Daddy, Are You an Alcoholic?

"Daddy, are you an alcoholic?" The question came from a bright little seven-year-old. "I beg your pardon?" Her father said. "Well, you drink wine," the little girl explained. "And sometimes you even yell at me." But don't worry, she said soothingly. Children can tell their teachers about the problem, and "they will find someone to help." It turns out this precocious little girl was in a drug-education program called "Here's Looking at You 2000," widely used in public schools. Earlier that day, she had watched a puppet play that portrayed an alcoholic as someone who gets irritable after drinking beer. The little girl sadly concluded that her own father must be afflicted with the dread disease. The story was told in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, written by the girl's mother, Dana Mack. Shortly afterward, Mack says, her daughter came home with an assignment to list all the poisons in the house, including alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Parents guilty of having coffee in the pot or sherry in the cellar were duly reported the next day at school. Now, don't get me wrong: I favor drug education. But these are extremely invasive exercises. In fact, when she read the curriculum, Mack says, she discovered a pervasive negative view of parents. In this program, she writes, it's parents, not pushers, who are portrayed as the enemy. Parents are said to transmit "positive attitudes" toward drug use and even to involve their own children in it. How? According to the teacher's guide, it starts when a parent asks a child "to bring a beer from the refrigerator." To detect such lurking pathologies, the guide urges teachers to pay close attention to any suspected "family management problems." They are coached in the warning signals of family conflict. They're prompted to remind their young pupils "to talk to a friend or teacher if they need help with a problem." One second-grade activity even extracts family confessions. It invites children to send "secret messages" to their teacher about "problems at home." Now, we all know that a good teacher can help a child with a personal problem. But not by this kind of structured probing. The last thing schools need to teach kids is to be suspicious of their own parents, or even worse, to report them to school authorities. Of course, coffee and alcohol are unhealthy, but where does this kind of thing stop? An organization of gay and lesbian physicians met recently in Washington to announce that homophobia, by which they mean any opposition to gay rights, is a disease and health hazard. Will children now be taught that parents who oppose homosexuality are diseased? Will they be encouraged to report their parents' attitude to their teachers as a health hazard? The problem with programs like "Here's Looking at You 2000" is that they treat teachers as therapists. They intrude schools into personal and family arenas, where a conflict of values is all but inevitable. So if you're a parent, don't leave your children's education to the schools. Find out what your kids are learning. Before they come home with a check list on you.


Chuck Colson


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