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Diatribe: Using Cocaine In Elementary School Science Projects.

01/30/2013

ScienceProjectAs a young student, I really didn’t have to work as hard as my peers to get good grades.  I was diagnosed with exceptional reading skills at a very young age and I think that helped a great deal.  While not a textbook overachiever, I completed my studies and graduated from high school with honors.

I did well with research papers, “essay questions” and (using the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others rule of eliminating incorrect responses) anything with multiple choice answers.  The projects where I encountered the most difficulty were usually those that required a bit of marketing ingenuity and/or salesmanship.  For me, the annual Science Fair was an extraordinary challenge.

I made posters.

While the other kids were building things, conducting experiments and making messes in the gymnasium, I exhibited posters.  Usually three, so that when attached side-by-side they could stand on their own, boring posters.  Of course, I’d use every color marker in the package and if stencils were available create my own fonts.  One year I got fancy and used a “black light”.  I consistently received “Bs” for my efforts even though I thought some were just awful.  Maybe I should have used drugs.

While a fourth grader in Washington, DC was charged with drug possession for bringing cocaine to school, Emma Bartelt of Miami, Florida won a prize.

DrugSniffingDogBartelt, 10, used twenty-eight grams of cocaine in her science experiment, which won first place at a fair at Coral Gables Preparatory Academy.  Her mother said her daughter did not come in direct contact with the illicit substance during the experiment, which tested the responses of three drug-sniffing dogs.  The experiment was conducted at police facilities and under constant supervision.

Emma, who was awarded an honorable mention, couldn’t have done it without the help of the Miami-Dade Police Narcotics Bureau where her father serves as a detective.  The Bureau provided three narcotics detector canines as well as the powder cocaine for her experiment.

“The student’s science project involved a very unusual set of circumstances, including having a parent who is a well-respected police detective with experience in training dogs that sniff for illegal substances. From our understanding, the parent was the only person involved in working directly with the dogs and the hidden substances, which took place at a police training facility.” – John Schuster, School District Spokesman

When I was ten, we had to do our own experiments!  If our parents were mad scientists they weren’t allowed to help!  That was cheating!  When I was making my posters, BY MYSELF, the concept of a dog sniffing for drugs was foreign to me.  My friends and I didn’t know what drugs were … unless someone made posters about them for the Science Fair.

Have you ever participated in a Science Fair?  What was your experiment?  Do you think this girl’s parents went too far?

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9 Comments
  1. Parents are expected to do it all now. What’s the point of teaching the kids stuff the folks who do the work already know?

    It made me nuts as a parent because I’d done my schooling — I knew the stuff. It was my son who needed to learn.

  2. If the girl had the idea on her own and her parents (connections) enabled her to conduct the experiment then I see no harm. There are some amazingly bright kids out there. Maybe she was inspired by a story. Look at the 15 year old who just invented a test the can detect pancreatic cancer at its earliest stage making the disease almost 100% curable! And it cost just 3 cents!

    • I suppose that could be the case. She knew that her father worked with drug-sniffing dogs. Plus, it can’t hurt for kids to learn that drugs are bad and that they’ll get caught if they have them.

      I love that you play the Devil’s Advocate with me! ;)

  3. I agree with you the children should do the work. Parents can help if there are portions of the experiment that are beyond the scope of the child (like building a frame to hold a part of the experiment). But parents should not do the whole project.

  4. Wow… Now that is a weird one, and just more proof that we live in a very strange age. Of course kids should be expected to do their own work, because how else are they going to learn how to do things themselves? When they get out in the real world and need to make a living, and their boss gives them an assignment with a deadline, no one is going to do their work for them.

    • I think parents often, although well-intentioned, do their children a disservice by doing their schoolwork FOR them instead of WITH them.

      • I can see the value of parents doing school work WITH their kids to help them, and maybe some parents are well-intentioned when they go overboard and do their children’s work FOR them.

        But I’ve often seen a darker motivation… Some parents see their children as extensions of their own egos, and they live vicariously through their children’s success. They want to turn their child into a monument to themselves, and since they want the very best possible monument, they go all out to build that monument, themselves.

        • Yes, I’ve seen that, too. An example that comes to mind is the father who worked his son (who hated soccer) to near exhaustion so he could tell his buddies that his kid was a good soccer player. Not necessarily schoolwork but I think the concept still applies.

          • I think what you just mentioned is very similar to the same problem I was describing. And then there was that recent scandal in which parents were paying the tutors of their high school children, to go in and take their kid’s SAT tests for them.

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