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The party’s over

Time to break a societal norm that never should have been one

ANDREW KWA, GRAPHICS EDITOR

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It would seem to be a regular Monday morning at Trinity Preparatory School.  Lethargic, sleep-deprived students yawn on their way to advisory, students meticulously unpack and repack their backpacks at their lockers, and teachers occasionally argue with students on whether or not their shorts are at their mid-thigh.  All in all, a normal school day—except for the excited whispers that pervade nearly every upper school hallway and classroom amongst hushed tones and pretentious giggles.

“Did you see him?  He got soo wasted at last night’s party.”

“Oh my god, you had to have seen her Snap story.  Like, woah.”

“You’ve got to be joking.  I would never!”

It is indisputable that the various Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) open-dialogue presentations given throughout the years have been successful in opening up communication between student and speaker.  The value of the personal stories shared by the speakers and the temporary connections they make with the students cannot be denied.  However, recent events have brought up the issue that lively discussion during presentations does not necessarily equate to actual changes in student behavior.  Simply listening to a message is easy, but understanding it and remembering it three months later, for instance, is significantly more difficult.  All too often the collective attitude amongst students seems to be one of apathy, where we trivialize drinking.

Propagation of drinking on social media and bursts of gossip, however infrequent, have steadily numbed us to the gravity of partaking in what is objectively an illegal activity.  Whether or not a minority or a majority of the student body participates in drinking is irrelevant—underage drinking remains a problem in the upper school at Trinity.

It’s time for us to take a look in the mirror and realize that changes—both in attitude and action—are still needed, and these changes have to primarily come from us, the students.  No longer can we treat drinking as just another way to have fun nor as trivial gossip to giggle about.  It is imperative we treat drinking for what it is—a dangerous behavior that comes with immense risks.

It’s important to recognize that it is difficult for teenagers and adults to see eye to eye, and consequently, it’s difficult for any actual discussion that occurs to have truly meaningful impacts on either side.  The block in communication mainly has to do with two reasons, the first being teenage psychology.  Unlike children, teenagers are exposed to various sources of influence rather than being solely dependent upon their parents for advice and knowledge.  The most prominent of these outside sources of influence is their peer groups.  As a result, teenagers are often predisposed to forming vastly different views and opinions from their parents, usually sparking conflicts where both sides are absolutely confident in their being correct.  Most teenagers and adults understand this interaction, but too many overgeneralize it, and this is the second reason why a meaningful communication of ideas is often difficult to achieve.

Specifically, both teenagers and adults often have exaggerated stereotypes of each other during arguments.  Adults commonly hold the stereotype of teenagers being overly rebellious for the sake of being rebellious; in the face of well-formed and constructive advice, a typical teenager in their eyes will huff in annoyance, apathetically say, “Yeah, sure.  Whatever,” and go back to swiping at their phones.

Teenagers commonly hold the stereotype that adults are naive and out of touch with what actually goes on in their lives; in their eyes, a common adult will frequently shake their heads, tut in disapproval, and say things like “Don’t do that!  You’ll ruin your life.”  Indeed, in order to better facilitate meaningful discussion and, consequently, progress, we have to break the stereotypes that lie dormant in our minds.  It’s time to level with each other and work towards a common goal: a safer and more productive community.

While some teenagers may take to heart the stories of countless students who have been arrested or hospitalized for drug and alcohol use, others simply view such stories as being over-dramatized fear-mongering.  The problem lies in inconsistency.  When students go out to party, have a few drinks, and return home unscathed and free of consequences—any and all warnings and stories have just been significantly undermined in their eyes.  When students hear of punishments being significantly less severe than the crime—they become all the more bold.  However, as outsiders to what transpires inside the principal’s office, we are quick to draw conclusions with shaky validity.  Oftentimes, in being so quick to judge the guilty—what we perceive to be the minority of the student body—we forget to focus on ourselves.  We shrug, we say, “Well, they deserved it,” and we dismiss the matter as a non-issue, when it’s anything but.

To its merit, Trinity’s administration is significantly more flexible than other schools due to not having a no-tolerance policy.  At times, however, this decision propagates the idea that some students are unjustly punished while others are let off easy.  The truth is: it’s difficult for authority to be flexible.  For parents, finding the happy medium between demonizing drug-addicts as failures and simply enabling their kids to do whatever they want in the hopes that they can learn from their mistakes is a long and arduous process—but an absolutely necessary one.

This train of thought leads to the crux of the problem:  the inability of teenagers to get help.  For many, this is already a non-issue—of course teenagers could get help if they want to!  Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple.  Gossip, judgement and condescension run rampant among students and adults alike.  The ability to get help is contingent upon a teenager being convinced they need help in the first place.

In order to best fix this, society needs to, quite frankly, get over itself and stop reacting to the use of alcohol and drugs in such extremes.  Teenagers should neither feel that one drop of alcohol will lead to a lifetime of abuse and addiction, nor should they feel that illegal substances are completely harmless.  A significant amount of data, both objective and anecdotal, points to the fact that drinking, especially at a young age, has immense and irreparable consequences.  We need to propagate the important idea that teenage drinking and drug abuse isn’t indicative of some great moral defect, but it is a dangerous activity that needs to be stopped—like texting while driving without your seatbelt on.

Much of the responsibility falls to us teenagers when it comes to changing our own social norms.  Admittedly, change is difficult when the opposition is found in your best friend.  Nobody wants to be the naysayer, the party-pooper or the Debbie Downer.  However, the task isn’t nearly as impossible as we all think.  We are scientifically proven to have an inherent desire to emulate one another.  All it takes is a few individuals to be the first to say no, and their actions will create a ripple effect.  Lofty and pretentious as it may seem, the goal of a more productive society is to have fun without the need of a bottle in our hands.  Sure, being stubborn and adamant about not drinking could cost us a few judging glances and an argument or two, but blindly adhering to the status quo is already costing us lives.

Lastly, parents make all the difference in their child’s behavior.  In terms of ideological splits, parents are perhaps the most vulnerable—constantly having to decide whether or not they’re being strict enough, wise enough, nurturing enough, etc.  Nearly every parent has the fear of being the archetypical mean parent, whose children hate them and abandon them as soon as they become 18-year-olds, but it seems that relatively few parents have the fear that they are being too permissive with their children.  Though completely unintentional, many parents often find themselves in the role of being the stereotypically cringeworthy “cool parent,” who simply lets their children do whatever they want in an attempt to relate to them—an attitude that is significantly more common than society would like to acknowledge.  For the sake of preserving an amiable relationship with their children, many parents are more than willing to let their child throw that extra party or two, while plugging their ears and convincing themselves they’re doing what’s best for their child.  Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  While extreme authoritarian parenting has its fair share of proven flaws, it’s undeniable that parents need to constantly take an active—but not suffocating—role in their children’s activities.  Passivity is unacceptable.

Out of sight does not equate to out of mind, especially when lives are at stake.  It’s time to finally acknowledge the elephant in the room, and it’s time to confront it head-on.  As a society and as a family, it’s time to take one step forward—together.

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The party’s over