By David A. Mittell, Jr.
We raise them up to let them go, and when they go our faith is strained with wondering if they will come back. A child's entrance into college is a particularly anxious time for parents. Most college students experiment with thoughts, and often behavior, that challenge certitudes; and at the drop of a blackout curtain none of it is their parents' business. The word "sophomoric" captures it. No one is thought to be dumber than the parents of a student who has been off in college for a year!
As it is for parents, the first duty of college administrators is not to educate or improve, it is to keep students safe and so alive to be educated and improved. Parents can only hope for their precious child to be wise enough and lucky enough to stay safe. Today's college students have the advantage of having parents who do not insist they be replicas of themselves – in former times down to attending the same schools and entering the same careers, however unfitting. But there are new dangers, the most lethal of which are opioid drugs.
Alcohol's dangers have always been around. John Adams had a son (John Quincy) who throve at Harvard, and another (Thomas Boylston) who found at Harvard the alcohol to which he would lose his life. Recently, my paternal namesake, who is 96 and has tasted of this life, was reading The Boston Globe. He looked up from the page and asked, "What are opioids?"
The answer is that opioids are cheap, instantly and often invisibly addictive drugs that can destroy young people in the flower of their coming of age – with or without evident emotional problems. These opioids are all around us in house breaks, bank robberies and holdups at coffee shops and convenience stores.