Coffee heat rising

Student Performance: Is there any question?

Lordie! Yesterday I went to a workshop on how to identify students who are high or drunk in class, and what to do about it.

Thought I was pretty wise to the use of dope and booze among the kiddies. Wrong!

One side makes you bigger...

Some of the stuff people ingest for “fun” defies belief. A psychologist who specializes in drugs and a counselor who also has worked in caring for people with substance abuse issues—both full-time employees of the college!—gave quite an eye-opening presentation, complete with three pages of drug images and descriptions and an explicit PowerPoint presentation (refreshing well done, for a change) on the symptoms of the various kinds of drugs and combinations thereof.

Combination is the operative term. They said few people use just one drug; most combine their dope of choice with alcohol. Indeed, the specific reason I selected this workshop was that last semester a kid who was occasionally given to belligerence showed up in my classroom at 9:30 in the morning reeking of beer.

Asked how many students in a community college classroom, at any given time, are likely to be abusing some kind of drug, legally purchased or not, they said the figure is about 50 percent.

Fifty percent of students in a college classroom are using something, often more than one something. Think of that. Substances range from meth to over-the-counter cold pills and nostrums.

Among the newer fads, we learned, is a hallucinogen called ayahuasca, a brain-banger from South America.

And, my friends, damned if on the way home I didn’t tune in NPR and hear an adulatory story about some troubled soul who found spiritual peace and enlightenment by trotting down to Peru and ingesting ayahuasca to the beat of a chanting “shaman.”

Says the fool, “I thought something was missing in my life, in walking through the world. I have this job I hate. I feel miserable all the time. Everything is small and just how I related to people, everything was very superficial.” After a lengthy course of mind-bending herbs under the tutelage of a self-styled “shaman” from Los Angeles, who has set up a curative “center” (no doubt highly profitable) near Iquitos, our hero finds enlightenment: “There’s not this gigantic weight on my shoulders anymore, and I can sit up straight and breathe normally and just be alive,” he says. “The world is a significantly brighter and more beautiful place now.”

Tra-la-la la-la!

This  medicament causes you to vomit violently while you squirt diarrhea out the other end. Indigenous people use one of its two ingredients to rid themselves of intestinal worms. It induces hallucinations that can leave you screaming for hours.

Google ayahuasca and what comes up is page after page of woo-woo, replete with terms like “sacred vine,” “enlightenment,” “spirit vine,” “extraordinary healing plant,” “consciousness expanding,” and similar bullsh!t. We are told that worthies such as Sting, David Icke, Tori Amos, and Paul Simon have held forth on the glories of this magical potion.

Heaven help us. Is it any wonder that half the kids sitting in a classroom are busy frying their brains with drugs? Is it any wonder university juniors and seniors think Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain State?

What became of common sense in this country?

Image: Psilocybe Cubensis by Rohan523. GNU Free Documentation License.

16 thoughts on “Student Performance: Is there any question?”

  1. Scary stuff! Are these types of presentations being given to our youth as well? I think this is one instance where knowledge could make a huge difference.

    I remember (in grade school) a doctor brought in a diseased black lung of a deceased smoker. It was in a clear bag that was passed around. I decided right then and there that I would not become a smoker. (sorry to be graphic)

  2. I heard part of the story on npr, but got busy and missed the rest. Did they present it as a tool for “enlightenment” or a dangerous dewormer?

  3. When I was in High School in the ’60’s one of the free spirit fems was bringing a couple oranges to school that she injected with Vodka.

    What a hoot she was on the bus ride home!

    I think her life was based on the Character Sharon Stone played in the movie Casino.

  4. @ Jersey Mom: Both presenters responded off the top of their heads, almost in a single breath, with “about 50%.” They didn’t cite a source…it may have just been their estimate based on their experiences with lower-division, community college students.

    @ sandra jensen: The text passage that you see at the link is a very close transcript of the show. At one point we get the sound effect of a man retching violently, and shortly afterward, the sound of someone shrieking in terror from some hallucination — which we’re told comes from a movie, not from NPR’s reportage. The story builds up to the vapid contentment expressed by the satisfied user, which I’ve quoted here. Overall — and bear in mind, this is a subjective response — my sense was the story was pretty positive about the beneficent effects of the concoction.

    @ George: According to the two speakers, that kind of thing, plus recreational use of parents’ prescription drugs and of street drugs, is now common in middle schools and is starting to occur more frequently in grade school. And some of the stuff makes vodka look benign!

  5. I call bullshit. I would posit that being stoned of one’s gourd in class sounds like a miserable experience. Why not just skip class and get stoned? Anyway, I don’t think the ayahuasca shaman would be comfortable doing his chants in a freshman comp class.

    • @ M’hijito: LOLOLOL! The poor guy would probably feel a little self-conscious in my class, with me giving him the fish-eye!

      Actually, I’ve had students show up so stoned that the irises of their eyes were different sizes. I’ve had students show up reeking of alcohol. I’ve had students so zapped they nod off in class — true, could be from working all night, let’s be fair. Last semester two students, in different classes, would put their heads down on the desk and sleep through the class. One of them turned out to be a drama queen — her boyfriend, who was a very fine student and an Iraq veteran, came to me describing the troubles he was having with her, revealing that she was completely derailed.

      Do I think 50% of my students come to class blotzed. No. In my experience, it’s more like 1 percent. But I do believe at least 50% of them are using various kinds of intoxicants (alcohol included — since I’m a user myself I don’t class it as a hard drug!) in their leisure time.

  6. Then there was the kid we called ‘Stinky Peterson’ who brought a bottle of Pertussin Cough Syrup to school every day.

    Back then I think it was 10% alcohol.

  7. I don’t think it’s 50% either. I am concerned about the new drug–texting during class. I’ve noticed that more students are failing my classes than in previous years…I attribute it to surreptitious texting during class.

  8. @ frugalscholar: Two strategies to deal with texting:

    1. Put in your syllabus that there is to be no texting in class and students who offend will be required to turn in their phone for the rest of the class period. Then do it. Catch them punching away, and make them bring their phone up to the front desk and leave it there until class ends.


    2. Make them use the toy to contribute to the class. A smart phone is really just a little computer. Ask the texter to google something relevant to the discussion and report on it, ON THE SPOT. Do not do this in a punitive way. Act as though you’ve just thought of something that you think they’d all like to know about the subject under discussion. Make it clear you know they’re texting, but act as though you’re just so thrilled they have that thing there so they can contribute to the class. The effect on the kid is really weird. 😉

  9. @ George… I’m not casting that first stone, having demonstrated that I can’t see the difference between x dollars and (x + y) dollars!

  10. I, too, heard the story on NPR and had to chuckle to myself. What has happened to our society that we feel the need to trot down to Peru, spend God knows how much money, and ingest something that makes us puke and poop all in the name of “finding the true meaning of life”. Your right. No wonder our kids are screwed up. Look at us parents!

  11. Am I surprised? Not really. At least your students are “adults” who are making these choices. Ayahuasca sounds delightful; who doesn’t want to puke and crap at the same time?!

  12. My guess is our country’s education system is going down the drain. How much longer are we still #1 if these stats held up? I won’t be surprise if another country(hint hint..the big Red) will take over our spot.

  13. Education going down the drain? It has been for years.
    Our school district is more focused on sports than education but education does happen in our schools.

    I have two friends with kids in middle school now and the parents are doing a good job and the kids are bringing home A’s on their report cards.

    I’m talking about parents that ask if the home work is done and then want to see it. Probably something rare today.

    Now is an A in 2010 worth as much as a A in 1964?

    Give it your best guess.

Comments are closed.