Behind Enemy Lines


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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71 Responses

  1. Saul DeGraw says:

    I think this is just one area where you can stick to the status quo without any feelings of consciousness. Maybe you can talk about medical marijuana if the school deems that acceptable.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    I bet I’ll be in the minority here, but I like the lead teachers response.

    As a parent, I’ve noticed that until you get to a certain age, any tiny sliver of approving comment about something that can be self-destructive behavior at a young age is instantly translated into tacit approval of said young person fully engaging in said self-destructive behavior. And this is especially the case when the comment is made by an adult authority figure who is not that young person’s parent.

    I can attest to a conversation that took place in my house about our 7th grade boy hanging out with a crowd that was smoking pot, engaging in sex, stealing parent’s liquor, and shoplifting that was all justified at the time by what a public school teacher said about marijuana scare tactics being bulls**t.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      This is exactly what I mean when I talk about the developmental response to nuance. And I appreciate hearing the parents angle. I should make clear that my visceral response to the question was not a particularly informed teacher response, but a personal response. Thankfully I wasn’t high at the time and prone to out-of-control and irrational behavior! Also, I don’t think the lead teacher’s response was inappropriate. Not necessarily. That is what I’m trying to suss out. What is the role of the teacher in this conversation with this particular age group (I imagine the role is different at different points of development).Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        I call it the Santa Principle.

        It’s really ok to learn about the world in stages. If your parents don’t ‘correct’ your belief in Santa at age three, it doesn’t follow that twenty years later you won’t be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Good point. Though I do think — with children older than three — you do run some risk of breaking trust if you deliberately engage in falsehoods. It depends on the child and the relationship and the topic. But if you tell a 14-year-old that drugs will kill you if you’re simply in the same room as them, you are going to lose all credibility on the matter if/when they learn the real truth.

        Obviously, there is tons of gray area in there.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy I totally agree with that. The surest way to make your kid a pothead in college, I believe, is to tell him or her all through high school that marijuana does all kinds of horrible things that it doesn’t do.Report

      • Zane in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s these sort of tricky issues that make me glad I teach adults. But I echo Kazzy and Tod, wildly inflated stories about the harm caused by some drugs can lead to a backlash. “If some of the things I was told were patently untrue, why should I believe any of it?”

        Thinking adults can laugh at “Reefer Madness” while praying their kids never have the opportunity to try meth, but those distinctions are lost at earlier developmental levels.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

        My parents took the tack that certain things, like drugs, will adversely interfere with my ability to grow up big & strong. Since I was small for my age, and badly bullied, the desire to grow up big & strong was more than powerful enough to keep me far away from such things.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Kazzy says:

        When you’re dealing with people whose view of the world tends to be black and white, it’s a tough line to walk. If you shade it gray, they may take it as tacit approval. If you paint it as all bad all the time, when they inevitably discover that what you said isn’t entirely true, they may take it to mean that everything you said can be ignored.

        I’m not sure which risk is greater at any given age.Report

  3. Chris says:

    “For most illegal drugs, the downsides eventually outweigh the upsides” probably isn’t want they’re looking for either.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    I am STILL debating what to tell my kids when they reach this age. I’m leaning towards lying my face off* until they are older.

    *Well, maybe not “lying my face off”…more just focusing on the risks (=physical, legal and most importantly, me finding out about it) than the upsides (=some of them are hella fun).Report

    • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      This is essentially what I’ve done with my son. He hasn’t asked me about any drug use in my past, and I certainly haven’t volunteered any information. Instead I’ve talked about the many risks, both short and long term.

      Lately, he’s become more aware of the legalization of marijuana elsewhere in the country, and that’s sparked some more nuanced conversations about that drug in particular.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        I am also thinking about ways to succinctly explain the fact that their illegality (and the chemist’s race to stay one step ahead of the law) means that it’s even more of a crapshoot than it ever was (and it ALWAYS was), in terms of being served poison instead of the intended drug.

        Would I panic if I found out my 15-year-old had taken what was sold to them as “LSD” in 1991? Well, I wouldn’t be HAPPY, as it’s possible while under the influence to place yourself in physically dangerous places, and some people do have adverse psychological reactions to LSD – but by and large, if it was sold to them on a blotter in 1991, it was either nothing, or it was LSD of some quality, because nothing else was active at such low doses as to be sold on blotter. And LSD proper has a *fairly* safe profile physically/toxicology-wise. If you don’t do something dumb while high, you’ll probably be all right when you come down. So I might not panic.

        If they took what was sold to them as “LSD” today? Today, it could be any one of a range of newer compounds that are active at a similar low dose and have somewhat similar mental effects to LSD, but unknown safety profiles and risk of additional side effects (vasoconstriction, seizures/tachycardia/death).

        So yeah, if I found a blotter in their room today…I’d probably panic.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Chris says:

        I think that the “buyer beware” aspect of the “drugs are dangerous” talk is often underplayed by adults and teachers. They go in depth about the dangers of the drug itself (both real and fabricated), but the really nasty question for most of them is: WTF is in this stuff, really?

        Marijuana is a bit of an exception because at least it’s a recognizable plant, but the rest of it? Don’t tell me you’re just going to ingest an unidentified powder or liquid sold to you by a shady looking guy in a park. Or that some random stranger at a party full of underage kids is enough of an expert mycologist that he totally knows about which mushrooms are safe.

        I mean, if you found a cupcake sitting on a park bench with nobody around, would you take it home and eat it? What if the guy with the gang tattoos and gun in his sweat pants said was OK? Jackpot! Suspicious park bench dessert!Report

      • Zane in reply to Chris says:

        @troublesome-frog I think it’s hard to talk about risk in the very sensible way you just did without being accused of condoning drug use. Remember the controversy about trying to provide “safe sex”/”safer sex” education that was meaningful to those most at risk for AIDS? Or needle exchange programs?Report

      • zic in reply to Chris says:

        @troublesome-frog you obviously weren’t buying weed during the paraquat scares.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Glyph says:

      Are you from the Bay Area or is hella common in other parts of the United States?

      I always thought you were from the South.Report

  5. Saul DeGraw says:


    I went to elementary school during the Reagan years and the early days of Just Say No.

    I remember that my parents criticized drug education because they thought it was just creating a forbidden fruit syndrome. They were also pretty open about their own experiments during the 1960s. They probably also realized that my brother and I were dorky enough that we would likely not be in situations where access to drugs was very likely.

    It took me until 17 to smoke weed which is apparently a late bloomer age. I think my second experiment with marijuana happened during my junior year of college.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    Hee. I’m writing a post about this. Dangit, Kazzy!Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Jaybird says:

      No one likes being beaten to the punch.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, here’s what I said back in 2012:

      You know how it feels good when you write a paper, or get a math problem correct, or throw a perfect frisbee into the chains at the frisbee golf course? Well, weed will make you feel good. It’ll make you feel that good just watching Quantum Leap or Bob Ross on PBS. You won’t have done a damn thing, but you’ll feel just as good as if you had written the best paper you’ve ever written and gotten back and gotten an A on it.

      It’s also easy. If you wanted to write the best paper of your life, it’d take a couple of weeks, at least. Then clean up the rough draft, clean up the transitions between paragraphs, add a point you wanted to make, remove a point that really didn’t go anywhere, and polish the conclusion until it’s razor sharp with exactly the right words that turn your writing into *PROSE*.

      To light up a doob, all you need is a doob.

      Since feeling good feels good, it can be very easy to not write a paper but, instead, light up… and, eventually, the best paper you could possibly write is not as good as the one you would have written before you started with the weed.

      Nothing wrong with wanting to feel good every now and again, of course. Sometimes you’ve had a week where that sort of thing is a reward… but feeling good, for nothing at all, can be very tempting. So tempting that you could fall into the exact same trap as hundreds of thousands of others: people who don’t do anything who smoke pot because it makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something. You should never, never, never, EVER get used to feeling good for nothing.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


      By all means, do your post. I’m sure it will have much more going on than what I offered here. I just got halfway through class today and thought, “What would the OT-ers think of me!?!?!”Report

  7. Mike Schilling says:

    I like what the teacher said too. There is nothing positive about recreational drug use by 8th graders.Report

    • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      My parents gave me wine at that age. At the dinner table. Sacramental, sure, but still…Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      As Kim says – does a glass of wine with dinner count as “recreational drug use”? For me it does, and by 8th grade I was by that standard a couple of years into “recreational drug use” with my parents’ full approval.

      Personally, I fully agree with my parents’ decision on that front, and plan to do something similar for my own kid[s].Report

  8. KatherineMW says:

    I don’t think there’s any problem with telling kids that they shouldn’t use illegal drugs because they’re illegal and harmful to your health. Both of those things are true. And the latter is true for some legal drugs as well – I’d entirely agree with a teacher telling a student “There isn’t anything good about smoking cigarettes.”

    As long as you’re not being told to make factually untrue statements about the effects of specific drugs, which it doesn’t appear you are, I don’t see any moral dilemma.Report

  9. greginak says:

    Umm you don’t use “recreational” drugs but you drink. So is booze a what? professional drug? semi-pro,?? Drugs in my experience are for recreation unless you are actually getting paid to use them. It’s like when people tell me they only “experimented” with drugs. Oh really? So what was your hypothesis, what stats did you use? Double blind? Where were you looking to be published? Did you have to go before a human subjects review committee? Somehow people think certain words will negate their choices. ( I have always refrained, after someone said they were just experimenting, saying “So it took you 10 years of drugging, 4 arrests and two failed marriages to find out drugs f’d you up. Sounds like poor experimental design to me” I’d enjoy the snark but they wouldn’t.) People prove the easy theories, like drugs can be fun, get me laid, act as social lubricant pretty quickly. It really doesn’t take much testing or practice to find out those things. Hell those are the actual selling points.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

      For purposes of the conversation, alcohol and tobacco was not included in our definition of “recreational and illicit drugs”. For what it is worth, I think that alone is a worthwhile topic of conversation. Though not necessarily with 8th graders.Report

      • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        If they are dodging booze and cigs but talking about other drugs that is the gateway into kids thinking adults are hypocrites and misleading them about drugs. And the kids are correct in that case.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yeah, the word “illicit” is important there.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t yet know the full scope of the curriculum. I do think there is some legitimacy in separating out booze/tobacco because of the legality issue. And we briefly broached the topic of shifts in marijuana, both medicinally and recreationally. Even if we say, “Weed has fewer long term negative health effects than alcohol,” the legal consequences are still very different (at least for us in NY), such that the conversation would take some different routes.

        That said, if we end up never talking about alcohol or tobacco, I agree that is problematic and will seem dubious to the students.

        However, I offered that little blurb at the bottom only for transparency. I am not looking to justify my own drug use. I am trying to think about how to set the students up to make good decisions. If I were a drug user, some might use that to discredit my position as self-satisfying.Report

      • zic in reply to Kazzy says:


        I have some problems with this, too. I know kids who snort ritalin. And don’t get me started on pain killers; there are way too many 16-year old heroin addicts out there who got there start on prescribed (to them or to someone else) medication.

        A lot of the real problem drugs right now are not overtly illicit; and I suspect there is some real danger that prescription adds to the perception that they’re ‘safe’ or ‘okay.’Report

  10. zic says:

    My personal take is that it behoves one to wait until the reward centers of the brain have developed.

    That said, I was one of those teens who self-medicated; I’ve known many, many teens who self-medicate. It would be better to deal with the problems that lead to self-medication, but we don’t seem to be all that great at doing that, and I have a vast ability to look the other way because of this.

    With children, we seem to talk the world we want for them; at some point, we have to respect that there’s often a vast gulf between the world we want for them and the world they inhabit.

    So yes, you did the right thing following the lead teacher’s signals.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      Later in the conversation, the HT noted the way in which drugs impact the pre-frontal cortex and how this is not yet fully developed in teenagers and that means the long-term implications are different.Report

  11. Cascadian says:

    Forget the cigs and alcohol, I’m always amused when coffee left out of the discussion.Report

    • Zane in reply to Cascadian says:

      I’m surprised when young teenagers drink coffee without any comment by adults. When I was a kid, coffee was something that was “for adults” in the same way that alcohol is. My sister still jokes that I’m “too little” for coffee because I don’t drink it.Report

      • zic in reply to Zane says:

        I grew up with that, too, “It will stunt your growth.” But I’ve also heard that this is a myth.

        Too much caffeine is bad for children, it’s a stimulant. But I think the bigger concern for ‘too much’ is from energy drinks, which go down like soda pop.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Zane says:

        “It will stunt your growth.” But I’ve also heard that this is a myth.

        Well, based on my highly-rigorous science fair experiment as a kid, caffeine (pills, added to their water) did not statistically affect birth weights or overall size statistics in mice (could a kid even do this experiment today? Or would PETA throw paint on me?) and they seemed like normal mice.

        A bit twitchy, maybe, but what mice aren’t?

        We were certainly allowed coffee as teens.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Zane says:

        The idea that coffee is an adult drink seems strictly an American one. Elsewhere there seems nothing unusual about kids drinking coffee.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Zane says:

        I occasionally had wine with dinner starting around age 12, and fairly regularly by the time I was 15 or 16. I drank coffee daily by 15, I’m not sure when I started having the odd cup.

        Personally that seems to me a reasonable way to do it – if you feel confident own relationship and habits with a drug are fairly healthy ones, letting your kids see you using it responsibly, and not forbidding it until they are adults.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Zane says:

        The only thing I can think of is that caffiene affects your ability to sleep, and that the sleep cycle is associated with growth hormones and such. I can see how getting your 10 year old up to 4 cups a day could cause problems. Not so sure about treating coffee like a child-killing poison.Report

      • Zane in reply to Zane says:

        I don’t remember thinking it was harmful. We always heard stuff about “it’ll stunt your growth,” but I’m pretty sure we didn’t actually think that was true. It was just a “grown up” thing. Not necessarily bad for kids, just not *for* kids.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Zane says:


        That’s how it was for me growing up. It wasn’t bad for kids, it just wasn’t something kids liked (or were assumed to like). I didn’t like coffee as a kid, and it wasn’t until well into my 20s that I started drinking it with any regularity (pun not intended). Nowadays, it seems the young’uns are just downing oodles and oodles of coffee, instead of wholesome and healthful drinks Coke or Dr. Pepper.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Cascadian says:

      Coffee doesn’t have the same kind of health consequences, although it’s certainly addictive.Report

  12. dragonfrog says:

    I have no idea how common my reaction was to the drug “education” we got in the 7th or 8th grade, which was very much of the “Drug are bad, mmkay?” variety – but it was not consistent with your hesitation about giving a nuanced answer.

    Presumably in the name of giving the thing a “straight talk” feel, they did at least acknowledge that drugs can be a whole lot of fun.

    It was just that the description of the down-sides was so nuance-less, so moral-panicky, and didn’t draw much distinction between types of drugs. I reasoned that if they were right, my parents’ generation would have come out of the 60s and 70s with deep trauma, rather than fun travel stories and photographs of themselves with big pants and long hair. Clearly the story I was getting was riddled with BS, and I couldn’t trust the authority figures at my school to talk to me honestly about drugs.

    Fortunately, my next stop was not a dealer (I would have had no idea where to turn if I had wanted to find one anyway) but the library, where the reference librarian was not afraid to give a 13 year old access to nuance.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to dragonfrog says:

      My understanding that it wasn’t the baby boomers that necessarily cracked down on drugs but their parents and the parents of Generation X that were the real drivers in the war against drugs. Drug laws are liberalizing as more boomers are becoming senior citizens and getting positions of poweri n politics.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to dragonfrog says:

      The drugs were so powerful that they made us think we thought the hair and clothes looked good. Think about it: is that anything you’d want to mess with?Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I thought my parents looked great in their old pictures (being younger and not tired from chasing around a kid was probably part of it). Now I’m probably gone beyond hope of recovery – my hair is down to my waist, longer than even my mom wore hers…Report

    • Zane in reply to dragonfrog says:

      We had “drug eduction” in my health class. We were shown the “Blue Boy” episode of Dragnet by our local police officer. Mind you, the episode was old even then. It was memorable, so I guess there’s that. I think we were too subdued by a cop being in the class to laugh as much as we might have otherwise.

      • Glyph in reply to Zane says:

        That looks like an awesome episode, I think I have seen part of it. I’ve also seen one where they accuse somebody of being hopped up on goofballs, which is what I usually use in place of “are you high?”Report

      • Zane in reply to Zane says:

        @glyph , it might be, but I don’t remember. The wikipedia article I linked does have a working Hulu link (no Hulu Plus needed), so you can peruse at your leisure. It is considered a real classic! I think that people can forget that Dragnet had a particular style that wasn’t normal even for its time.

        BTW: If you do watch, help me understand why Blue Boy was arrested in the first place…Report

      • Zane in reply to Zane says:

        Okay, after watching “Blue Boy”, I think maybe the actual Dragnet episode we were shown is “Narcotics”,p56,d0

        There’s no doubt that “Blue Boy”‘s the better episode, though.

        Memory is a funny thing, even for a teetotaler like me.Report

  13. KatieS says:

    My ex started smoking marijuana when he was 14. Now he is a hard core drug user (prescription and heroin) who lives on the street. I’m not saying marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug, but it did enable him to justify the frame of mind that recreational drugs are no big deal. So now there is nothing in his head telling him “this isn’t real”. To this day he thinks it’s no big deal even though he has lost everything.
    It is a big deal.Report

  14. Burt Likko says:

    I guess I understand the need for lack of ambiguity. The young mind often handles ambiguity poorly.

    But the truth is, mind-altering substances bring pleasure. If they weren’t pleasurable, they wouldn’t be a problem. It’s all the other things that come along with the pleasure, combined with the quickly-diminishing hedonic returns on the substance intake investment, that create the death spiral of addiction.

    I am frustrated. Isn’t there some sort of way to convey that to the young teenage mind?Report