To the Point for 10/19/06

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THE FAMILY IS the essential element that makes any community a great place to live. Although the “family unit” has changed over the years, it still forms the basic unit that must be in place if we as a society are going to effect positive change.

I found interesting a recent report titled, “Annual Report on Families”, and some of the findings were very interesting – both in a positive and negative way – as to what’s going on in Indiana households.

Before looking at any statistical data, we must face the facts that Ward and June Cleaver and Howard and Marian Cunningham simply don’t exist anymore. Nearly every household in this country today has both parents out in the workforce. The “stay at home mom” diminishes in number nearly everyday; and having the entire family gathered around the supper table is now reserved only for holidays (maybe).

Between work and committees and other responsibilities, parents just aren’t home anymore. That’s okay, because when parents are home they are probably just getting back from taking their children somewhere or from just picking them up from somewhere.

Family suppers are now created so that they can be microwaved; homework is done on the run; and now that it has finally rained again, there’s grass to mow and hedges to trim during our “off hours”.

Into the middle of our modern day family society comes this report on families, which breaks down specific trends in Indiana families over the past 10 years.

One of the surprising findings in the study is that fewer teens are drinking alcohol now than were 10 years ago. With all of the promotional materials and education on the dangers of drinking that have been pointed at young people over the past decade, it seems consistent that fewer teens would be drinking.

As we can appreciate that finding, we must also look at another fact that the report details: more high school seniors are using marijuana now than were a decade ago.

We can only hope that our teens are not bypassing alcohol for the “next level” of intoxicant. If the educational materials provided on drinking are numerous, the materials that have been provided to our children about the dangers of marijuana and other drugs is just as lengthy.

The positive element of this disclosure is that now it is out in the open and in print and has statistical backing.

We as parents and adults want to sit around and watch the news and read the headlines and see all of the drug-related crime and drug statistics that pour out of the larger cities.

We sit back and we are thankful that we live in a little community like Switzerland County; and although we all know that there are a few “bad elements” in our schools, surely it is just a tiny minority.

Here’s a cold, hard fact: marijuana and other drugs are just as prevalent in Switzerland County High School as they are in Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis – the state’s largest.

Shake your head and deny it all you want, but if you ever have the opportunity, sit down with a group of students and ask them to honestly tell you about what’s going on in their lives.

Our children are constantly bombarded by pressures to fit in, drink up, and light up. With many children now raising themselves in our society, if they don’t have a parent to look up to as a role model, then they’ll find someone else to look up to.

They’ll find a group of people who will tell them that they are important and that they have value. They’ll tell them that they are right and that their parents really don’t know anything.

They will lie and they will deceive, and in the end we as a community suffer a tremendous loss – the loss of a young person with a great future.

The students that come out of Switzerland County High School each year are our greatest and most valuable export. We train them and educate them; and then we send them out into the world to compete with others who have been trained elsewhere for jobs.

We send them off to colleges and universities and technical schools to join with students from other communities. They sit in classes and they apply what they’ve learned here and they either succeed or fail.

We have a society of children who desperately want to be adults; and we have an increasingly growing number of adults who don’t care to exercise their parental responsibility.

It’s a lethal combination, and one that leads to children having a false view of the world and how much they can handle.

There are people in this community who have engaged in a healthy debate over the past month over the new random drug testing policy that has been implemented at the high school. There are those who bristle when they hear that drug-sniffing dogs are going up and down the high school hallways.

There is a cry for constitutional protection and individual rights. As adults we bemoan this invasion of privacy and demand that other avenues be investigated in order to educate and rehabilitate.

I am a person who because of my job is in the high school on sometimes a daily basis. I know many of the students and staff who are there, and I believe that I have some insight into the facility and the students.

Yes, I hear your cries for civil liberties; but in the past month I have also heard the cries of students who are demanding a safe environment in which to learn. Other cries are more quiet, and involve children who know in their hearts that they have a problem that they can’t overcome on their own; but know that the habit is dragging them into a cavern that they may never escape.

As adults, it is time to again assume the role in the family unit that we accepted with the birth of our children. We need to stop trying to be our child’s friend and start being their parent.

It may not make us popular; but it just might save their lives.