Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A gap in today's education

I have the privilege of being an honorary aunt to a very awesome young woman, the daughter of my best friend. While this means is that I get a lifetime supply of hugs, lots of fun times, and occasionally I get to return to high school via reports and homework.

(caution, mild soap box moment starts here)

For the past two days I have been helping my niece prepare a report for her class' anti-drug campaign. I am all for getting the message out that drugs are a dangerous choice, and getting the kids to investigate the facts so they understand it's not something they ever want to do. Doing this report has taught me something very disturbing though, and that's that the teacher guiding them doesn't know much about the topic they are teaching. If you can't educate yourself on the facts about drugs and drug use, how the the name of heaven can you teach a bunch of teenagers who already think they know more than you?

In this particular case, the assignment included the drug rohypnol, along with a list of required information. Included in this info was a description of why this drug is is dangerous to make. Really? It's a legitimate medication created in a lab and sold only by prescription, if you live in Europe. It's completely banned in Canada in any form. This is a complex medication, not meth or GHB, you can't cook it up in your basement using lye or sudafed. It's not used as a recreational drug in this country, because there are better, cheaper and easier to obtain drugs that will do the same thing. The only place it's common is in TV and movies, because people recognize the name as a 'date rape' drug. Half the questions and information she was sent to find don't even apply to the drug she was assigned. It made her report far more difficult than it had to be, and demonstrated that the teacher really didn't understand the topic they were teaching. Scary stuff.

This isn't the first time I've come across a teacher who has not understood the real dangers of the modern age, either. Teachers are role models, they are in a unique and valued position as a trusted advise for teens, and if they don't know their fact from their fiction, then there is a problem. I know of a teacher who required all her grade 8 students to have an online blog to use as a personal journal. She didn't see any danger in having a group of thirteen year old kids sharing their thoughts and dreams with the entire internet. Another teacher told my niece that Facebook was totally safe because anything you put up there could be deleted later and no one would know. That's terrifyingly inaccurate information to be giving to a teenage girl.

I understand that not everyone is technologically savvy or up on the latest trends in illicit drug use, but when you're a teacher in a position of trust, I would hope that you made sure you knew what you were saying before you set a young mind speeding down the wrong path because you didn't understand what you were teaching. I know it's an amazingly challenging profession, and I know there's a lot demanding every teacher's attention these days, but holy cow, if you're teaching the topic, make sure you get it right. Otherwise when those kids come home, one of two things happens. 1) They have savvy parents/friends who tell them their teacher was wrong and your credibility is shot.  2) No one tells them otherwise and they proceed to make their choices based on bad information. Neither of these is an ideal outcome.

The world is a dangerous place, and we need to be teaching the next generation what they should be wary of. Odds of getting drugged at a bar by a stranger with rohypnol are very low in this country. The odds of being cyber bullied or having your identity stolen because you over shared online are frighteningly good. Which one of these do we need to be talking to our kids about?Ideally, both, but one of them needs to be talked about a whole lot more than the other, and we need to make sure whoever is talking to them about it actually knows what they are talking about. 

(/steps off soap box)