So the at-risk youth program I'm mentoring in had another community meeting last night. The theme was Debating About Drug Use. The room of 40 teens was divided in half: Half were Pro and Half were Con. Then questions were asked, debated on each side, and 5 representative teens from each were chosen to go up and persuade others to believe their points.
3 judges (2 mentors and 1 teen) were then chosen from each side (total = 6 judges) to then decide which side won each debated question. I was a judge from the Con side.
Question 1: Should alcoholic parents be allowed to keep their children?
Pro Side's Arguments:
-If you "punish" parents by taking their kids away it teaches their children that you ARE your mistakes and encourages a lack of forgiveness/compassion/understanding from society.
-It can make kids and their parents just as depressed and unhappy to be separated as it would be to stay together.
-People can get support and overcome their alcohol addiction.
-Just because they abuse alcohol does not necessarily mean they are bad or dangerous parents.
-Where would the kids go? Foster care system? Would it really be better?
Con Side's Arguments:
-Abuse of alcohol will lead to an abuse of their children
-Alcohol impairs people's judgement and activities and can lead to reckless endangerment of children
-It creates an environment that becomes "normal" to kids and then they repeat that cycle in their own lives
Winner: Pro Side
Question 2: Should people who commit crimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol be given 3 times the normal sentence.
-Crime of Abusing Drug (possibly an illegal one) + Crime Itself = More Time/ Punishment
-If you soberly choose to do drugs you are also choosing/acknowledging that negative consequences will likely arise because of it and therefore are just as responsible -if not more so -for the crimes you then commit
-It is likely that criminals who committed crimes under the influence are more likely to continue doing drugs which will inevitably lead them to continuing to do crime. Therefore more punishment/time should be given.
-The crime is usually escalated when drugs/alcohol are involved
-Sober criminals are worse and should be punished 3 times as much because they completely knew what they were doing when they were doing and their judgement wasn't impaired at all
-Mentally ill people can accidentally abuse their perscriptions and commit crimes
-Impaired judgement leads to negative activities that others can "sober up from" afterwards and change their ways
Winner: Pro Side
Question 3: Should marijuana be legalized in California for recreational use?
-This one was interesting for me because I remember the day we had this debate in my English class in high school senior year. The "Pro" side (two teen boys who were normally the ones disrupting the class by making stupid jokes) came in dressed in professional business suites and presented a very well thought out argument in favor of legalization. I was expecting (especially since these were at-risk youth who were pretty open about admitting they liked to get high) that these teens would win the Pro side hands down.
-Legalization would mean less people in jail and less "crime"
-It would help with eleviating pain and pain management
-People already use it -why criminalize it?
-Marijuana is equal to alcohol
-People should have the freedom to choose whether they want to use it or not
-The Gateway Drug Argument
-It would lead to addiction
-People don't need drugs, they can find other things to make them happy
-Drugs do not guarantee happiness or increased wellbeing
-It leads to depression and laziness
-It negatively impacts and impairs brain function over time
Winner: Con Side (mostly because of how passionately they spoke)
Question 4: Methanfetamines are in certain medications and medicine (one kind given to young kids with ADHD and the other for extreme weight loss). Should these medications be taken off the market?
-These medications have meth in them and can lead to addiction
-It has negative side effects
-It can lead to the use of actual meth (Gateway Drug Argument)
-Long-term side effects are not known and are possibly damaging
-Why should good people who need the drugs be punished and have their medication taken away?
-Mental disorders and other medical issues need to be managed
-The "ingredient" is needed in the medication and is in small doses
-The parents and patients have given informed consent to taking the medication
-It's the patient's choice to take it
-A necessary evil possibly, but one that should be given
Winner: Con Side
It was great to see the teens working on their public speaking and getting passionate about subjects they normally wouldn't have considered thinking about at all.
What was kind of troubling at the end of it for me was this notion of a commonality I found in all 4 questions:
How should people who behave well and do "good" handle those in society who do "bad" things? It's a hard debate because there are always going to be conflicting view points and desired outcomes:
-Punishment, justice, retribution, and accountability
-Change, an end to a negative cycle, understanding, proactive prevention
-Forgiveness, rehabilitation, reformation, acceptance
You want to make the distinction between a person "being bad" and a person "doing something bad" but simultaneously you want to stop the bad thing from happening again. It's not an easy problem to solve.