New America Media Posted: Dec 03, 2011
(Image courtesy New America Media)
To say marijuana is a problem at the high school where I teach is a gross understatement. There is a tree next to the gas station across the street from campus where students smoke weed almost every morning at 7:30 a.m. I drive by and see groups of them huddled in clouds of smoke.
Kids walk into my class with red eyes stinking like skunk. Sometimes we suspend them. Most of the time teachers don’t realize the reason kids are giggling and scatterbrained is because they’re high, and many teachers can’t recognize the smell anyway. But no matter what we do, the problem persists because of the acceptance by parents.
In California, weed can almost be considered a culture. It is a uniting practice among a large segment of the population that doesn’t agree with its illegal label, and who furthermore believe it is a way of life. Weed will be legal in this state sooner rather than later, and no matter its status today, people go about their lives as if lighting up is the same thing as drinking coffee.
The vast majority of high school students have an easier time finding marijuana than they do buying a pack of cigarettes.
Unfortunately, on our public school campuses, smoking weed also has the aura of being what cool kids do. Smoking blunts, hitting bongs, toking joints and puffing on pipes is looked at as an essential part of their culture. It is a ceremony you need to know about, if you want to be known.
Of course, the idea of teenagers doing drugs isn’t anything new. Teenage drug use is always analyzed and bemoaned, and as it began to peak in the 80s and 90s, we kept saying things like, “Kids today…” Now, despite the fact that teenage pregnancy, drug use, and crime have gone down in recent years (all of it peaked in the 90s), marijuana use remains widespread.
When I catch a kid high at my school, I ask them, “What would happen if I called your dad?”
“Go ahead,” they tell me. “He’s probably high right now.”
So I call their dad, and sure enough he says, “Look, I know he’s smoking weed. I smoke weed. When I was his age I smoked weed too. All his friends smoke weed. Everyone I know smokes weed. What do you want me to do?”
Once again, I am forced to ask people to act like adults.
When I give my Weed Talk in class, it has a very clear message: Compare the weed smokers on this campus to the kids who don’t smoke weed. Who is more successful? Now, compare the adults you know who smoke weed to the ones who don’t, and ask yourself the same question. Weed isn’t the worst drug in the world. More people die from prescription medications every year than marijuana and alcohol combined (does anyone actually die from weed?). But I have to admit, the people who live that lifestyle—smoke blunts every day, live their lives high—aren’t as successful.
I know lawyers and doctors who smoke weed. I know teachers who smoke weed. But the big difference is that they aren’t constantly high. They light up on weekends. They toke after work. They don’t let it get in the way of their professional lives. Weed isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it can be if you make it the center of yours.
I just wish parents would act like parents. Even if you smoke weed, do you have to do it in front of your kids? Do you have to make it a part of their lives too? Do you want alcohol to be a part of their lives at 14? Would you care if they were coming to school drunk?
I guess the answer is simple, but hard to swallow. Those parents could care less whether their kids are successful or not. How could they? Because even the weed smokers I know always say, you can’t be high when you’ve got important shit to do.
What is more important than a kid’s education? Certainly not your joint, mom and dad.
Matt Amaral is a writer and high school English teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area, and a regular contributor to New America Media. His work can be read on his own blog, Teach4Real, and he is also a featured Blogger for EducationNews.org. He is the former Editor-In-Chief of The Gnu Literary Journal, and his work has also appeared in the 2010 issues of TeachHub, EmPower Magazine, The Dirty Napkin, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Eclectic Flash, Bird’s Eye ReView, TravelMag, Escape From America Magazine and InTravel Magazine.