Researching Drug Policy and the Problem of Dumb College Writing Assignments

Last week I gave my writing students the assignment to research Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s drug policies just for kicks and to do some compare and contrast. We’re writing about the subject with Global Commission on Drug Policy’s Report as a base text. I knew what I was getting myself into on this assignment, but I threw it out there anyway (with some need to explain to some students who Mitt Romney was).

When the time came, I asked, “So, tell me what you found?”

They had all kinds of material from Obama. There’s lots of substance on the website and elsewhere. Most of the students (some of the students didn’t bother) claimed they could find nothing on a Romney position, other than a general “against legalization for medical purposes.” You know, of “pot.”

In our media age, readers and researchers would think that positions would be fairly well drafted out and easy to find. The Romney official website is general on most topics. It’s difficult to do fact-based analysis without clarity and specifics. That’s one of the elements I’m trying to teach.