Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jun 2007
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2007 Southam Inc.
Author: Colby Cosh
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


What fascinates me about the case of Kieran King, the Saskatchewan 
high school student who was threatened, punished and slandered by 
various officials over the past three weeks for talking with some 
pals about the health effects of marijuana, is that it explodes 
almost every single utopian cliche about public schools that has been 
ever propounded by their employees and admirers. It's almost 
glorious, in a way. Ever heard an educator say "We're not here to 
teach students what to think -- we're here to teach them how to 
think"? BLAMMO! "We encourage children to make learning a lifelong 
process." KAPOW! Poor Kieran didn't even make it to age 16 before 
someone called the cops.

"Diversity is one of our most cherished values." But express a 
factually true opinion that diverges from what you've been taught and 
- -- WHOOMP! "Public schools aren't crude instruments of social 
control, they're places where we lay the foundation for an informed 
citizenry." BOOM!

I could go on, but I'm running out of sound effects and I really 
don't have time to fire up an old Batman episode on You-Tube to gather more.

King, who is in Grade 10 at a high school in tiny Wawota, Sask., 
started researching marijuana after he and his fellow students were 
given an audiovisual presentation about drugs earlier in the year. 
The presentation, from his entirely believable description, was 
typical of its kind: short on background facts and long on horror stories.

He's never smoked or even seen marijuana, so he was naturally curious 
about what's really known about its effects. "Naturally curious" -- 
say, there's another favourite trope of the pedagogical establishment 
that's been blown away with the Prairie wind.

On May 30, Kieran, who is described as "research-obsessed" by his 
mother, was chatting with friends around the school lunch table and 
telling them about what he'd discovered, largely from scholarly and 
government sources. He argued that marijuana carries a near-zero risk 
of overdose, that it has been approved by Health Canada for medical 
use and that it kills an infinitesimal fraction of the people that 
alcohol and tobacco do every week -- claims so uncontroversial you'd 
have to be high on something much stronger than pot to dispute them.

He also suggested that it doesn't make much sense for marijuana to be 
illegal in a world where booze and smokes are freely available in shops.

In other words, what we have here is a kid who fits the picture of 
the model student so perfectly that the South East Cornerstone School 
Division should probably be putting him on a poster, not on 
suspension. He is an honour student -- a real one, by all accounts, 
not some mediocre kid who wriggled in under a line lowered by grade 
inflation. (His mother, let it be noted, is a teacher who lost a 
husband to a drunk driver before he was born.) Presented with a 
highly emotional after school special-style argument in the 
classroom, he did solid research to see if it held up. He applied 
critical thinking, shared what he had discovered with his friends and 
invited more criticism. It encapsulates almost everything that we 
want children to be capable of when they graduate from our schools.

But one of the students who'd witnessed the conversation apparently 
finked to the warden. (From this day forward I'm going to avoid the 
use of the term "principal." If schools are going to be run like 
prisons, let's adopt the appropriate lingo.) Boss bull Susan Wilson 
ordered Kieran to stop talking about marijuana on school premises -- 
even though he had been outside the classroom, where school officials 
have to meet a justifiably high standard before interfering with a 
student's freedom of speech -- and later she called his mother to 
warn her that "promoting drug use" would not be tolerated. According 
to the education director of the school division, she was also told 
"if there were any drugs brought into the school, the police could be 
involved." One can almost hear the truncheon slapping against the 
open palm. Later on, when Kieran organized a brief free speech 
protest outside the school with the help of a few "cannabis culture" 
types, Wilson reacted by ordering a lockdown (remember, they're not 
prisons!). When he walked out anyway to join supporters, he was 
suspended from school and a "threat assessment" was ordered 
(definitely not prisons!).

Meanwhile, protesters interviewed district superintendent Velda 
Weatherald and caught her on tape saying that "there was an 
accusation" that Kieran may have been involved in selling drugs at 
the school. Innuendo and bullying are, as ever, what people Kieran's 
age call "BFFs" nowadays. Best friends forever.

Right now Kieran is in Beijing, where he is taking classes in 
Mandarin. No doubt Superintendent Weatherald will soon be offering 
this as clear evidence that he intends to take up the opium-smuggling 
trade. When Kieran gets back, I'm thinking of calling him up and 
asking him what it's like to live in a free country.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom