Saturday, October 27, 2012

Student forum on drug abuse

Here's an article on the problem of drugs in school that I consider interesting even though it is not directly related to homework (Carlsbad Teens Speak About Drugs). It is good that the mayor formed a panel of young people to help address this problem. The young people were all designated as leaders by the principals of their schools and represent one part of the student population. Two comments caught my attention. First, one student refers to another who continued to use drugs despite three suspensions. My take on that, which is similar to what I say in my book, is that the sign of a good penalty is that it does not have to be used again (because it worked). If a penalty is administered several times with no result, it's not solving the problem. In fact, it reinforces the undesired behavior.

It's also interesting that at one point in the article, it is mentioned that the lack of morality of the parents is a source of the problem. In both of these examples, there is an underlying we vs. they attitude and one that assigns blame and sees people as flawed rather than systems as flawed. That is true for the drug problem (our war on drugs has been a disaster) and it is true for homework noncompliance. In both cases, ostracizing and separating kids from their mainstream peers is a formula for disaster, at least for those kids.

Now I understand there is a need to protect kids from negative behavior and to protect students from risks that other students pose. Yet, if we look at situations where children are at high risk (e.g. some of our inner city schools), law enforcement fails to stem the tide. Engagement by teachers, typically in schools with visionary principals and limited homework requirements, appears at the core of the success stories I've read.

I wonder what the mayor would have learned if he or she had convened a group of kids who were dappling in drugs to discuss the problem. Perhaps, they would have ideas that could have truly helped.

Anyway, this may be a tangent from my typical blog post, however, it has caught my attention from my work with adults who have endured severe consequences for drug using behavior that, in general, they felt (and were for the most part) separated and ostracized at a young age from the mainstream of school social and academic life.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

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