DARE misfires, reloads with new curriculum
It's a sunny Tuesday morning in a fifth-grade classroom at Jonesboro Elementary School, and Bessemer police Officer Alethia Tate has captured the attention of 20 students.
She prompts the children to list possible choices to make when somebody offers them alcohol. Just say no. Tell the person with the alcohol to leave. Have them put the alcohol away.
None of the children has mentioned the obvious: Have a drink.
I know somebody's going to try it," Tate tells the class. "The choice your friends make may not be good for you."
This is the new DARE, drug abuse resistance education. The just-say-no message has been transformed into a more realistic just-make-the-right-decision message.
Taught by uniformed officers, the national DARE program marks its 25th anniversary this year and is going through a makeover. The changes come after studies showed that DARE failed to change students' attitudes about drugs and alcohol. Some critics even said the program encouraged drug use, a kind of "forbidden fruit syndrome."
It was disappointing news, considering the government had spent billions of dollars on the program.
"DARE was popular but ineffective," said Chris Ringwalt, a senior scientist at the Chapel Hill Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Ringwalt sits on a scientific committee that has been involved in redesigning the DARE curriculum so it is based upon proven approaches.
Much of the new curriculum has been implemented, and preliminary studies are positive. But only time will tell whether it really works.
"DARE has yet to be found effective," Ringwalt said.
In addition to a crisis of confidence, DARE in recent years has faced a money crisis.
John Lindsey, a regional director for DARE America, said the federal government has cut funding to the program by 80 percent over the past four years. Before the cuts, the federal government at times spent more than $500 million a year on DARE.
I am highly suspect of programs designed by cops being unleashed on kids without anyone knowing whether or not they will be effective. Seems like that is one lesson they would have taken from the abject failure DARE 1.
And why do cops get to teach kids about drugs? All they know how to do is point a gun at you and threaten you with violence to obey their commands. Fuck that! I don't feel we need anyone in schools teaching our kids about drugs. We can do that at home.
I have never allowed either of my children to take DARE and to date neither of them have shown any interest in drugs or alcohol. When I was my daughter's age (11) I was (unbeknownst to me) only months away from my first drug an alcohol experience. DARE came to school one day and the cops showed us actual drugs like marijuana, cocaine, LSD and so forth, told us all the neat things they could do how badly doing any of them would piss off our parents and thereby piqued the interest in doing said drugs into the stratosphere. Before the cops came to school in the capacity of DARE officers I never had any interest in doing drugs or alcohol. My mama and grandmama had scared me quite effectively regarding their use. The hickory switch held an enormous swaying power over yours truly.
My mama and grandmama never made doing drugs or alcohol sound like much fun....but the cops (at least the ones at my school) were able to overcome my very proper fear of the matriarchs in my family and their masterful weilding of a hickory switch and the rest is history.
The new model has been evaluated at the University of Akron, and final results of that study are expected to be announced in coming months.
Lindsey said DARE is now interactive and fast-paced.
"No longer can we show kids a drug board and say, `Take a puff of marijuana, and you're going to die."` Lindsey said. "Kids are much smarter these days. You've got to show them the health effects and the impact on their body from illegal drugs and from smoking."
That sounds a great deal like the Safety
1st program designed by Marsha Rosenthal of the Drug Policy Alliance. I have been promoting Safety 1st for a number of years now. It consists of being honest with children about drugs, giving them all kinds of scientific reasons to say no, showing them what drugs, when abused, can do to the human body and finally, it addresses the kids who are going to do it anyway that teaches kids how to remain safe if they decide that they are going to use drugs anyway. I think the last part is where DARE and Safety 1st differ greatly.
Bessemer Police Chief Nathaniel Rutledge is a longtime supporter of DARE. He teaches classes at the high school level and has two officers who teach DARE pretty much full time at other schools. He said DARE has broadened its focus because drug abuse is often a product of things such as poverty, unemployment and absent parents.
Great! At least they are starting to address some of the root causes.