Asrat Amnie – work-in-progress

The following student learning outcomes will be added to my Substance Use and Abuse Course Starting Fall 2021:

Student Learning Outcomes​

 1.  Apply Intersectionality as a tool for understanding “case studies”  of poverty and addiction (including memoirs and videoclips) at individual and family level

2.  Analyze cultural representations for depictions of  poverty  and addiction with attention to race, class, gender, sexuality as used to portray poverty and addiction at individual, family, and community levels

3.  Analyze patterns of poverty and addiction with attention to social and environmental determinants in low income families and communities.

 4. Differentiate coping strategies for poverty and other types of stress and describe the ramifications of maladaptive coping, especially substance use and abuse.

5.  Analyze  the war on drugs, drugs and substance abuse in the criminal justice system, including mass incarceration (school to prison pipeline), with emphasis on poverty and addiction as preventable social adversity.

I found the following resource that we were provided very helpful but will use other resources as well.

Hart, C. L. (2021). Drug use for grown-ups: chasing liberty in the land of fear. Penguin.


  • Cara O'Connor

    Asrat, Thanks for sharing! It looks to me like SLO’s 1, 2, and 5 are places where you might be weaving in more humanities related to poverty.

    SLO 1 & 2— you mention using memoirs and video clips that use intersectionality to help understand the links between poverty and addiction. It looks like you want something that is from the perspective of the person who themselves struggled with addiction and something that shows the experiences of those in their family (such as their children or parents).

    Maybe Sarah would have a suggestion about short films or videos that might portray some of the complexity and range of these two points of view?

    It sounds like you are asking “how does poverty intersect with addiction”? For example, even in people’s self-understanding of themselves as “addicts”? Or in childhood poverty and its longterm effects (considering many if not most children in the US experience poverty, what is the difference in life trajectories between those who experienced poverty and those experiencing poverty + addiction in their households?). There’s also the stereotype of how an addicted parent acts. The stereotype is that they spend all the household money on themselves and their addiction and their children go hungry. This is rampant in movies and such, but how true is it? That’s my question. Obviously many kinds of addiction are financially costly (resulting in job loss, money thrown away, and so on), but poor addicted parents are demonized more than other people who have addictions.

    This makes me think of how popular memoirs have fed the popular idea of the irresponsible alcoholic parent who impoverishes their family. I’m thinking of Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Castle. Both gripping memoirs that focus on poor alcoholic fathers who are violent or narcissistic.

    Are there counter-narratives to these that do still provide some realism about the damage addictions can do to lives and families?

    SLO 5:
    It’s great you are considering Drug Use for Grownups. A book like that (whether as background reading for the professor or maybe as something students read an excerpt from) is helpful for distinguishing between drug use and addiction, and of course between who is or isn’t socially punished for using drugs. I’m curious about the chapter in that book called “Drug Addiction Is Not a Brain Disease.” Jamie Warren has great things to say about this book. Perhaps she will chime in here or in one of our meetings and point to what could be useful about it for your class!

    Could you find poetry or music that you could share with your students that would add to what you want them to learn about the “war on drugs”?

    Not exactly related, but I wonder what you think of the film Maria, Full of Grace (2004)?

    It’s a fictional character study, but does center on the drug trade, being a “mule” in order to get out of poverty, and the broader international effect of the war on drugs. I’d be interested to know what the fellows think of this film.

  • Asrat Amnie

    The series of sessions on poverty and humanities constitute a treasure trove of relevant resources and lived experiences of invited guest speakers, facilitators, and participant faculty shared among us that would impact the pedagogy of our classes. Dialogue enhancing the discovery of knowledge and acquisition of the skillset needed for decision-making by students, presented in a human-hearted, teacher-powered, student-driven, and evidence-based teaching-learning process that passes the test of cultural competency goes a long way to achieving the student learning outcomes. As for me, the sessions in poverty and humanities have culminated in a pedagogical reset for my teaching philosophy.
    Even though it may not be plausible to integrate theatre in my course as discussed in today’s session, I intend to make use of role-playing activities, peer interactions, and discussions and about the different levels of prevention of substance use and abuse, and dialogue about developing self-efficacy and adaptive coping skills in place of resorting to maladaptive ones. The use of case studies in the context of poverty and other life adversities will be integrated into the course and students will be encouraged to present their own case studies and lived experiences within the limits of their informed consent to disclose private information.
    I firmly believe that a phased-in approach starting with one course this fall/spring and scaling it up with more courses in subsequent semesters is the way to go. I also think that not all courses may be perfectly suited to incorporate issues of poverty and humanities.

  • Asrat Amnie

    Cara, Thank you for your insightful suggestions. I will definitely center on the learning outcomes you have suggested. I use relevant TED Talks and short clip videos. In the past, I had also organized an event where I invited one guest speaker from the movies industry to speak to an interested audience (not just to my class) on prevention of addiction and promotion of recovery. I will definitely consider how I can use poetry in some of the health education messaging on the subject. Thank you.

  • Asrat Amnie

    I have to make a correction to my previous post. My guest speaker for the event I organized on prevention of addiction and promotion of recovery was Marisa Vitali and the film was named GRACE (not FULL OF GRACE). The event was held on April 12, 2018, at our College.

  • Cara O'Connor

    Asrat, I took that earlier post off, but am glad you are offering us this additional resource! I am still curious about what you think of the film Maria Full of Grace! 🙂

  • Asrat Amnie

    I just noticed that the film FULL OF GRACE is available in the public domain on YouTube and is about 1 hour and 40 minutes long, a little too long to watch it all in one class session. I will definitely watch it myself before I can recommend my students to watch it in their private time. I believe short video clips are better suited to integrate into course material for in-class discussions. By the way, the film GRACE by Marisa Vitali is about 13 minutes long and is not available in the public domain. Thank you.

  • Asrat Amnie

    I watched the entire film MARIA FULL OF GRACE ( I think the film is a useful educational resource that will help demonstrate the supply side of substances of use and abuse and how people are willing/forced to engage in those activities in the context of poverty and unemployment, even risking their health and lives. I will definitely include it as course material for my class. Thank you for your recommendation.

  • Asrat Amnie

    Following the important feedback I received from Clara, the focus of my poverty and humanities-related SLO’s will be #1, #2, and #5. I have also selected the required and recommended readings/resources for my class from the reading provided under the different topics or those suggested to me by Clara.

    Required readings/resources

    1. Maria, Full of Grace (2004, video) is found to be a useful educational resource for my class (accessed at
    2. Small, Mario Luis, and Katherine Newman. 2001. “Urban Poverty after The Truly Disadvantaged: The Rediscovery of the Neighborhood, and Culture.” Annual Review of Sociology 27: 23-45.
    3. Morton, J. M. (2021). Resisting Pessimism Traps: The Limits of Believing in Oneself. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    4. Broton, K. M. (2020). A review of estimates of housing insecurity and homelessness among students in US higher education. Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness, 29(1), 25-38.

    Recommended Readings/ Resources

    1. McCourt, F. (1999). Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir (Vol. 1). Simon and Schuster.
    2. Hart, C. L. (2021). Drug use for grown-ups: chasing liberty in the land of fear. Penguin.
    3. Walls, J. (2017). The glass castle: A memoir. Simon and Schuster.

    As Clara suggested in her comments, memoirs and video clips from persons who have a lived experience of having used or abused substances or involved in some way on the supply side of substances have real-life experiences and perspectives to share with students, especially their experience of how they attained and maintained sobriety and how they overcame the challenges of not only lapses and relapses in their road to recovery but also challenges related finances, parenting, productive social functioning, and getting back to gainful employment after possible incarceration, when applicable.

    The presence of an adult in a family with children where at least one adult has substance abuse and/or mental health issues is one of the ten criteria used to define a condition called Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACE). Children who have had ACE are more likely to have a physical and mental illness, including a higher likelihood of using/abusing substances as adults. It would be very interesting to explore the influence of poverty and addiction combined on the growth and developmental trajectory of children.

    The genesis of stereotypes in real life and movies is rampant as Clara noted. The fight against stereotypes whereby poor parents who use drugs are demonized much more than other people who use drugs is part of the harm reduction practice. Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs (National Harm Reduction Coalition, 2021).

    For students to better understand the fact that growing in a dysfunctional family, for example, with parents who consume alcohol excessively, is not a recipe for failure, excerpts from the books Angela’s Ashes and Glass Castle will be included in the recommended readings
    There are counter-narratives that provide some realism on the prevailing negative social perspectives on addiction. An example would be an article that appears in the July 5, 2017 edition of the Washington Post: How sensationalism Compounds the Opioid Crisis ( and definitely there would be many more resources on the subject)( In this article, the need for support for treatment and empathy for the lifelong process of recovery from addiction is emphasized and the sensationalist narrative that demonizes persons who use drugs is discouraged.

    In sum with these resources and experiences, and much more added to the syllabus, my students will have the opportunity to engage in an enriched course where the social dimension of the Bio-Psycho-Social Model of substance use and abuse is deeply and duly explored in the context of poverty and humanities. Again, thank you, Clara, for your very helpful suggestions.

  • Asrat Amnie

    I purchased hard copies of the following three books for my class:

    1. Hart, C. L. (2021). Drug Use for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. Penguin.
    2. Walls, J. (2017). The Glass Castle: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster.
    3. McCourt, F. (1999). Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir (Vol. 1). Simon and Schuster.


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