Pubdate: Wed, 3 Nov 2004
Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (Brown, RI Edu)
Copyright: 2004 The Brown Daily Herald
Author: Blossom Kirschenbaum, Ph.D.


To the Editor:

Katherine Cummings '06 ("Taking their eyes off the ball," Nov. 1) wants to 
talk about drugs. I do, too.  I write as scholar and translator, citizen 
activist, Brown doctorate, and as mother, grandmother and longtime member 
of the academic/artistic community.

Political campaigning, adapted to relatively "safe" and "popular" 
assertions, slogans and opportunistic insults, tends to avoid basic 
questions about where money comes from and how it's really spent. Even the 
gross national product omits lucrative illegal drug-dealing - as I was 
surprised to learn years ago on a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, at 
a time when marijuana was the second-largest cash-crop of California. This 
year, according to an article on the front page of USA Today, Afghanistan 
has had a bumper crop of poppies, its largest production of heroin ever.

Only a small proportion of its cash value (which is in the tens of 
billions) will remain in Afghanistan; most of the crop is destined for 
Europe. I haven't checked out the latest on cocaine. Study of the annual 
New York Times Index of headlines over recent decades reveals the 
escalation of bulk quantities of illegal drugs seized and of their dollar 
value - though not necessarily what happens to the seized goods or their 
dollar value.

Cummings writes about a "war" that puts too many of the young, poor and 
dark-skinned in jail; but I am concerned about how that war enters schools 
that oppress the young, diagnose rich and poor with ADD and other ailments 
I never heard about when I was young and medicate these children legally - 
while some are already finding their own consciousness-altering substances 
to imbibe, ingest, inhale and inject. Just as one can get an education in 
prison, so too one can be locked up (and locked away) in school.

All middle schools in Providence, for instance, are defined as failing 
schools. It is no surprise if the lively and enterprising young shut up in 
them find mind-altering excitement on their own. I see groups defined as 
"students" straggling to nearby Hope High in the very late morning, on 
their way not to learn, but to eat lunch; others arrive on time, true, but 
I have smelled pot smoke in the building's corridors.

As for job performance: drugs may at times impede it, at times enhance it, 
but often it's drugs that make the job tolerable. Too bad Cummings did not 
bring her questions to the attention of New York University law professor 
Derrick Bell, who was quoted in the same issue of The Herald. The "new 
answers" she calls for will, it seems, have to come from her generation.

Blossom Kirschenbaum, Ph.D. '76
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