Vaping In The Schools

The boys' bathroom smells fruity and sweet. Someone's been vaping in there. Again. Vaping is all the rage these days in schools. It's not quite smoking, so it feels like something schools can't ban. It's also fashionable, cool, and for many kids an irresistible urge. They have the vape pen in their pocket. There's a bathroom with a closed door. Why not take a hit?

I'm the same way with Doritos. I can't blame them.

A couple of my colleagues are up in arms about this "problem." Kids are getting away with something they shouldn't be doing! I nod, but when someone asks, how do we stop them? I shrug and walk away. I just don't care very much. There are people at my school and in my school system who think I should care as much as they do, but really, what's the big deal?

My high school had a smoking area, the fearsome and cold back hall. Kids also smoked in the student parking lot, behind the water tower, and wherever else they wouldn't be seen. Teachers used to smoke at school too, but they got to do it in the offices.

In my first years teaching kids were very protective of two-liter soda bottles they carried. An experienced teacher let me in on the secret that most of the bottles were half soda, half alcohol. Some of the bottles were 100% soda but those kids just wanted to be cool.

There always been smoking (and drinking, and making out, and conceiving children, and...) in the bathroom. Kid get high before, during, and after school. Two sisters arrived at our school stinking so badly of weed we put them in an office with the windows open and the door shut. I pity the person who sat there with them.

The kids I teach lead tough lives. If vaping is the worst they do, I've got no complaints. Of course it's not the worst they do, it's just one rule they break.

Kids break rules. Kids have always broken rules. If we can't learn that, we're idiots.

A guy who ran a school in Providence said, don't write down any rules. Once you do, you can't take them back. It wasn't a place in which anything goes, but instead of rules he wanted us to follow the kids' needs.

At home, my wife and I don't have any rules for our kids that I can think of. Instead we know our daughters and they know us. We established what does and doesn't fly soon as they were born. So far, no vaping in the bathroom.

I've been by the bathroom three times today. The first time it had been vaped. Cherry. The second time it was just the usual dirty, pissy smell. During lunch someone else went in and puffed away. Was that lemon-lime? Whatever. I can't get worked up about it. If I talk to kids about it at all, I'll intentionally sound bored by the whole thing. By next October they'll have moved onto some other damn thing about which people will want to make more rules.

A colleague talked to me about all this today. I smiled. What? she asked. I said it could be worse and recalled an eighth grader we had a few years ago who came out of the bathroom giggling. Was he smoking? she asked. No. He took a dump on the floor and smeared it on the walls.

But you're right, I said. We've got to do something about the vaping.

Rules For Tools - Wendell Berry

I'm thinking again about tools as I read of Apple and Samsung releasing new products. I spent an hour this afternoon typing on a 1938 Corona Sterling which is still the most beautiful and wondrous machine I've ever seen. All this has me thinking of Wendell Berry's rules for new tools which, rather than summarizing, I quote here in full:

  1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
  8. It should come from a small, privately-owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance or repair.
  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

If I live my life by those rules, I'm living well.