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You Can't Disengage From the Village

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There are street drugs like meth and marijuana, but there are also prescription drugs, mushrooms, alcohol and abuse of cough medicine and inhalants.   One young lady I interviewed like to "huff" or inhale the gas from whipped-cream containers.   Unbelievable.

We like to say that it is someone else's problem but my wife and I have raised four boys:   the oldest in his 30's and the youngest in his early twenties.   Sons three and four experienced a completely different environment when it came to substance abuse and drug availability.   

It was so serious that we abandoned our local public high school where three sons had graduated, in favor of a private all-boys school for the youngest.   We did this because of the rampant drug use and gang activity at our local suburban high school.   We pleaded with friends, school administrators, and members of the school board to address the problem but to no avail.   We just barely managed to save our youngest son by this switch.   When I say "save him" I mean save his life.   We changed from public school to the private all-boys school when he went from middle school to high school in the 9th grade.   And in hindsight we now know that this was almost too late.

It used to be possible to move to a better neighborhood to avoid drugs, gangs, and violence.   But is this even possible anymore?   The median income around the public high school where three of my boys graduated is over $100,000 dollars.   The student car parking lot looks like Beverly Hills High School.   Yet, it is rampant with drugs and gang activity.    But even if you place your child in private school the current technology can defeat this attempt at isolation.   The night my youngest son got in trouble he was with his friends from public school at a New Year's Eve party arranged via "text-messaging."   When his case was resolved in court, it was on the Internet via Facebook within twenty-four hours.   

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What is Different About Today    

When I grew up in Spokane, Washington, even though it was a fairly large city, it was isolated and perhaps even protected from the more dangerous problems of society.   We were treated like country bumpkins by our urban relatives.   We weren't hip.   We didn't know the current music, the current slang, or the new dance moves.   They jokingly referred to us as twenty years behind the times.   And in many ways the Spokane of my youth was actually that far out of touch.  

But is this true today?   Given our technological advances, is this even possible today?   We have to face the fact that the answer to these questions is "No."   Wake up folks! It has not been true for a long time, perhaps since Columbine: now a household word.  

When little children are gunned down at Sandy Hook elementary school just like the kids in the ghetto, there is a reason for this.   The reason is this:   our society, for better or for worse, is now one community.   It is no longer possible to "move away" from those nasty sorts of urban problems and situations.   Everywhere is now urban.   The idea of a private school is modern mythology.   Methamphetamine production is now highest in rural areas and particularly the mid-west.  

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You can no longer insulate your children from the real dangers of society. You can no longer insure that your parenting is the controlling influence in their lives.   Hillary Clinton was right when she wrote It Takes A Village to Raise a Child.    But today we have to face the fact that the village is suspect and you can't disengage from it.   

And if you can't disengage, doesn't this mean that in order to effectively raise your child you have to change the village?  I think it does.  It means that I have to work to make the entire community safe for everyone, in order to insure that it is safe for my child.  Anything less will not be sufficient.   We are now in this together.  We can no longer run from the problems that exist in our community.  We have to solve them now, or continue to suffer the inevitable consequences.

[i] Professor Holly Hills, PHD 2008 National Drug Court Conference Presentation Materials

[ii] Professor Holly Hills, PHD 2008 presentation, citing NHSDA (SAMHSA 1999) study.

[iii] Reebye, Moretti, and Lessard 1995; Rounds-Bryant, Kristiansen and Hubbard, 1999.

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[iv] Roberts and Corcoran, 2005.

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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)

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