Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Student Body: Failure of Health Education. From the UMass Daily Collegian.


Alcohol. Drugs. Sex.

Push play and repeat.

The United States educational system has been fighting an ambitious war against these “evils” for years, hoping to warn the youth of our country of their devastating effects.

The University of Massachusetts, along with other major colleges such as Wake Forest and Louisiana State, uses the website, “My Student Body” to inform students further of such high-risk behavior.

Incoming freshmen are required to take an online health course that the site offers or else, as an email from University Health Services states, “you won’t be able to register for Spring classes.”

There is no arguing the benefits to preventative action in the case of alcohol, drugs and sex, but you can really only bring a horse to water.

The real beverage our generation wants, they drink.

One segment of the online health course asks students to enter a statistic for what they believe to be the percentage of peers that partake in drinking, drug use and sex. It then goes on to report that the number guessed is much higher than what is actually the case.

Are we all so cynical that we think the number of teens drinking and having sex is catastrophically higher than it actually is? Unlikely.

It happens in several high schools or facilities of underage kids: Students are handed an anonymous survey, in which they fill out how often they have used a specific substance.

What does a large portion of America’s paranoid youth do on these surveys?




  1. Hmmm disorganized article, and I can't really figure out the author's point. But apropos of worrying about anonymous surveys not being anonymous, I do recall once sending in some responses to a request for 'anonymous' feedback, only to get a personalized response email responding to my concerns(!). Talk about your 'people unclear on the concept'

    So for all the serious challenges of getting a good sample for a poll survey, I can sympathize a little with some of the paranoia. Not the manufactured paranoia that gets used as an excuse to give up on data collection altogether. But we are constantly exhorted to be careful what we give out about ourselves (especially here in the intertoobz), to protect our privacy - often with good reason. So I can understand when someone might be a little hesitant to be entirely forthcoming about topics that may have legal ramifications.

    The sad part is that it all leaves us working with bad data, which can be worse than no data at all.

    1. If it is of any comfort I have learned how to better formulate an article since this piece was written. Funny finding my article on a random blog a year later...!

  2. I have the opposite experience. My students tell me the truth about things that any reasonable person WOULD lie about.

  3. I can't help but think it's always been thus. If I'd been asked what I'd been doing that my mom would have frowned upon, even anonymously as a 19 year old, I would have lied my ass off.

    Not that I *ever* did anything like that!

  4. I've got one word for the kid in the picture that appears to have passed out without finishing one very tiny bottle of cognac:


  5. So numbers lie and we shouldn't rely on them because students should be responsible adults who need to be held accountable for their own choices?


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