The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Pleasure and Responsibility

February 21st, 2004 · No Comments · culture, media

Recently, the San Marcos school district announced their intention to begin drug testing for all students participating in extracurricular activities. The stated purpose was to force kids to choose between drugs and sports (or chess club, choir, or whatever). The coach of the football team, who was the one who initiated the new plan, said that he didn’t want the “wrong kinds” of kids representing their school.

While I know that drug testing in schools has been going on for a decade, now, I have yet to see any indicators that it either reduces drug use or raises the general morality of the student bodies one whit. Frankly, I hadn’t heard anything that would lead me to believe that San Marcos had a serious drug problem that needed to be addressed, and nothing the coach or the school board said indicated that they were dealing with an existing problem — rather, they were acting to head off any potential problems. I’ll lay odds that they’re getting a chunk of federal cash to implement the drug testing from one of the various federal grant pools set up for just this purpose.

Setting aside, for the moment, my general distaste for drug testing and my specific opposition of prohibitionary drug laws, it occurs to me that drug testing kids in extracurricular activities to “weed out” the bad seeds, especially in small towns like San Marcos, is a Really Bad Idea. In small towns, there’s already painfully little for teens to do, other than sex and drugs. Extracurricular activities through the schools represent some of the only opportunities for creative expression, athletics, and social interaction available to teens.

By forcing kids to “choose” between smoking a little weed now and then or participating in band or football, we basically invite them to become full-time dope smokers or alcoholics for lack of anything better to do. Which begs one to question whether the drug testing policy was put in place to benefit the kids or simply to draw more money from federal coffers.

Humans are hard-wired to seek pleasure. Our Founding Fathers recognized this, and our capitalistic system depends on it. We find pleasure in social interaction, in faith, family, music, competitions, good food, drugs, alcoholic beverages, and sex. It makes no sense to circumscribe certain sources of pleasure as being immoral or illegal when all of them work in more or less the same way on the human psyche.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach our children how to responsibly enjoy these sources of pleasure — be they food, or booze, drugs, or sex — while they’re young enough to appreciate our direction and candor? Isn’t it foolish to pretend we can make them wait until they’re 18 or 21 or 25, when they no longer trust our guidance? Isn’t it irresponsible to abandon them to learning through peers or predators, or from their own (often deadly) mistakes when we could just as easily make moderation and responsibility the keys to enjoying pleasure from the time that they express an interest in doing so?

It’s probably easier just to throw up our hands and kvetch about “those kids today”, but if we can take time to teach our kids about patriotism and religion, polite behavior and competitive sports, we can certainly spend the time it takes to inform them about pleasure and responsibility.

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