Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The War on Education

Wait, what? Another war on [your politically popular cause here]? I can't keep track of them all.  This one, however, is unintentional.  We backed into it by accident, La Brea Tar Pit style, while our sensibilities were addled by that Demon Weed. And not just pot, all manner of "harder" drugs too.  Turns out you don't actually have to ingest the stuff for it to alter the capacity for rational thought. 

You see, wars cost money (and lives and community resources generally).  And the money (and lives and resources) committed to a war can't be used for other stuff.  So, in a world of finite resources, the question boils down to: what matters most?  What do you care about? What will you give up other stuff to have?  In answer to that question, in 1971, that social visionary Richard M. Nixon, launched the War on Drugs.  And ever since, the government has shoveled money, lives, and resources into that furnace at an ever-increasing pace, in the service of making certain that our neighbors don't alter their consciousness by non-government sanctioned means.  The fallacy of the underlying premise - that government can control citizens' conduct by force and intimidation - works for some of the people some of the time but most of the people almost not at all.  History offers not a single example of successful prohibition, and it appears increasingly unlikely that this latest incarnation will be the first. 

But it can't be a bad thing to try, right? We have to try, don't we? Do we? I mean, what can it hurt?  Lots. Welcome to the law of unintended consequences or, to use a currently-popular military phrase, collateral damage.  In the throes of reefer madness we've lost sight of what that particular madness costs, and who is paying the price.  In our laser-like focus on where the resources are going, we've lost sight of where they're coming from.  Hence, the unintentional War on Education (and lots of other stuff too).

This graphic, No Justice For All, from Onlinecriminaljusticedegree.com offers a cocktail party simple illustration of the crushing societal burden of the War on Drugs, who is benefiting from it, and who is not.  Which would be one thing if it worked.  It's a high price to pay for abject failure.  So, what do you care about?

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