There is always a drug unit in a Health class. Why, you might ask? There are a certain percentage of students who do drugs. Why? For some, doing drugs is fun, especially with friends. How cool is that? Most parents don’t like that; it messes with their future plans for their children — good grades, good college, good professional job, marriage, and bragging about their grandkids etc. So, there are Health classes providing wonderful scientific facts and evidence pointing to a healthier life style; not necessarily about changing teenage ideas/world views that lead to poor choices. Kids have their own sources of information which are not necessarily based on a scientist’s interpretation of scientific studies. For example, students told me they had no interest in smoking cigarettes; smoking wasn’t cool. I noted they didn’t say it wasn’t healthy, their expression, “cigarettes weren’t cool” was an important judgement based on the fact their friends didn’t do it/cool kids don’t smoke tobacco. When you are cool, you are somebody; therefore you are to be obeyed and mimicked.
A person’s worldview can affect how they gather and interpret scientific or unscientific evidence. Marijuana was cool, besides it was healthy too. “Mrs. McCoy, marijuana, is an herb and it’s natural.” Synthetic Marijuana was even better because it wasn’t illegal. This was very important, especially if you are on probation. This was learned from a student’s college educated brother (not a scientist, parent, health teacher but still in his eyes an expert to be listened to). This older brother’s girlfriend freaked out with it and had to be taken to the emergency room, but the older brother learned from the experience. “The girlfriend would have been fine if she had used less of it. I mean dahhh, she was half his size”, according to this expert brother. Somewhere in the discussion, one of my students began to talk about her brother who the night before walked into their family room, pulled out “a bunch of marijuana” from his backpack and began to manipulate it in various ways. The girl beside her exclaimed, “I’ve seen my Dad do that. “ I immediately said “STOP”. Both girls looked at me, hands out with a WHAT expression on their face. (This all took place within seconds.) I said, “You have just told 35 of your best friends that your brother and your father were involved with an illegal drug; Involvement as in possession with the intent of smoking, sale or even distribution to others for sale which could lead to arrest, prosecution and even jail.” By this time, they are both leaning way back in their chairs, eyes wide, mouth agape and one weakly said, “you’re not going to tell on us are you?.”
Everything you know, your sense of right/wrong, what’s important, your ethics, moral code come from your family. Parents model it in front of their kids every day, and the children breathe it in like air and drink it like water. Boring facts based on scientific studies from some health class doesn’t compete well against this. Your students can go thru the motions of a fact based drug unit, get a good grade and like the two girls above may come to school one day under the influence of a drug. I wasn’t surprised when that happened, but I felt bad because I wasn’t able to crack thru their worldview of it’s cool to get high with friends, nothing is going to happen.
A free person is able to consider, based on my history (drugs in the house), my current situation (drugs in the house), and my future hopes and dreams — would it be a good idea to come to school high on marijuana? An unfree person continues to follow the path they are on. At any age, it’s hard to be different from your group. If you are not planning on being anything, it doesn’t really matter what you do today. Every day is today. Kids have got to have a plan. It gives them hope for a different future and a path to get there.
The kids who are going to do drugs will do it because it is cool or maybe a better expression is — it’s fun to get high, especially with your friends. Fact based drug units will influence some students. Those students usually are more mature thereby more future minded. They are already planning on going somewhere and being something special. As a result, they are already seeking facts and applying logic in their attempt to figure out the cost versus the benefits. How much will it hurt me / cost me / will it be worth the cost or will it be one of my great regrets?
My drug units like my other lessons link back to the students Future Me worksheet (Goals or Good Intentions Unit) which they bring to class every day. I want students invested in their personal pursuit of happiness which is their daily walk toward their goals. I also clue them into the difference between Fun and Happiness. They are often surprised to discover fun and happiness are different. Fun doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness, many times only to regret of opportunities lost.