Lying to the kids
"Ya know, I think drugs have done some good things. If you don't think drugs have done good things, do me a favor- go home, take all your albums, your tapes and cds and burn 'em! Because all those musicians that have made all that great music over the years and has enhanced your lives....RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRReal fuckin' high on drugs...." -Bill Hicks
A few weeks ago, I had a lengthy conversation with The Counselor (find her link at the right- "Psychologizing Parker") about the magical fat man, St. Nick. It went a little something like this:
The Counselor: Since you don't celebrate Christmas, are you going to allow your daughter to believe in Santa Clause?
Me: (without hesitation) Nope, not a chance.
TC: But don't you think she'll be missing out on part of her childhood? Don't you think Santa allows children to have a sense of imagination that they wouldn't have otherwise?
Me: Honestly, Santa is the first big lie adults tell children. Eventually, you have to recant the lie and tell them that there is no Santa, breaking kids hearts in the process- same thing with the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Boogey Man! I grew up without Santa, but I had one of the most vivid imaginations ever! Besides, I think television, video games and talking toys do more to hinder a child's imagination than a lack of Santa.
Then she said something she NEVER says so easily.
TC: Yeah, I guess you're right....
Being that we've been friends for damn near half my life, we've spent many occasions sharing ideas, arguing back and forth trying to mentally outwit the other on all kinds of issues. Needless to say, I've got a huge amount of respect for The Counselor and her opinions, even when we vehemently disagree. But I had her on this one- and she knew it. Now don't think I'm being critical of parents who do take their kids to visit the Jolly Old Man at Lenox Mall. I'm not- you enjoy the beautiful Spirit of the Season in whatever way you do, it's just not what I plan to do with my kids. That being said, you can guess that the act of adults lying to children makes me a bit irritated, but it's not even Santa that chaps my ass the most, it's actually the mixed messages regarding drugs.
This past Monday, these two overweight, out of step, donut-eating-rank-above-mall-rent-a-cop police officers were invited by the guidance counselor to talk to the entire 4th grade about drugs. The first thing they did (which is what MOST speakers seem to do before they delve into their harangues) was to pop in an anti drug video and as the video faded from black to color with my kids watching intently, a vaguely familiar feeling came over me- almost de ja vu-esque. I remembered the beat from somewhere, then the singing....It ALL came back to me when THE JETS popped on the screen singing the short film's theme song on a prefabricated stage before a prefabricated crowd of prepubescent 80's kids. All I kept thinking to myself was WOW I remember this! Did you hear me correctly? THE "I got a crush on you..." JETS!!! Do me a favor and sing the song for a second and reminisce about what little boy or girl you had a "crush" on back when you were little, cause ALL of you were little when this damn anti drug video was made! In fact, you may have seen it when YOU were in 4th grade, I know I did!
The Jets. Don't front. You liked 'em too!
Anyway, the next scene opens up and this 12 year old kid named Bobby is offered a drink by a group of ragtag roughnecks in torn jeans and denim jackets under a set of shady outdoor bleachers. At that moment, the scene switches to these plump, furry Fruit of the Loom type characters who are supposed to represent the kid's brain, liver, kidneys and other organs as they piss and moan about why he shouldn't drink as it will affect them each individually.
The brain: He's got tickets to the concert and he'll be too drunk to go!
The liver: If he takes a drink, I won't work properly!
The kidneys: Don't do it!
The lungs: His girlfriend will smell it on his breath!
So Bobby walks away saying "No thanks" and the body organs cheer as acknowledgement that the kid made a good choice. The video then goes on to show the kids how alcohol causes major problems in the body, how to stand up to peer pressure- yadda yadda- and he ends up happily riding his skateboard to the Jets concert, dancing with his girlfriend and singing the original theme song, "Be smart don't start, be smart don't start..." Fade to black.
The officers begin a short discussion with the kids about alcohol and drugs and tell them to be smart and stay off drugs. They then ask the kids to name drug featured on the program they just watched. Here are some of the answers the kids shouted out:
Cocaine! (not in the film), marijuana! (not in the fim), crack! (not in the film), heroin! (not in the film), vodka! (not in the film), Hennessey! (not in the film).....You see where I'm going with this...
Then one kid FINALLY shouts the one word the cops were waiting on
After a few points on drugs and alcohol, they tell my kids that they've been well behaved and then get them to line up. As they are lining up to exit the band room, the GUIDANCE COUNSELOR says, "Since you've done so well, you each get three pieces of CANDY!"
Newsflash: Today is Halloween and I wish I could take tomorrow off. It's not because I'm sick or need a serious mental break, it's because the day after Halloween is PURE HELL at school. Tomorrow, kids around here will be running around like crazy, jumping off walls, scratching each other's eyeballs out, fighting each other, and acting completely out of control because of what you ask? CANDY! "Crack for kids" is REALLY what they should call it. According to Wikipedia, a drug is:
"any biological substance, synthetic or non-synthetic, that is taken for non-dietary needs"
Sounds like it fits to me!
Alcohol is bad for you, but candy isn't! Mixed message number one....
Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
I had to shake my head amidst all the cheering children because overindulgence in sugar (and a lack of proper excercise) is the main cause for overweight children. You can imagine how I feel walking the halls, side by side with children who are a third my age, half my height and equal to me in weight. I'm no heavyweight by any measure, but there is no excuse for a CHILD weighing the same as a GROWN ASS MAN! But I digress. The dated video of the Jets made me realize a couple of things:
1- It wasn't a realistic dipiction of peer pressure in the slightest. When kids get offered drugs, it's usually by someone they know, respect and admire, (i.e. their FRIENDS)- not by the bad ass, riff raff flunking-out-of-school-kids who end up working the local car washes.
2- Alcohol is LEGAL and it's hard to push the message to kids not to drink when they see commercials, billboards, PARENTS/SIBLINGS drinking liquor when they get home from school.
People who do drugs are bad people. Mixed message number two.
3- It makes no mention of any other illicit drug, which seems to be too little, too late considering my kids can name different drugs by BRAND NAME....
4- A few years ago, DARE, the program behind the "Just say NO" campaign found that it's programs are ineffective. In other words, this "war on drugs" is fucking futile....
5- Pharmaceutical companies aren't called "medicine companies", their called DRUG companies. Drugs are profitable. Mixed message number three.
The problem is that kids aren't receiving the RIGHT messages about drugs. All these anti-drug programs feature friendly puppets, singing children and brightly lit color schemes- almost as if they're selling damn cupcakes with vanilla icing! (Drugs are happy!- but they're not supposed to be. Mixed message number four.)
When I was growing up, my dad would drive me around to the jacked up parts of Denver, point people out and say,
"You see her right there? When I first came to town, she was a BEAUTIFUL woman, hips and everything....Look at her now, bone thin, dirty clothes, out on the streets with no where to go. Nobody wants her."
As if on cue, I'd say,
"What happened to her?"
And his response would always be,
"She started smoking that shit...."
For years we'd had the same conversation again and again, and over the years as I grew older, my fear of ending up like those people on the street grew with me. It wasn't those videos and corny, out of date pop songs that kept me off of drugs, it was the images of the walking dead that did. I'm eternally grateful to my father for taking the time to show me what drugs really do.
THESE are the types of images that kids should really be viewing during drug awareness week. Trust me, after seeing how a person may look after years of drug use, kids will think twice before doing drugs. The war on drugs should be psychological, not physical.Time, energy and billions of funds have been wasted to combat the illicit drug trade, arresting drug dealers and users, drug awareness education, treatment programs- and to no avail. Obviously they ALREADY know different types of drugs by the time they're in 4th grade and they didn't learn that from me. People rich and poor continue to use drugs despite the risks of jail, failed health or worse. In fact drug users are the only people incarcerated in government jails for comitting a crime against themselves! Hmmmmm.... So here's my solution. Legalize. Tobacco, alcohol and candy in excess are harmful, so why not open the gates and allow people to legally fuck themselves up with anything else? One of the reasons I advocate legalizing drugs like cannibis, (marijuana), cocaine, and even heroin (in complete disagreement with the counselor!) is because the people who do it, do it because they WANT to. They all received the messages that drugs are detrimental to the body, but they still chose to do it. Good for them. Empty out the prisons of the drug users and make room for the pedophiles, thieves and murderers. Use all that excess money spent to feed and clothe them and send camera crews out to videotape and photograph people on drugs, their families that are affected and the horrendous appearance of their bodies after years of drug abuse. Create MILLIONS of videotapes and photo albums and send THAT to each 4th grade teacher in America to do lessons with their kids on how it affects their bodies. No mixed messages there. At the very least, if my students ended up on drugs, they REALLY can't say they didn't know....
FYI I've been teaching other people's kids for six years and I have YET to take a state mandated drug test. Yes, read that last line again. Your teachers can do drugs (wooo!!!!), but you can't. Mixed message number five