By Eric E. Clingan
This week, though, two studies depicting the tragic reality of high school hallways have hit on a more sobering point. Parents today, not their children, are the clueless ones.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America released their 10th poll last Sunday. Among the findings was a stark gap between what kids know high school drug use and what their parents think they know. For example, only 43 percent of parents believed their teens could find marijuana easily. However, 58 percent of those children said pot was there for the taking. Thirty-three percent of parents were of the belief that their kid viewed pot as harmful. In reality, 18 percent of those kids shared those feelings. And while 45 percent of parents reported their teen probably had a friend as a dope fiend, 71 percent of their kids actually admitted such.
So, today's teenagers are hiding their drugs, their friends and their true feelings about both from their clueless parents. As Partnership President Richard D. Bonnette puts it, "Baby-boomers, many of whom have 'been there, done that' are surprisingly and ironically out of step with the reality of drugs in their children's lives." The irony Mr. Bonnette refers to is that 60 percent of those parents, themselves, report having tried marijuana "at least once."
Unfortunately, the clueless parents are further shamed by the release of another study this week. The U. S. government also reported Sunday that in 1995 nearly twice as many teenagers were exposed to gang activity in their schools than in 1989. Additionally, the number of high-school-aged students victimized by violent crime is up 25 percent. President Clinton commented, "Gangs, and the guns, drugs and violence that go with them, must be stopped from ever reaching the schoolhouse door."
It should not go unnoticed that the President, himself, brought light onto the insidious connection between "gangs" and "drugs." It is this connection that fully reveals marijuana's most harmful of effects. Admittedly, the drug's assault on one's senses is of uncertain and arguable consequence. Many contend that those red-eyed, hemp-wearing, snowboarders aren't doing any "real" damage to society. In fact, their consumption of this illegal substance is fueling increasing violence in schools as rival gangs resort to bloodshed in wars over who controls contraband in the cafeteria. The reality is that violent crime at school is up over 23 percent since 1989, representing an increase of about 270,000 teenage victims.
In 1995, 13 percent of students reported knowing someone with a gun in school. Sixty-five percent said they could buy drugs at school, either from another student or a flunky hanging around the outskirts of the playground.
While all this goes on inside the hallowed halls of what they remember as "the best years of our lives," parents are donning blinders and assuming an indefensible position of ignorance. These clueless parents somehow allow their thirteen-year-old daughters to attend school wearing outfits that would make a porn star blush and yet they express shock and surprise that little Missy may be doing dope and hanging out with boys packing heat. Meanwhile, 13 children under the age of 20 are murdered every day in this country, according to the Children's Defense Fund. It takes no large leap of logic to connect these deaths to the presence of drugs and violence on high school campuses surrounding these same children, children whose clueless parents have allowed them to grow up far too fast.
The White House acknowledged that parents are far more pivotal players than politicians can ever be in this deadly game. Parental involvement and genuine interest in their children's lives is a natural deterrent to gangs and the twisted version of "family" they offer kids from carefree homes. Teachers, as well, have a duty to enforce the standards of discipline which exist (and they do exist) at every level of education.
Finally, undergraduate institutions like the University of Arizona ought not to drop their admissions standards to the level of a community college. Instead, a strengthening of requirements is more likely to send a serious message to those borderline kids on the threshold between college and the cold city streets.
All of this could be accomplished through the mandatory public release of disciplinary records within school districts across the country. Just as adult criminals forfeit their right to privacy, so should juvenile delinquents similarly lose theirs.
Lackadaisical school administrators would be forced to clean up their control problems by ashamed parents whose blinders, once so rudely removed, could no longer shelter themselves with a blissful ignorance. Using these records, universities could objectively reject future arsonists and vandals, again, giving teenagers a reason to think twice when that roach comes their way at the next party. In the end, we would all be clueless no more.
Eric E. Clingan is a senior majoring in political science. His column, " The Provacatuer" runs every Wednesday.