oh that liver

My fifth graders have started the serious work: the school exams. They don't have that many for the Dutch subject, so every school exam is a source of minor panic. The first is exciting anyway and then it is also a presentation. What helps is that they can do it in pairs and that they are free to choose a subject, as long as it concerns a social issue. They must take a position and defend it with well-founded arguments.

This week two boys defended the statement 'Young people think too little about the negative aspects of alcohol'. Somewhat dutifully, they played the tune they'd heard before in mentoring classes and on television: you do things under the influence that you later regret, you can get a hangover and with a bit of bad luck you end up in the hospital.

Then something changed. They talked about the long-term harm of alcohol. About liver cirrhosis, cancer, Korsakoff's disease, cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression. They showed videos of influencers promoting their own drink, Ronnie Flex who says: 'Alcohol is dirty but being drunk is fun' and clips of songs such as 'Drinking till we crawl', 'Atje for the atmosphere' and 'Ik ben kachel '.

Drinking games were discussed ("What are we doing when we force each other to get drunk? When we call someone a sissy because he can't eat anymore?") and the status you have if you can eat a bottle of wine. Idiot, they thought, if you look at it soberly. Peer pressure, toughness.

I asked if they ever drank themselves. Yes, hello, I know my Pappenheimers. There was a bit of chuckling and shuffling of feet. 'Yes, certainly,' said a classmate, 'definitely they drink.'

I looked at them with a frown.

"Seriously, ma'am," said one. 'I am genuinely shocked by all those long-term effects. Especially that of your liver, that's really rancid.' "But yes," said the other, "we are young, aren't we, madam, and then you want to try everything." 'Certainly true', said the first, 'but now with every beer I drink on Saturday, I see my liver in front of me.'


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