Saturday, February 01, 2014

12-Step Program or Medications?


I have spoken with various people who have been encouraged to attend AA meetings, and more than a few of them say that they need the support but that they do not believe in "God" and can't sign on to a program that is so fundamentally spiritual.  They believe, as do I, that they are not powerless over their addiction; that, in fact, it is totally in their control, not in some "higher power's" control.  So, for those people, there is no place to turn.  There are few, if any, programs that are not 12-step based.  See what you think after reading this article which appeared on Slate.


Alcoholics Anonymous is, by far, the largest and most venerable addiction recovery group in the world. Founded nearly 80 years ago, AA now boasts 2.1 million worldwide members, many of whom attribute their very survival to the organization. In the United States, where the 12-step program originated, AA is viewed by many as a national treasure of sorts. Social workers send patients to AA meetings. Judges condition people’s freedom on meeting attendance. Desperate spouses condition marriages on it. Everyone loves Alcoholics Anonymous. Or almost everyone.

Many patients and doctors have grumbled for years about the religion inherent in the Alcoholics Anonymous process: Half of the 12 steps involve God or “a Power greater than ourselves.”
In recent years, however, the complaints have turned scientific. Some doctors who specialize in treating alcoholism have leveled a pair of accusations against the organization. First, they claim that AA has obstructed the spread of medications to treat alcoholism. Second, they claim that the group stubbornly resists evidence that some alcoholics are better suited to a life of moderate drinking than to complete abstinence.

Read entire article












Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Not Quite Ready for College - Here's an Idea


I am fully aware of how much my travel experiences have changed me (and for the better, I might add) and helped me understand so much more about the world.  At home it has helped, too, because I learned that there is not just one way to do things.  I no longer insist that my way is the best way.  I know that those who volunteer with the Peace Corps value that experience for the rest of their lives, and I believe that taking a Gap Year might also be a life-long benefit.  See what you think.  This article appeared in Slate.

This article originally appeared in Inside Higher Ed.

Over the next few weeks, students around the country will receive offers of admission to colleges and universities. But before students jump online and accept an offer, I have one piece of advice for them: They might be better off not going to college next year.

Instead, they should think about taking a gap year, to defer college for a year to live and volunteer in a developing country.

In the traditional sort of gap year, students immerse themselves in a developing community to volunteer with a nonprofit organization by teaching, working with local youth, or assuming some other community role.

Gap years have been rising in popularity in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere. I’ve spent the last few years researching what happens to young people when they have such an immersive experience in a community radically different from their own.

The answer, in short, is that gap years can help change students in ways the world needs.

The challenges of our time demand an educational system that can help young people become citizens of the world. We need our students to be smart, critical, and innovative thinkers but also people of character who use their talents to help others. Gap years help young adults understand themselves, their relationships, and the world around them, which deepens capacities and perspectives crucial for effective citizenship. They help students become better thinkers and scholars, filled with passion, purpose, and perspective.

How do people learn from gap years?

One principal lesson is clear: We often develop most when our understandings of ourselves and the world around us are challenged—when we engage with people and ideas that are different. Despite this insight, we often prioritize comfort and self-segregate into groups of sameness. We tend to surround ourselves with people who think, talk, and look similar to us.

The treadmill from high school to college makes it hard for students to see alternative paths.

Taking a gap year speeds our development by upsetting these patterns. Trying to occupy another person's way of life in a different culture—living with a new family, speaking the language, integrating into a community, perhaps working with local youth, for instance—these are valuable experiences that help young people understand themselves, develop empathy and virtue, and expand their capacity to see the world from others' perspectives.

Traditionally, U.S. higher education has championed the idea of liberal arts as a way of getting students to engage with difference, to expand their worldview beyond their known universe by (in the words of a Harvard research committee on education) “questioning assumptions, by inducing self-reflection … by encounters with radically different historical moments and cultural formations.”

However, formal classroom education alone cannot accomplish this aim. The classroom is limited in its ability to engage students with difference and contribute to their development as able citizens. We also need new experiences that inspire critical self-reflection to cultivate the right moral feelings and dispositions.

What’s important here is the productive dissonance that these long-term, immersive gap year experiences provide. It's unlikely that a young person staying in America—or even traveling overseas for a short time—would have assumptions about herself and the world around her challenged with the same intensity, frequency, and breadth as in a gap year in a developing community.

It's interesting that spending time in developing communities can help young people appreciate ways of living that we need more of—such as a more active and intimate sense of community. Going overseas also helps cultivate a type of independence and self-confidence that staying close to home in a familiar environment probably does not.

Furthermore, taking the traditional kind of gap year after high school helps students take full advantage of their time in college. One telling observation is that many students who take gap years end up changing their intended major after returning. During college, their gap year experiences enrich their courses, strengthen co-curricular endeavors, and animate undergraduate research and creative projects.
To be clear: Though these gap year students are working in partnership with a community organization and aim to make some positive impact, the students typically, at least in the short term, gain more than they are able to give. But this empowers them to bring new perspectives to bear in other personal, professional, and civic efforts. Gap years, borrowing a line from the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, can help create leaders for the world’s future.

Despite the benefits of these kinds of gap year experiences, too few Americans take gap years and too few colleges encourage them. The treadmill from high school to college makes it hard for students to see alternative paths. But that is changing. More people and organizations are beginning to see gap years for the formative experiences they can be, given with the proper training, support, and community work. In fact, all the Ivy League universities now endorse gap years for interested students. And they’re right to do so.

Many parents and students are nervous about the idea of spending an extended period in a developing country. But these experiences, especially through structured gap year programs like Global Citizen Year, are generally very safe and supported. Are there some risks? Of course, there are risks with any travel or change—but the risks are worth taking. The investment in taking a gap year will pay dividends throughout one’s college career and beyond as society and one’s life are enriched.

However, one central challenge that remains is how to finance gap years for students from lower-income families. This is also beginning to change. The University of North Carolina and Princeton University, for instance, have both begun to subsidize gap years for incoming students. Other organizations, such as Omprakash, now offer low-cost volunteer placements as well as scholarships to those with need. And with the help of crowdfunding sites, students are able to raise money for these experiences with greater ease. Despite these efforts, if gap years are to really expand, we’ll need more institutions or governments to offset the costs.

Higher education is society’s last mass effort to really shape the character and trajectories of our young people. Let’s help them take more advantage of the precious time in college by taking a gap year beforehand.








Monday, January 27, 2014

Unlawful Search? Or, Rape By Police?



This is THE most outrageous story I have ever read.  I doubt you will even believe it.  It seems most like a story from a repressive regime in the Soviet Union, or some horrible story about torture by a crazy person.  But it's our police force - doing, or forcing doctors to do - totally unconstitutional acts and continuing them in the face of a man's innocence.  What are we going to do about this?  Yes, the victim in this case received compensation for the abuse he suffered, but why did it happen in the first place?

SundayReview|OP-ED COLUMNIST

3 Enemas Later, Still No Drugs




IF you think that protests about overzealous law enforcement are over the top, listen to what unfolded when the police suspected that David Eckert, 54, was hiding drugs in his rectum.

Eckert is a shy junk dealer struggling to get by in Hidalgo County, N.M. He lives a working-class life, drives a 16-year-old pickup and was convicted in 2008 of methamphetamine possession.

Police officers, suspecting he might still be involved in drugs, asked him to step out of his pickup early last year after stopping him for a supposed traffic violation. No drugs or weapons were found on Eckert or in his truck, but a police dog showed interest in the vehicle and an officer wrote that Eckert’s posture was “erect and he kept his legs together.”

That led the police to speculate that he might be hiding drugs internally, so they took him in handcuffs to a nearby hospital emergency room and asked the doctor, Adam Ash, to conduct a forcible search of his rectum. Dr. Ash refused, saying it would be unethical.

“I was pretty sure it was the wrong thing to do,” Dr. Ash told me. “It was not medically indicated.”
Eckert, protesting all the while, says he asked to make a phone call but was told that he had no right to do so because he hadn’t actually been arrested. The police then drove Eckert 50 miles to the emergency room of the Gila Regional Medical Center, where doctors took X-rays of Eckert’s abdomen and performed a rectal examination. No drugs were found, so doctors performed a second rectal exam, again unavailing.

Doctors then gave Eckert an enema and forced him to have a bowel movement in the presence of a nurse and policeman, according to a lawsuit that Eckert filed. When no narcotics were found, a second enema was administered. Then a third.

The police left the privacy curtain open, so that Eckert’s searches were public, the lawsuit says.
After hours of fruitless searches, police and doctors arranged another X-ray and finally anesthetized Eckert and performed a colonoscopy.

“Nothing was found inside of Mr. Eckert,” the police report notes. So after he woke up, he was released — after 13 hours, two rectal exams, three enemas, two X-rays and a colonoscopy.
The hospital ended up billing Eckert $6,000.

When I came across this case, it seemed far-fetched to me — more like rape than law enforcement. But the authorities, hospital and doctors all refused to comment, and, a few days ago, the city and county settled the lawsuit by paying Eckert $1.6 million.

This wasn’t a unique case. A few months earlier, a man named Timothy Young who lives nearby says that police officers pulled him over, forcibly strip-searched him in a parking lot and then took him to a hospital for a forced X-ray and rectal examination while he was handcuffed. Nothing was found, so he was released — only to receive a hospital bill.

And a few weeks before Eckert’s ordeal, a 54-year-old American woman crossing from Mexico into El Paso was strip-searched and taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso. She says in a lawsuit that, over six hours, she was shackled to an examination table and subjected to rectal and vaginal examinations — with the door open to compound her humiliation. After a final X-ray and CT scan, all of which turned up nothing, she was released — and billed for the procedures.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Eckert’s lawyer, notes that such abuses are not random but are disproportionately directed at those on the bottom rungs of society. “It’s a socioeconomic issue,” he said. “It’s the indignities forced on people who are not articulate, not educated and don’t have access to legal services.”

Police are caught in a difficult balancing act, and obviously the abuse of Eckert isn’t representative. But it is emblematic of something much larger in America, a kind of inequality that isn’t economic and that we don’t much talk about.

It’s the kind of inequality that lies behind police stops for “driving while black,” or unequal implementation of stop-and-frisk policies, or “zero tolerance” school discipline codes that lead many low-income children to be suspended.

This inequality has a racial element to it, but it is also about social class (Eckert is white but struggling financially). This is about Americans living in different worlds. If you’re a middle-class reader, you probably see the justice system as protective. If you’re a young man of color, you may see it as threatening.

So as we discuss inequality in America, let’s remember that the divide is measured in more than dollars. It’s also about something as fundamental as our dignity, our humanity and our access to justice; it’s about the right of working stiffs not to endure forced colonoscopies.