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“Teaching teachers to just say know: Reflections on drug education”.
Teaching and Techer Education. 2008;24(2):356-7.
Psychoactive substance use by students is common in many countries, obliging schools to deliver drug education. However, some jurisdictions do not prepare teachers for engaging their students in honest, knowledge-based education. This article looks at the history and queries the purposes of contemporary drug education. It compares current approaches to drug education with those of other ‘‘vice’’ issues addressed in the history of public schools, such as sex education and temperance education. It critically challenges the question of knowledge definition and production related to psychoactive substances. Finally, some of the theoretical groundings on which to base teacher education for drug education are considered.
Psychoactive substance use has been a perennial aspect of human cultural behaviour and seems unlikely to stop in the foreseeable future. Almost all human cultures since pre-historic times have engaged in non-medical drug use to stimulate, sedate or elate (Escohotado, 1999). It is open to question, then, whether societies and governments should be fixated on how to extirpate drugs from human cultures and eradicate them from the earth,1 or whether we should learn (and teach) how to live with drugs in such a way as to maximize their benefits and minimize their harms. The policy goal of harm reduction thus challenges not only the health, criminal justice and social service systems, but also the education system, schools, and teachers.
This paper addresses the question of how teachers might best be prepared for doing drug education at a time when the wisdom of drug prohibition is being questioned at international policy tables, when innovative drug policy directions—such as harm reduction—diverge from the traditional abstinenceat- all-costs focus, and when a greater variety of illegal drugs are cheaper and more easily available to young people than ever before. It begins with a brief history of drug education and compares this with another ‘‘vice’’ issue in schools, sex education. It then turns to the question of what aims and purposes are realistic for drug education, exploring the conceptual distinction between education and prevention. This leads to a discussion of knowledge about drugs and issues relating to its formal production. Finally, it considers some of the theoretical options for what pre-service programmes can offer student teachers to assist them in anticipating the challenges they will face in addressing drug use and some of its associated problems in schools and classrooms.
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