The statistic I chose to analyze was something I pulled from the
Washington Post about a month ago. The article stated that "68% of high school
seniors admitted to trying marijuana at least once during their high school
career." The article was about the resurfacing drug problem among the teenage
age group. It was aimed at an audience of parents and others who could be
affected by such an alarming rate.

A number of thoughts crossed my mind when I read this statistic. My
first thought was to question where the Washington Post had surveyed. As a
resident of the metropolitan DC area, I am aware of the differences between the
outer suburbs and DC itself. If the Post had focused on the DC area I would be
able to believe the statistic much more than if they had focused on the
surrounding area. Another thought was whether the Post had interviewed more
boys than girls or vice versa. Racial makeup of those involved in the study was
another issue that the Post did not elaborate on. I also felt it relevant to
ask what the percentage of that initial 68% were seniors who had only tried it
once. I think the percentage would drop significantly if the Post changed the
wording from "tried it once" to "used multiple times".

Knowing the geographic location of those surveyed would be useful in a
number of ways. First, it would ease the fears of parents not living in the
troubled areas. More importantly, it would allow school officials, drug
enforcement officials, drug counselors, etc., to focus their attention and dime
to those specific areas with the biggest problem. Are we looking at inner-city
youth or are we looking at suburban youth. It makes a difference as to how you
approach the problem. Which station do you advertise on? Where does the local
government allocate extra funding for drug education and law enforcement?

Another pertinent factor would be the racial makeup of those surveyed.
Again, the way one would approach the problem would differ depending on who the
intended audience is. If the survey focused on black youth, one would try to
relate the drug education to the black community and its culture. The same idea
applies if the focus was on white youth. It\'s the same idea advertisers have
employed for years. McDonalds puts ads on rap stations that have a black
narrator to appeal to the black community. They also put ads on stations that
play Yanni that have a white narrator to appeal to the white community.

The final question I felt was very important to ask was whether or not
those surveyed used marijuana on a regular basis or if it was something they had
tried once and let be. This is important because if the majority of the 68% had
only tried marijuana once or twice then officials would be looking at a
different problem entirely. For example, if 2/3 of the 68% weren\'t regular
users, then the focus of education would shift to not giving in to peer pressure
and building self esteem. On the other hand, if it were only a small portion of
the 68%, the focus would shift towards programs that identified youth that had
the problem, offering detox programs, and education as to what the effects of
long term marijuana use are.

Going back to the initial statistic, I find it hard to take the data as
seriously at face value now that I have thought of so many factors that have
been left undefined. The statistic does not seem relevant, and definitely not
useful to the public, without definition of it\'s parameters. What it does do is
incite fear into the average newspaper reader who merely glances at the
information and takes it at face value.

Category: Social Issues