Ask a San Diego County official-say someone in the Health and Human Services Agency-if they smoke pot. Tell them that, to be honest, no one really cares if they go home and roll a fatty and watch CSI: Miami, it's just an informal, confidential survey.
Faced with the question, chances are a large number of these serious people will lie, especially the ones who are tokin' monster bongs every night. That's just what people do when they get asked about things like bong- hittin' and wacky sexual practices.
Kids are the worst. They will lie to adults about anything. Anyone who actually knows a kid knows this well. If a kid says he mowed the lawn, chances are he's lying. It's just what kids do.
San Diego County officials, who say they don't smoke crack, might have taken this into account before they spent thousands of dollars to produce a “report card” on kids' habits, an in-depth study of “San Diego County child and family health well-being.”
County officials didn't ask kids how often they lie on dumb-ass surveys, which would have been a good question.
The report, which is actually a compilation of other reports, features many large pictures of smiling children and cool graphs. It repeats data that shows teen pregnancies in San Diego County are down and kids are less likely to die in fiery drug-related car accidents than a few years ago.
The report also takes a giant leap into the realm of kids' behavior, and this is where it starts to get a wee bit bizarre. According to the report, fewer San Diego County teenagers are smoking pot and drinking.
Come on, stop laughing. This is serious stuff.
It might be a coincidence, but the report also found that more kids are attempting to kill themselves.
We're not simply talking about a few bummed out Marilyn Manson fans. The report, quoting a San Diego Unified School District survey of 1,800 kids, says more than 10 percent of the high school kids said they had attempted suicide “at least once” in the past year.
If the report is to be believed, only slightly more kids, 12.6 percent, reported smoking marijuana in the last 30 days. That means, according to the county health experts, there are just as many kids slitting their wrists every month as smoking marijuana.
All in all, though, the county decided to interpret the results as good news. Sure, more kids want to kill themselves, but at least they're off the demon weed.
“We're definitely very happy with the positive results,” Dr. Rodger Lum, director of the county's Health and Human Services Agency, told a Union-Tribune reporter, although he did add, “But there are still a number of things that are of great concern to us.”
Hordes of teenagers attempting to kill themselves might be one of those concerns. Perhaps understanding that it is a tad unusual to suggest one out of every 10 kids has tried to kill himself in the last year, the study asks, “Why is the percent of high school students who reported they attempted suicide important?”
Damn good question. As long they're not smoking pot, why the hell should we care?
The authors of the report, displaying the type of expertise necessary for this type of tough sociological issue, answer the question by noting that adolescence is a “challenging” time, “reflected at one extreme by the percentage of students that say they have attempted suicide.”
Based on that definition, any study that says 10 percent of today's teenagers are trying to kill themselves after school would seem pretty damn important.
If it's true, medical units, SWAT teams and crisis counselors should be parachuting into every classroom in the county, hoping to stop kids from sucking down Drano during recess. All sharp objects should be removed from schools. Teachers should be trained to pump stomachs. Students should no longer be allowed to watch Fear Factor.
Drastic measures are necessary. Yet educators and teachers aren't panicking. Maybe that's because they know that any survey involving kids has a margin or error of something like plus or minus 47 percent, depending on how many of the kids smoked a joint before taking the study. In fact, they know right off that any study suggesting kids are smoking less pot and drinking less is wacko.
Most sane, rational people-primarily those without degrees in designing reports-would look at the stats about smoking and suicide and chuck the report into the circular file.
But county officials want the report to be trusted. Pointing to the data, they'll brag about how county programs are working. Then they'll ask for more money for anti-sex puppet shows and administrators to oversee screenings of Scared Straight to 12-year-olds.
Formally, the report says it should be considered a “powerful information tool and monitoring system” that supplies data for “informed discussions.”
One point of informed discussion might be, why is the county wasting tax dollars on these dumb ass reports?