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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

Drug Education in American Schools: DAY 48

The following article is written by guest blogger, M.M who is a teacher’s aide from the US.

Observations and Insights:

Within one American school, seventh graders are assigned to write a research paper on a drug of their choice.  To begin the process, the teacher shows a list of different kinds of drugs the students can pick from.  As she goes down the list, she says the name of the drug and asks if any student knows or heard of this drug. From my observations, students knew or heard of drugs like marijuana and alcohol, but drugs like heroin, cocaine, PCP, Methamphetamine they were unsure of. 

The teacher explained what each drug was to give perspective and assist the students to figure out which one they are interested to write about. She provided information on what each drug looks like, how it’s used and the physical and mental effects it can have on a person.  The teacher even had a magazine with before and after pictures of a drug-addict and before showing it to the students a few of them said they were scared to look at it, but once they did they said something along the lines of “eww!” and “they look like a zombie!”

Speaking of zombies, the drug PCP was talked about in class. The teacher said that this drug has such a numbing effect on the body that she saw a video of a man on PCP running towards the cops despite being continually shot at.  The drug user could not feel himself getting shot at and therefore he continued to attack police (just like a zombie you’d see in a movie).  The majority of students found this fascinating by laughing and begging to write a paper on this drug.

For some more context, the class I sat in is a middle/upper class school system where many of the students come from wealthy families, therefore the environment/neighborhood they live in is quite safe and so, drugs and/or drug dealers are not a problem around here.  What I have observed within my time in the class is that the teacher spent two days talking about different kinds of drugs, and then allowed the students to begin their research.  However, what I found to be missing with the course lesson was a more in depth explanation as to WHY exactly people take drugs in the first place. So much emphasis is placed on knowledge and information about drugs and the dangerous effects if one were to take and/or become addicted to them that not much is really looked at or considered as to why people go to the extent of seeking out drugs and/or becoming addicted. 

According to’s book The Truth about Ecstasy, on the last page of the book they write the following:

People want to take drugs because they want to change something in their lives. Here are some of the reasons young people have given for taking drugs:            -To fit in            -To escape or relax            -To relieve boredom            -To seem grown up            -To rebel            -To experiment

In this book, there is not enough information for students to substantiate exactly why teenagers want to fit in, or what is it about their lives, whether it be something in family or society that they want to escape from, or why they feel compelled to rebel – all of this is not exactly looked into or taught to the students about– why?   All of these points can actually be traced to the way our system and institutions currently function, whether it be the family system, religious system, education system, economy – basically, the world-system that we as humanity participate in that effects the lives and well-being of each life form daily here on earth, and for books to make such vague statements as to why people take drugs does nothing to help students understand more about the world system or themselves in the way the mind works that can for example, explain the extent as to why people seek drugs to escape in the first place.

Unfortunately, this exposes a problem within the education system where there is a lack of prevention and education for the student to be able to direct oneself effectively in the world. This “lack of teaching” or education for students to become aware of the reasons behind why and how people take drugs and the influence our current world system has on us isn’t necessarily the teacher’s “fault,” because teachers are paid to teach a certain curriculum with a set of materials and therefore, they are, like all of us who have a job, in the hands of the corporations. Teachers must keep to what is expected of them and the opportunity to talk about real issues and real problems with students can potentially threaten one’s job and the student’s current knowledge and understanding of the world because specific problems in this world are not directly and openly discussed/taught within the school system.  Teachers have to shove these topics “under the rug” to avoid any conflict with their position. I have taken similar drug education courses when I was in the sixth and seventh grade and I know several of my classmates ended up taking drugs in high-school despite all the research papers, videos and class work we did on drugs.  Therefore, there is a problem with what we as educators are doing here. Even with all the knowledge and information a student can absorb in the classroom it doesn’t matter because some factor in a being’s life can influence them to seek out or use a drug for any other purpose than to be here in this physical reality. The point that people take drugs in this world to escape should be a red flag for all of us to seek permanent solutions to change the world system into one where no child or adult may want to escape their lives through using drugs. A world system that focuses on the betterment of all, through education and prevention for all to understand how to function effectively in this world will lead to a place that is worth our children to live in.  I will provide more research, school observations and common sense in blogs to come, but for now, I suggest you check out these websites for information on how we can work towards changes that will assist and support us to create a better future for all.

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