By Robin Slaw
In the February 22, 2011 “Blame It On the Alcohol” episode, Glee fans got a big dose of how well teen abstinence pledges work …
Instead, Glee club members explored the perils of teen drinking. From Principal Figgins’ pronunciation of Kei$ha (Kee-dollar sign-Ha) to the duet by Schuester and Beiste to the synchronized purple vomit, there were memorable scenes and songs throughout the show. But did the episode work to deter teen drinking? Probably not.
I would bet alcohol pledges work about as well as abstinence pledges for high school students. Some of them will abstain because it makes sense – they are the designated drivers, or they don’t like how alcohol feels, or they aren’t in a relationship and don’t like casual sex. Some of them will indulge in spite of our best intentions – because peers put too much pressure on them, or they love the way they feel when drinking or having sex. So how do we keep teens safer, whether we’re talking alcohol or sex?
Equipping them with information helps. They learn the difference between responsible and irresponsible actions, how they and their partners or friends can be harmed, whether through drinking or sex. They learn about alternatives, whether it’s how to have a fun party without alcohol poisoning, or how to have a fun relationship without the risks of sexually transmitted infections. They understand the consequences of risky behavior. And they learn how to draw their own line in the sand … the line that they won’t cross because they’ve decided ahead of time where that line lies.
Online bloggers are arguing over whether the “Blame It On the Alcohol” episode did more to deter or promote teen drinking. Me, I’m thinking Brittany nailed “Tik Tok”, that Beiste was all around awesome, and that I will be following up with my teen daughters about designated drivers, the effect of alcohol on their grades and the unwise decisions they might make while under the influence, and show them one more time where the condoms are stored and how to use them. I’ll be pondering new ways of teaching students how to stay safe, and how to help them understand that they have control over what happens to them. And I will be actively searching out new ways to talk to parents about the importance of talking to their own teens, because that’s one of the places where we can possibly make the most difference!