Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So drug prevention strategies don't work. What a surprise!

As a teacher, one is sometimes asked to teach topics one fundamentally disagrees with, especially, I find, when conducting lessons prescribed by the PSHE curriculum. 

Let's take drug prevention classes as an example. Although undeniably well-meaning and conceived with the very best of intentions, in my humble opinion, familiarizing children with the varied feelings induced by the consumption of different types of illegal drugs - as we are expected to do through activities such as, you guessed it, card sorts - stokes a child's natural curiosity. To put it another way, it encourages the very experimentation it's designed to prevent.

Blissfully naive pupils are being introduced to substances which promise episodes of intense happiness and supreme joy. What impressionable adolescent wouldn't want to give them a go, especially when you throw the inevitable frisson of excitement associated with engaging in a dangerous, illegal activity into the mix, too? Fortune favours the brave and all that...

And if you don't wish to listen to me, a cynical old git that disagrees with anything and everything, at least listen to the Government's own drug education advisors. Just last week they - at last! - conceded that exposing kids to the kind of information outlined above is counter-productive. Trying to frighten them isn't working either, probably because of that frisson of excitement I mentioned earlier.

So what should we do? Well seeing as the so-called experts are clearly bemused and, as a consequence, offer no worthwhile solutions besides monitoring and becoming more aware of evidence-based practice, I propose that we stop teaching it altogether. It's not working. We have no feasible strategy so let's return schools to their original function and use the time wasted on social interventions through questionable, ineffective, PSHE curricula to raise the academic attainment of our children. Just imagine what we could do with that time...Extra English, maths, science, geography, PE, music, art or history. 

But I don't hold out much hope. After being advised to refrain from exposing children to information about drugs, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, now insists on exposing children as young as eleven to information about sex and rape in a misguided effort to prevent, among other things, the latter. 

Has she learnt nothing?! After last week's expert intervention, you would expect her to embrace circumspection. We don't want a repeat of the drugs debacle, after all. Exposure to information appears to be counter-productive and, instead of preventing experimentation, seems to encourage it, so let's have a rethink and avoid any unnecessary knee-jerk reactions that could do more harm than good. 

This eminently intuitive response is far too sensible, though. To be seen to do something, no matter how ill-conceived, misguided, myopic and contrary to the evidence available, is preferable - in our Education Secretary's mind, especially with a General Election looming - to a longer, more considered approach that fails to garner a headline.

So yet again, I'm going to be forced, after Easter, to teach a topic detrimental to the social and academic development of my pupils. Scandalous!

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