When we look at the issue of drugs and alcohol in Oak Park, we look at it from the wrong perspective. The zero-tolerance rules and the speakers are just a Band-Aid for a problem that runs much deeper.

The reason so many teenage kids are using drugs and drinking is because they feel alienated. We live in a society that values material success over relationships. We value getting ahead over honest communication, and our system of education represents these values. The way the school system in our “progressive” society works is through competition. Pitting adolescents against each other and valuing a formal education over a moral education leaves kids with no tools to connect. That is where drugs and alcohol come in. Drugs and alcohol are the tools that kids use. In so many groups at OPRF, substances are at the center. This is not saying that none of these kids have meaningful relationships. We just do not know what the purpose of the relationship is. We need something to supplement it. We do not understand the meaning of connection, and the true value it has in our lives.

These are the problems, and it is up to all of us to change. To move the people around us into the centers of our lives. To remember that life is not about consuming. Consuming people (not eating them) and consuming products leaves us empty. We need to restructure our learning environments, and I know I need to take a look at the way I’m living my life.

Jonah Isenstein
Oak Park

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