class warfare perpetrated by those in power. This is why I cringe ever time I hear the W, Rove and Co. folks suggest its time for expanding the "ownership society." That implies that on some levels, one person will be the owner, and someone else will be the property. It harkens all the way back to the days of slavery. A fix for our system must involve every facit of the community and address the deep divisiveness that is only stregthened by those who suggest "ownership" is the only way.

Thanks for dropping by Eric - I was not suggesting that drug education was the answer. More to the point, high quality education of the whole is part of the answer. Part of the reason why people use drugs is becuase they are escaping their reality. They don't see another avenue out of their blight. Education, and it must be high quality, is one way. So, the point was to suggest that we invest more in education and less on the drug war - which as you stipulate, is not doing anything to ameleorate the situation. It only sponsors programs such as DARE to fatten some one elses pockets - and does nothing to decrease drug use - not unlike the shoveling of abstinence only education onto the youth of today is stopping teen pregnancy.

Hype said...

the whole drug problem is stupid.

everything is a 'drug'

i remember being taught about sugar in elementary school. it is a drug and yet our diet is based on sugar, animal fats and chemicals. *puke*

our world is messed up.. especially our country.

the elite or people with the power to know... most likely know this level of consumption is doomed. it is just an end-game to them. however, life will still go on and we will adapt. Education is key but it won't work. There are too many variables or factors working against this goal. The biggest one in my opinion is religion.


Anonymous said...

Are you MAD?

We can'r possibly fund decent schooling for "those people."

They'd never vote Republican!

Anonymous said...

Never let facts stand in the way of a good argument: birds of a feather flock together

Studies done with computer automatons prove that even the slightest preference for one's own kind eventually leads to nearly total segregation. That is, if you're green, and your preference is 51% for green (against 49% for blue), eventually all the greenies will live together.

There's nothing to prevent comments here being posted over on powerline but that isn't going to happen. Those powerline people only have different opinions. Would posters here be comfortable on powerline? Would they convince anyone there? Why bother trying to integrate their neighborhood.

Are we segregated. You bet. Do we like it that way? You bet. Do they like it that way? You ____.

Segregation is a red herring. We don't want to understand those people. We would be different people if we did. And the feeling is entirely mutual.