While listening to Neil Prendeville on 96FM, I caught part of a discussion on the rate of violence on Cork’s streets. There is a general need to assign blame for escalating violence. Scapegoats ranged from “drink and drugs” to “nightclubs”.
The problem with drink and drugs is the demand for them.
While I believe it is too ambitious to eradicate demand completely, it is reasonable to expect some success in lowering demand. For years, education has been hailed as an effective prevention tool for drugs. Either there is not enough education or it is inadequate.
I refer specifically to secondary schools. We are not interacting enough with young people on a number of issues, including drug use and abuse. In my experience, people who commit assault are unhappy individuals either trapped in addiction or unable to express themselves non-violently. This is not excusing their behaviour, but it goes deeper than simply blaming drink, drugs and night clubs.
I see the teaching of relationship skills as a positive first step. However, because courses are given by teachers, an opportunity for more honest and open discussion is being lost. Our teachers are highly skilled professionals, but the perception that teenagers have of teachers is that they cannot be trusted with intimate and personal details. I suggest that an enhancement of the personal development side of education should involve professionals from outside the school. I am aware that to do this skillfully and effectively would be costly, but I believe it would be cost effective.
It is our responsibility.