"Innocent Child" or Potential Smackhead?


There has been some comment lately about the rights and wrongs of drug testing in schools. A new report has found that it would be a rather costly and pointless exercise, but this has not ended the argument. Miranda Devine is one who comes down firmly on the pro-testing side. Devine says some of our "most powerful tools" in the fight against drugs are "judgmental and intolerant adults", and she should be commended for sticking to her areas of expertise.

But Devine aside, the question is whether this sort of extreme crackdown on drug-using kids is necessary. Now, I am no fan of drugs or of drug-takers. I think the less people in this world listening to techno music the better. And it is obviously true that drastic action is needed to end the enormous damage illicit drugs do to our society. Particularly cannabis, the most common drug among teenagers. Just look at all the savage marijuana-fuelled brawls going on every weekend outside our city pubs and clubs. Look at the huge number of serious car accidents involving drivers who’ve had one too many bongs. Look at the disgusting public urination of football stars after a big night on the weed. Look at the horrendous toll of domestic violence and child abuse in our Indigenous communities, attributable in large part to the "rivers of pot" flowing through outback Australia. And perhaps most damaging of all, look at the thousands of people dying every year of lung cancer, throat cancer and emphysema as a result of their foul 30-joints-a-day habit.

Clearly, recreational drugs are a dragon that must be slain before they do any more damage to our otherwise functional community.

But is drug testing in schools the best way to go about it? I am not, you understand, calling for less suspicion of children – Hannah Montana alone is proof that they cannot be trusted. And it is true that drug testing is a valuable tool in the US, and we should definitely be working to more fully emulate the American school system. I suggest we start laying in ammunition right away. But is the hit-and-miss, haphazard system of drug testing the best way to scour our schools?

The problem with the drug testing solution is that it places too much emphasis on seeking "evidence". One of the most vital tenets of modern law enforcement is that every second spent looking for proof of wrongdoing is a wasted opportunity for punishment. David Hicks, Mohamed Haneef, Rambo – recent history is packed with examples of the benefits of the anti-evidential approach. I suggest that if we really want to rid the world of mind-altering substances (apart from the benign, safe ones like those consumed by our top swimmers), we take the initiative, get into the schools and shoot first, ask questions later. Figuratively speaking, of course. At first, anyway.

Here’s the plan: don’t give those nasty little drug-addled juveniles an inch. I say as soon as any sign of drug-taking is detected, throw the book at them. For example, if a student comes to school sporting dreadlocks, incarcerate them immediately. If the Federal Government could provide funding for the construction of solitary confinement areas in high schools, that would be a big help. Likewise, swift corrective action can be taken at the first sighting of any of the scientifically determined danger signs – listening to John Butler, excessive and unnecessary laughter, joining the Greens, selling unboxed DVD players, etc. This will not only "weed out" the drug takers (ha ha, see, who says repression can’t be fun!), but it will also send a strong message to "innocent children", or as we should really start thinking of them, "potential smackheads".

And it’s not only schools that can be involved in the fight. Parents should be part of the solution too. Child psychologists say there is nothing wrong with searching a child’s room, or looking through their schoolbag, or locking them in a cupboard, or applying medium-level electric shocks. Harsh? Cruel? Maybe. But remember, it’s drugs. Do you know what drugs can do? Remember that girl who died? That could be your kid, if you don’t care enough to take a few minutes out of your daily schedule to conduct a routine cavity search. And remember, you can’t start too young. Nothing says "tough on drugs" like checking a toddler’s pupils.

Now, since this site is, I know, frequented by a number of left-wingers, no doubt some of you are sitting there saying, "Hang on, Ben. Are drugs really that bad? Will they really mess our children up so much?" After all, Wayne Swan took drugs in his youth, and now he’s the Treasurer, more or less. And he’s not the only prominent public figure with such a story of redemption. US reality-TV star Snoop Dogg was once a well known drug user, but he has turned out to be a responsible and upstanding citizen, and is apparently planning to pursue a musical career. So perhaps some of you are thinking this is an overreaction.

Well, let me remind you of something: this is a WAR. It’s not called the Dialogue With Drugs; it’s not called the Peaceful Co-Existence With Drugs; no, it is the War On Drugs. And to win this war, we need everyone pulling in the same direction. If we relax, even for a moment, the drugs win. If we allow any skerrick of tolerance to creep into our hearts for drug users, we may as well give up and just start handing out spoons at creches.

You can bleat all you like about "civil liberties" and "privacy" and "reason", but we’re talking about our children here. Go ahead, reject drug testing, reject strip-searches, reject pre-emptive sensory deprivation; all you’re proving is that you don’t love your kids. And should we really be taking advice on public policy from children-haters?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.