Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Lives Are at Stake

Wonk that I am, it's exciting when something is currently happening in the real world that I can use in the classroom. And in this case I got a two for one!

Our legislative season just started here in Utah. One of the bills I am following is HB 11 Overdose Reporting Amendments, which is intended to encourage people to get medical help if they believe a friend has overdosed. All too often, people don't do that out of fear that they will get in trouble for illicit activity themselves. Thing is, lives are at stake.

Here's the carrot per the bill as it stands today: Calling for help, remaining with the person who may have overdosed, and cooperating with responders will be taken into consideration when it comes to prosecution.

I brought it up with my students at the jail this morning while we were discussing how the political system directly affects them and how paying attention to it can empower them, and I brought it up with my students in my university class this afternoon while we were discussing how to construct arguments to effect change.

The consensus of all of my students, both at the jail and at the university, was that as long as the "good Samaritans" are still subject to arrest, most will not call for help. The bill as written falls short. Not good enough when lives are at stake.

Some of my students were particularly insightful, and I asked them to write up their ideas for me so I can quote them in a letter I'm writing to the sponsor of the legislation.

Can I just say how utterly satisfying it is to employ the rhetorical technique of using input from two of the main target audiences of the legislation (known drug users and college students) and then turn around and use that as an example to illustrate a useful rhetorical technique in a writing class? And can I just say how utterly satisfying it is to not just encourage people caught up in the criminal justice system to get involved, but to actually use their voices?

Yeah, I'm wonky.

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