Sunday, October 09, 2005

So I've been thinking about the incorrect biases we're taught growing up... know, the things that were emphasized by the adults around us, both at school and at home. These ideas were taught to us either because those adults were taught the same erroneous 'facts', or because those adults thought that some new scourge was scary and bad - and that all children should in indoctrinated to prevent the spread of that scourge. Adults made lots of things sound much scarier than they really were - drugs and pregnancy are the two that come to mind first. Growing up here in the states, we had DARE and health class - which told us that having sex one time would result in some disease and/or unwanted pregnancy, and that nothing good could ever come from taking any drug of any kind. Mind you, not that I'm saying that sex & drugs (& rock and roll) are completely safe and innocuous - it's the 'cold, hard facts' that they told us that were a bit exaggerated. I grew up thinking - mainly because of the information given to me - that having sex one time would most likely result in a pregnancy, and that anyone who used any kind of drug experimentally (especially marijuana, LSD, and cocaine) would immediately lose all brainpower and be relegated to a white trash life in the local trailer park, never to get a good job or go to college. Now I understand why the adults did this - it was for the good of the mainstream teenager. If you don't make something sound like it has horrible consequences, almost all of them will try it, like it, and continue thinking it's not that bad. Now there are always teenagers (and people) that will do whatever they're not supposed to for the sake of rebellion and they're not going to listen to whatever indoctrination you tell them to boot. I think, though, when you get to be a certain age when sex hormones and adrenaline are no longer ruling your body they should let you in on the secret that what you had been told wasn't completely true and was only one side of the story - and your job now was to find out, responsibly, what they were really about, keeping the actual facts in the back of your mind all the while. For most people, that's what college is about - to go a little too far over the line of moderation, not get too hurt from it, and emerge a well-informed person who's done most of the crazy things they're going to do before graduation. You'd then go on to be a productive member of society, knowing the true dangers of sex & drugs for yourself. Yes, there would be some people who couldn't handle it when told these 'facts' were indeed half-truths and would be found dead in an opium den in two weeks. Survival of the fittest is what I'd call that. Or people who would be faced with the choice of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy - they'd learn the consequences and grow up, either to have the child or not, to have that choice in the back of their mind indefinitely to govern future choices.

Now, the problem with this system is that it involves people being able to be responsible and make decisions in line with what that person really wants. You want to be a doctor? Don't do anything that kills to many brain cells. Want to avoid lots of responsibility and continue to do what you please? Find a good, reliable method (or two) of birth control and use it (them) properly. It's just easier for the adults to tell you scary things than to teach you how to think for yourself.

It's amazing how often things boil down to 'what's the easiest thing to do?' instead of 'what's the best choice for the situation?' - which is exactly what most schools teach us to do, and most parents don't go against the grain. Some kids seem to have an innate idea of how to think for themselves and will emerge as the smart ones as the generation ages - but it's the rest of those children who could be taught, with some effort, to think for themselves that aren't instructed how exactly one should go about that. I think that's where me as a science teacher comes in. Thinking scientifically and practically about a given question helps you make an informed decision about these sorts of topics. Understanding the brain and how chemicals affect it help you know what your brain on drugs really feels like and not that it's just an egg frying. Understanding reproductive processes gives you the concept of how easy it can be yet do difficult it can be to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. Thinking through a problem leads you to a hypothesis which can be revised again and again instead of thinking in absolutes. Finding and taking in all the evidence available before devising your experiment keeps you from making rash decisions. I think that the problems of drugs and sex could be mitigated better by teaching kids how to think and how to gather evidence rather than presenting incorrect facts. When the kids try the drug and nothing bad happens, or they have sex and no disease or pregnancies appear, the kids start thinking about the other things that were dramatized and no longer take the adults seriously. And you wonder why teenagers think we don't know anything - all the things we tell them 'for their own good' aren't actually true. Adults, for the most part, are the grown-ups who cry 'Wolf!' and teenagers know it. As a teacher, the buck stops here!!

Ah, I've been a ranting Swede but not quite as angry... time for breakfast!


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