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Getting it Right
We have seen the way Canada’s education system approaches marijuana legalization. Educators, scientists and entire think tanks are behind many of these movements and lessons. But the irony is that a truly effective approach to cannabis education has nothing to do with deciding what kids want to hear. Instead, we need to ask them directly.
Rebecca Haines-Saah, a youth substance abuse expert, tells The Globe and Mail:
The youth we've spoken to say, 'We want real information and we want evidence we can use, we don't want to just know the worst outcome’, and when it comes to cannabis, there is a real gap [in information].
As adults, one of the biggest mistakes we make is underestimating youth. We assume that teenagers require flashy images and pop-culture references to get a message across. But doing so only takes away from the subject matter, making it feel forced. This is also an insult to their intelligence. While teens may lack the life experience necessary to handle every situation, they do not need said experience to be intelligent.
Haines-Saah explains that this strategy of simple Q&A, mixed with straight facts, is markedly more effective than the “say no to drugs” approach that ran rampant during Saturday morning cartoons.
The key to keeping cannabis away from youth lies in an effective educational approach that is free of “fillers” and scare tactics. Instead of telling kids not to use cannabis, the approach should focus on why it is a good idea to avoid the drug when under-aged.
Of course, this will not stop everyone. In this case, it is our responsibility to ensure that youth are as safe as possible. According to The Globe and Mail article cited above, a Vancouver school board is doing just that.
Aside from the usual “drugs are bad” message, they create a dialogue with students about issues likes substance abuse. Advice on how to be as safe as possible while high is also something they focus on.
Ideally, everyone under the legal age will abide by the law when it comes to cannabis, but this is completely unrealistic. We owe it to them, however, to be as honest and straightforward as possible.
Tell kids the truth and they will get the idea.
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