It’s Time to Speak Up Against Pot Legalization

America is going to pot.  Literally.

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that 54% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. 

If you are part of that 54%, you must be on cloud nine (high, in other words).

First came states allowing medical marijuana dispensaries.

Then in the November 2012 election, Colorado and Washington citizens voted to legalize it for recreational use.

And now, California here you come, get ready for the same to happen in 2016.

Evidently, the adage “if you can’t beat them, legislate them” applies here as politicians view selling pot as another revenue maker like the Indian casinos.

However, do people really want 7-Eleven to sell marijuana cigarettes?

The 420 bacchanal that occurred in Denver on Easter Sunday with thousands celebrating the smoking of marijuana seemed like a live horror movie.  While smoking pot in public remains illegal, it did not deter most who now feel emboldened to flaunt their lifestyle while authorities turned a blind eye (only 47 citations were issued).

Bad behavior is the new good behavior.

It’s not enough for pot smokers to continue their illegal habits in the privacy of their own homes.   No, they want everyone to accept their lifestyle, and to shove it in everyone else’s face.  The Selfie generation makes the Me generation look philanthropic in comparison.

Legalizing marijuana, no matter the 21 years old minimum age requirement, gives off the message that it is safe.   Never mind that in March a college student jumped to his death from a fourth floor balcony in Denver after eating a marijuana cookie, his death due to “marijuana intoxication.”

Allowing another mind-altering drug legal status pulls the rug out from under decent parents who devote their lives instilling solid values in their children.

Once marijuana is legalized, how do schools’ anti-drug campaigns respond, and what changes, if any, will occur?

Currently, Glendale Unified has four middle and 5 high schools that have a Tobacco-Use Prevention Education (TUPE) program funded through 1988’s Proposition 99 cigarette tax. 

The District’s Assistant Director of Student Support Services Dr. Scott Anderle said that if marijuana ends up legalized, it would still remain illegal for minors so the same anti-drug campaign that is available in schools today such as Red Ribbon Week in October along with TUPE would continue.  

I’ve seen students in my classroom who are high by the redness of their eyes or by the lack of clarity in their thinking.   We don’t need more kids stoned.  

It is not much of an extension to think that those people growing up in the permissive 1960s and 1970s have passed down to their children (who then pass it down to their children) the lax attitude not just towards drug use but other moral issues.

Those who have made cigarette smokers the lepers of the 21st century should likewise oppose pot smokers.    All the things non-smokers do not like about cigarette smoke still apply to marijuana:  second-hand smoke, ashes and butts on the ground, and don’t forget the carcinogens.

Referencing this column’s title, it is a jungle out there and I increasingly feel powerless counteracting the nastiness that permeates our culture.

Over the years, with the help of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Maya Angelou, I’ve tried teaching students the importance of human compassion and people treating one another with a common decency.

Where is the organized effort to stand up for the other half who are not in favor of legalizing marijuana?

It seems that law-abiding people have to retreat, stay home, shut the doors, and keep the decaying social mores away.  The pot smokers are coming, the pot smokers are coming.

Eyewitnesses to Teacher Scuffle with Student Become Eyewitlesses

A video went viral last week of Santa Monica High School teacher/coach Mark Black restraining a student in his classroom.

When the public first saw the video, reaction was negative about the teacher.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent Sandra Lyon issued a statement calling the event “utterly alarming” and labeling “the kind of physical restraint used by the teacher [as] unacceptable.”   She further promised the family of the student involved “support that they may need.” 

Then details emerged that the student allegedly had marijuana and had first attacked Coach Black with a box cutter.

Public opinion turned, viewing Black as a hero (a collective voice saying, “Finally, a teacher unafraid of putting an unruly student in his place”) and Lyon as a villain for hastily condemning the Coach without knowing all the facts.

Worse than Supt. Lyon’s rush to judgment was her rush to side with the student and offer his family assistance.   One wonders, why offer to defend an alleged criminal over a long-time, highly regarded employee?

Due to the public backlash, some calling for her resignation, Supt. Lyon released a second statement days later, softening her tone towards the teacher, “In no way was our action to place the teacher on paid leave a determination of wrongful conduct.”

On Tuesday, the 18-year-old was charged with five misdemeanor counts including threatening a school official, possessing a box cutter as well as marijuana. A second student, aged 16, was also charged with battery.

But there is one more antagonist in this story and that is the group of students who stood motionless, watching their teacher struggle with an out of control peer for 58 seconds without doing anything.

Yes, we don’t know what preceded or followed the video segment.   We do know that the video segment is 58 seconds long, and when you watch the video, it seems to last longer than a minute. 

Students had enough time to take out their phones and videotape the incident (two other student phones are seen in the frame also taping it), but no time to do something, to act, to help their teacher.  Cold-blooded inaction.  Forget about physically intervening because that sometimes can worsen a situation.   But not a single teen can be heard on the 58 seconds even calling for help.

These young people are not eyewitnesses but “eyewitlesses.”

One might dispute this charge of apathy by pointing to the outpouring of support for Coach Black with the 22,000 likes on a Facebook page or the nearly 9,000 signatures on a petition.

However, anonymously clicking a button on a computer in the comfort of one’s home is not the same type of courage as doing something about an event happening in front of your eyes.

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese, the Queens, New York 28-year-old woman whose screams in the middle of the night were heard by dozens of people for 30 minutes without anyone coming to her aid as her killer stabbed her in 3 separate attacks before ending her life.   This is where the phrase “I didn’t want to get involved” originated and where neighbors not helping neighbors became the theme of city life.

What happened last week is not of the same magnitude as the Genovese case, but human behavior remains unchanged.   Those kids did not want to get involved.

In recent years schools have had to deal with lockdowns whenever an outside predator invades a school campus.   This story highlights another kind of lockdown that no drill can defend against, and that is a lockdown of the human soul.

Leave it to Bieber!

When working with teenagers, I try to keep up with the latest trends so that I can namedrop a Kardashian or crack a joke about Instagram to let them know that this old man teacher does have an awareness of youth culture.

So not only I do know who Justin Bieber is, but I know how his arrest last week in Miami impacted his fans, my students.

His name has now been added to the long list of celebrities gone astray.   The only real surprise was how long it took the tween superstar to fall from grace.  Next on the hit parade will be his somber mea culpas (too bad Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey no longer have their post-Oscars specials) offering regrets over his illegal actions.  

To the Beliebers (the term coined for Bieber followers), Justin can do no wrong.  I’m not sure if they understand the severity of his actions.

What decent person allegedly drag races 60 mph in a 30 mph zone with an expired license while under the influence of alcohol and drugs (did Bieber already forget last November’s death of “Fast and Furious” actor Paul Walker in a car going over 100 miles per hour?), uses profanity towards police officers while resisting arrest, then smiles for his mug shot as if it is for the high school yearbook, and waves to cheering fans upon leaving jail?   

Instead of concealing himself beneath his hoodie, he uses his exit as a photo-op.   Such brazenness would not exist if Bieber were an average citizen, but being in the public eye fuels the blatant lawlessness that his adorers view as a badge of honor.

Of course, this raises the real problem of this latest example of celebrities running amok:  there is no shame anymore in our society.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines shame as “a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong.”

When I walk around campus I regularly hear students swearing like sailors, dropping f-bombs as if they get paid to use them.    There is no attempt at cleaning up their vocabulary when a grown-up walks by because they feel no shame in using such language nor do they fear any repercussions.  Welcome to the 21st century.

Who knows how much of Justin’s upbringing, born to teenaged parents who were never married, marred his value judgment.   Like father, like son, both have their arms fully tattooed.  And, as the New York Daily News reported, Jeremy Bieber may be an enabler in his son’s shenanigans, apparently “partying with his famous son” at nightclubs, participating “in the SUV caravan that allegedly blocked traffic” for the illegal drag racing.  

When a parent is acting like a teenaged delinquent, the child has no guidance.   I guess his folks are simply “leaving it to Bieber” to figure things out.

I used to teach Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter about Hester Prynne who, as a result of an adulterous relationship, must wear a large red letter ‘A’ upon her chest as punishment so everyone in towns knows what she did. 

By the end of the book, Hester actually uses the public ostracism to transform herself into an upright individual, the ‘A’ standing for angel.  Shame can lead to positive change.

Some of my students say that while they don’t condone his behavior, they may still buy his music.  That’s too bad.  Until he cleans up his act, we should shun entertainers like Bieber who feels no shame in behaving badly.   Just don’t ask him to tattoo a letter to his chest as punishment; chances are he’s already done so.