The Drug Czar’s “blog” continues its orgy of back-to-school “advice,” this time from Assistant Deputy Secretary Kevin Jennings.
It may be obvious but, as students across the country head back to school and colleges this fall, it bears repeating: young people who use alcohol and other drugs are much more likely to fail at school than those who don’t. Tragically, many are addicted to failure.
I’m hardly going to win a Nobel Prize for making that statement, but some cold hard facts from the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey paint a very stark picture:
â€¢ Young people who are getting D’s and F’s are about twice as likely to be current alcohol users than those who get A’s are (62% versus 32%, respectively)
â€¢ Young people who are getting D’s and F’s are about five times as likely to be current marijuana users than those who get A’s are (48% versus 10% respectively)
â€¢ Young people who are getting D’s and F’s are a stunning 13 times as likely to be current cocaine users than those who get A’s are (13% versus 1% respectively)
No, you’re not going to win a Nobel Prize. Nobel prize winners have to be achievers in science, which means that they have to at least be basically literate in it.
Notice how the data he presents very specifically does not support his thesis.
He starts by implying that the use of drugs necessarily leads to failure in school, and then for his data shows not that those who use drugs are more likely to get bad grades, but rather that those who get bad grades are more likely to use drugs (an entirely different proposition).
Of course, lots of things could explain the data. The notion that A students might be less likely to admit drug use in a survey. The fact that students who are uninterested in applying themselves to school (cutting classes, not participating in extra-curricular activities) will have more access to and time for drugs.
Also note that while Jennings mentions “school and colleges” and ambiguously implies that the data applies to “young people,” it appears that the data he references only applies to middle and high school students.
Here’s where it gets good…
Jennings knows he isn’t supposed to use the data this way.
Now the researchers will say we cannot infer causation from these data associations.
Yep, he knows it and even flaunts it, but it doesn’t bother him because he works for the ONDCP and… Scientists? We don’t need no stinkin’ scientists!
You see, he’s got something better than science. He’s got… common sense!
And here’s how it works:
…but common sense tell us it’s hard to study effectively if you are drunk or high.
Brilliant. And hard to refute.
Hey, I was a student once, and I admit that it could be hard to study effectively if you were heavily impaired by a drug.
But let’s take this common sense thing a step further…
It’s also hard to study effectively when you’re attending church services. I’ve tried it, but the minister looks at you funny, and if you’ve got your eyes closed during the prayer like you’re supposed to, it’s almost impossible to show your work on the math problems.
Maybe Kevin Jennings is suggesting that young people shouldn’t go to church.
You know what else common sense tells you? It’s hard to study effectively while you’re taking a crap. Trying to balance your textbooks on the edge of the tub… writing legibly about food groups while grunting…
Hey, I’ve got an idea. What if a young person didn’t spend all their time in church services or on the crapper? What if… there were other hours of the day when they could focus on studying effectively? What a novel idea that apparently completely slipped by “common sense boy.”
No, I don’t recommend that young people use drugs that impair them. But if they do, I recommend that they use them with caution and moderation. And whether they use drugs or not, I highly recommend that they carve aside some quality time to study effectively in order to not end up as mind-bogglingly stupid as Assistant Deputy Secretary Kevin Jennings.