Just say no to drugs push

19th March 2004 at 00:00
If there is one initiative I shall definitely not be volunteering for it is the latest wheeze from the Department for Education and Skills encouraging everyone to teach "Drugs across the curriculum".

The official government booklet suggests gems such as maths lessons spent working out how many kilos of poppies are needed to manufacture a gram of heroin, or calculating the street price of crack cocaine.

English teachers, meanwhile, are supposed to analyse the subtext of the Beatles' ode to LSD "Lucy in the sky with diamonds", something they would probably have been locked away for a few years ago, during the most punitive period of Conservative rule.

"Right, look at lines three and four. Now what could this mean: 'Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly - a girl with kaleidoscope eyes'. Er, yes Darren?"

"Please sir, is that the art teacher after a Friday night in the pub?"

As someone who would raise the price of a packet of fags to pound;100, and send heavy vodka drinkers to St Helena, I may be the wrong person to comment, but if this mania for teaching drugs across the curriculum catches on, no one will be immune. Presumably modern linguists will have to say, in French: "I have lost the pen of my aunt and several grams of the finest hash."

If one kind of criminal activity can surge right across the curriculum, with the Government's blessing, perhaps there are others. English teachers can use the opportunity of reading Dickens to let their pupils study different ways of picking pockets. After all, Fagin taught it so well he would probably have sailed through threshold and been on upper pay spine 99 by now.

Drugs education is far too important to be left to amateurs like me. It needs especially skilful teachers and others who are knowledgeable about raising such topics in an effective way. The very thought of all curriculum subjects having to dabble in the topic makes me cringe.

"Right, pay attention everybody. Now in today's maths lesson you're going to work out the street value of 'skunk', I think it's called."

"Are we talking here about the Siberian White, or the Danish Blue, sir?"

"Eh? Er, you know, the stuff you smoke, or inject, or, er, stick in your ear.".

I must have missed hundreds of opportunities to teach about drugs. I am entirely to blame that my GCSE English class completely misunderstood the significance of Romeo's famous soliloquy.

"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun!"

What on earth was the lad on? And later "The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars" shows Juliet must have been taking the same stuff. They were nothing more than a couple of shameless junkies and I never realised it.

Worse, I can think of many times I have told fairy tales and sung nursery rhymes with reception class children or pre-schoolers, and completely failed to deconstruct them in accordance with DfES guidelines.

Take the innocent sounding "Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"

Obvious, isn't it? The flower beds were awash with poppies, and the "pretty maids all in a row" were queuing up for their daily fix. Mary was, if truth be told, a seasoned drugs baroness.

Then there is Little Boy Blue. No wonder the boy who looks after the sheep was under a haystack fast asleep. He was bombed out of his skull on ecstasy tablets and hadn't slept for a week. That is why he was sure to cry if you woke him up.

Come to think of it, Cinderella must have been on LSD. How else can you explain someone believing that a pumpkin had turned into a coach, or that mice were horses? She was a complete acidhead.

As for Chicken Licken, that was no acorn that fell on his head. It was all a lie to avoid revealing to impressionable children the real reason why Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Drakey Lakey and the rest ended up on a dinner plate. Foxy Loxy had slipped Chicken Licken some Morning Glory seeds.

I can see the need to educate children about the evils of drugs, but this does not seem to be the right way to do it. It all sounds too much like the 1960s 11-plus exam exercises, about filling baths and digging holes, translated into a 21st century setting.

"If two hippies can fill 10 baths with hallucinogenic mushrooms in three hours, how many thousand poppy seeds would the average teacher have to chomp to come up with the kind of crap produced by the Government's wheeze factory?"

Include me out.

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