One of the keys to getting people in this country to accept any level of intrusion into their personal lives is to start training them early. The Supreme Court ruled today that it’s just fine to randomly test students involved in extracurricular activities for drugs, regardless of whether or not there’s any actual suspicion that they’re using drugs. I find this ruling to be deeply disturbing but at the same time, totally expected. We live in an age when the government wants to pry into our private lives more every day, and corporations want that right as well. They want to control what we ingest, what we watch on TV, and how we use our computers. It’s bad enough that companies are allowed to test all new employees for drugs; opening the doors for public institutions like school to also require drug testing is repugnant. The scary thing is that the technologies available for monitoring people’s behavior are only growing more advanced and pervasive — unless we start drawing some sort of legal lines that define what’s allowed, we’ll unwittingly find ourselves in an uncomfortable place where we really don’t want to be.
The worst thing about this case is that the reason students involved in extracurricular activities are targetted is because school administrators think they can get away with it. There’s apparently a belief that simply drug testing every student would not be acceptable, but that because extracurriculars are voluntary, they can be forced to accept drug testing to join them. This is what we refer to as incrementalism. If people get used to drug testing for athletes or chess club members, soon enough they’ll accept it for everyone. Using illegal drugs in high school is a bad thing, but there are worse things as well.