Monday, April 11, 2011

Pass the Brain, Please

The other day, I was watching a pre-prom presentation for high school kids. I have seen a billion of these over the years. Mostly, they resort to showing pictures of mangled cars and decapitated prom queens in order to scare the wits out of the kids -- frighten them into laying off of the sauce before the big night. But this one was different.

This presentation was sponsored by a group of neurosurgeons. There was very little fear-factor worked into it. Essentially, it was a lesson about, well, neuroscience. It also explained, with no dramatics, what happens when you sustain a brain or a spinal cord injury. It connected these injuries with drunk driving and the aftermath by showing x-rays of damage to the nervous system and by explaining what sort of state the people from the x-rays are in now.

That was it. No blood. No gore. No yelling. No crying.

The nurse who had been presenting had used a model of the spinal column and of the skull. The skull had a fake brain within. The brain was made to be wobbly and schmushy -- to feel like a real brain. She explained how easily the brain could be injured, even by sliding abrasively across the rough bottom of the skull, and she passed it around the room -- the brain, that is.

As the kids passed it around, no one laughed. No one made jokes. They looked and found the spot where the spinal cord joined it.  I saw some of them motioning a "snap" motion to illustrate how the spinal cord of one of the unfortunate examples had been compressed, making him a quadriplegic.

It occurred to me that this is the way to learn to live right: You gain knowledge and perspective by learning about the way things work inside -- whether it is about religion, philosophy, sexuality, politics or, as in this case, the body. This is why I like to delve, intellectually. In this case, it worked for the kids. Just knowing how things look and work inside and just knowing the material, realistic consequences of driving drunk was enough for them, I think.

We need to figure out everything from the inside, in the end.

An appeal to the emotions only lasts so long. Sure, you can make all the kids cry by showing side-by-side pictures of the pretty prom queen before and after the accident, but that fades by prom night. These kids had good reason (both in terms of a reason and "reasoning" itself) not to drink and drive.

In short, it was the most affected I have seen the kids after one of these sessions. It was even more effective (I kid you not) than the year a speaker plucked off her own ear (it was artificial, as a result of her prom night accident) and held it up to the audience like a Renaissance actor would display a beating sheep's heart. The result: hysterical laughter from the kids. Can't say I blamed them. I had to hold it back, too.


  1. This shows a change with the times. Our children are in a technology and logical world. It's no surprise that there should be a non scare tactic and a logic explanation of what happens when were careless.

  2. Thanks for weighing in -- yeah, it does make sense, yet, I'm sorry to admit, I was surprised. I guess sit is easy to underestimate kids. They are usually sharper than we give them credit for.