It was good to hear from Angela Kelly on the DARE issue. We all agree that the primary concern is providing our children with the best, fact-based and truthful, drug awareness program available, so they are more prepared to make wise decisions. I do agree with her conclusion to not limit our opinions to one source of information. Unfortunately, in her rush to defend the DARE program and state her reasons why it is good to have a police presences in the schools, I believe she missed the point.
My letter was not a one-sided opinion, of an opinion, based only upon one web site. At the bottom of my letter, there was a list of four different authorities that have studied and questioned the effectiveness of the DARE program. Looking at multiple websites on this topic, the reason for the criticism becomes evident.
Our present drug education program, that is based on the 50-year-old drug prohibition policy, is not succeeding to provide enough reasonable science-based information to prepare the majority of young people for the challenge of growing up and living in our modern drug saturated society. It has been noted by some critics that the present DARE program presents misinformation from a one-sided view point about the dangers of drugs, with the result of creating fear; if the drugs don’t mess you up, our prison system will. While this approach has some impact on fifth graders, it is believed to be counter productive or, “worse than doing nothing,” when it comes to influencing older students.
The intent of this growing consensus is not to scrap Drug Awareness Education, but to re-evaluate the content and restructure the implementation to include more fact-based information from more sources. Hopefully developing an enlightened drug education program would help our young people meet the demands of adapting to the wave of changes now facing our society. Apparently there has been some progress made by DARE in this direction:
An effective drug education program would be more focused on a harm reduction model rather than the failed prohibitionist format that criminalizes drug use. It should present clear, truthful, unbiased knowledge that would prepare young people for the challenge of applying the information within the constructs of a decision-making model. By learning how to use their critical thinking and resistance skills, young people will be better prepared for making safe and responsible decisions about why, what, when, where, and how they use any substances to alter the chemistry of their minds and bodies.
I believe that the young people of our society have the capacity to make good choices. We all need to step up and improve the Drug Education program, become educated, and provide a better model of intelligent adult leadership.