Arousing Curiosity and Suggesting Experimentation
Forbid as little as possible, for to forbid is to suggest the
thing forbidden. -J. L. Spalding
It should have been no surprise to anyone when drug education
courses served only to arouse curiosity and promote
experimentation on the part of children exposed to them. You
don't discuss a subject day-in and day-out if you want children
to stop thinking about it.
To this day if I try to explain the danger of drug education
courses to those who are lamenting the "drug problem," the
majority will respond with nothing but a dumb smile. Then they
will anxiously try to change the subject. Why do so many people
want to evade the truth? Were they among the experimenters of
Perhaps there is someone reading this now who does want to
know what happened and is happening to the children. For you, I
am going to reveal the stupid ideas and programs that were sold
to parents as attempts to solve the "drug problem" nearly forty
years ago. I recorded my experiences in several "Truth In
Education" columns between 1973 and 1976.
FROM: "Truth In Education"-- December 20, 1973:
During this fall term large numbers of children in both
Wauwatosa and Waukesha schools have been arrested and/or
expelled for drug use. The Mayor of Wauwatosa is appointing a
committee to look into the matter and see if solutions can be
found. I think he is sincere, but I hope he and the committee,
and whoever looks into the matter in Waukesha, will have the
courage to face the truth when it finally hits them. The schools
have been and are now corrupting the children. No amount of
stern treatment of offenders, no amount of investigation of
pushers will do any good until the schools themselves stop
Last month when a member of the school board in Wauwatosa
told those who attended a public meeting that a number of pupils
had been expelled from one of the Junior Highs, he deplored the
fact that the parents wanted the school board to be more
lenient. He also wondered why a physician-parent didn't keep
closer track of his medical supplies. He wondered why parents
didn't watch their children more closely. It was a good talk,
and he was right.
But I was fooled. Thinking the board really wanted to get to
the bottom of the problem, I decided to speak. I acknowledged
that it is sometimes difficult for parents to see what is right
in front of them.
It is often hardest for all of us to see what is closest to
us. Then I suggested the same might apply to the school board –
that it might be possible that some of the teaching materials
used in the schools could have a harmful effect on the children.
I even suggested parents might help if the board would appoint a
committee of parents to look into teaching materials and report
back on what they found.
That, my friends, is when the room turned cold and I became
the enemy invader. The board members put me down in no uncertain
terms. A parent stood up all pious and self-righteous and said
he didn't want the books his children read in the schools
censored by a bunch of parents. People smiled approval and there
was some applause. Not one person who was at the meeting spoke
to me after it was over.
Dear God, what faith they have! What blind faith!
The very next day a Junior High student gave me a book from
the school library. It was called, We Were Hooked. Look for it
in your school library. Check pages 16, 64, 92, 133 or read the
entire book. It was so corrupting, so much an example of the
type of thing I knew existed that I distributed copies of the
most vile quotes to school board members at the regular board
meeting the following Monday. They were shocked and promised to
have the book removed the next morning, which they did.
But that doesn't settle the matter. There are more – not all
quite so blatant and corrupting, but there are many books in the
Junior High School libraries that give a complete catalogue of
the drugs available and a description of the effects of each.
There are books that show all the equipment necessary for
injections, and there are books that show drug addicts actually
There are books that take a neutral attitude toward the drug
scene, and there are books whose main point is that marijuana
should be legalized. There are books that suggest the most
important reason for getting off drugs is to be in a better
condition for 'social activism;' and there are books that
suggest Yoga, Zen Buddhism, and sensitivity sessions as
substitute "highs." Is this what is called drug education?
Perhaps it is properly named. It certainly can't be anti-drug
Junior High children do not need long explanations and
descriptions of various drugs and the techniques for using them.
If it is absolutely necessary children should be told that drugs
are forbidden, but even this is dangerous for to forbid is to
Bishop J. L. Spalding, in a marvelous book of aphorisms and
reflections published in 1901 made a very wise observation. He
wrote, "It is good to know a thing, but there are things which
the young and imperfectly educated can not know, and the attempt
to give them what they are not prepared to receive will but
confuse or pervert them."
FROM: "Truth In Education" – February 21, 1974
It Looks Like A Home Talent Show
Have you ever seen a professionally produced home talent
show? I've seen quite a few because I used to direct them. The
director comes to town with the scripts, a suitcase full of
costumes, and the know-how to put it all together. An
organization in the town supplies the workers and introductions
to local people so a cast and chorus can be recruited,
advertising sold, and publicity obtained.
The script and mode of operation are the same in every town
visited, but the parts are filled locally. The participants in
each town have the feeling that their show is unique, but after
the show is over the director travels to the next assignment and
puts on another show that is essentially the same.
Last week I saw a home talent show shaping up. It wasn't
called a home talent show. It was called a 'meeting of the
mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission to study drug abuse. ' The mode
of operation was totally familiar. However, the goal is not fun
and entertainment. It is a money-exchanging, organizing,
power-grabbing promotion whose publicly announced purpose is to
'examine the extent of the growing drug problem and ways to
To put together such a home talent show requires some
informed and a good deal of uninformed cooperation in the local
community. It also takes pre-planning and scripting in the home
office of the production company. (In this case the Department
of Health, Education and Welfare) The producers have to be
prepared to move in with personnel at exactly the right moment.
The right moment is after a spectacular incident. A good
kick-off incident is the arrest or expulsion from school of a
large number of teen-aged drug experimenters. It is enough of an
incident to get people aroused and interested, but doesn't look
quite so ghoulish as to move in after a drug related death or
really heart breaking mishap.
All elements have to be ready when signs indicate the time is
ripe. First, someone puts a bug in the ear of a well-known
official or public figure. The official recognizes the problem
and gets lots of publicity with a suggestion to form a committee
of citizens to combat it. The committee is appointed and sworn
in with fanfare and publicity. The production is on its way!
The main characters in last week's episode were the public
official, the newly appointed committee, two hired directors
from the home office (HEW), various reporters and interested
The home office directors did most of the talking. After
listening to them recite their lines and after re-reading a
recent clipping from the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL I can give you some
of the stated and unstated goals of the production. They are to:
1. Increase home office (HEW) direction in the community
2. Pressure schools into giving students more and earlier
instruction on the uses and sources of various drugs
3. Have local police enter regional arrangements and submit to
more federal direction
4. Pressure local businesses to submit to drug abuse programs
5. Exert pressure to legalize marijuana
6. Establish centers for personal counseling
7. Get increased HEW funding for education
8. Gain support for 'child power'
9. Get more HEW control over prescription drugs
10. Form pressure groups using middle class problems
11. Popularize the HEW definition of drug abuse which is:
Drug abuse is behavior, so designated by professionals and
other community representatives describing the use of particular
drugs in particular ways for particular reasons which are
contrary to the agreed upon rituals in a given community at a
given point in time. The designation is completely arbitrary,
but, once having been made, the plans for intervening in a
person's life style are considered to be necessary and rational.
[Read Erica Carle's books:
Why Things Are The Way They Are. and "Give
Us The Young"]
© 2009 Erica Carle - All Rights Reserved