From October 30, 2001: D.A.R.E. to be different

On the John

D.A.R.E. to be different

Originally published in the Indiana Daily Student on October 30, 2001

D.A.R.E. is an effective program that truly does keep kids off drugs.

I’m a funny guy aren’t I? You wanna make people laugh? Tell them that D.A.R.E. works. Anyone who spent a day with the D.A.R.E. Officers immediately knows that it is nothing more than an amusing distraction from the mundane homework of middle school. The D.A.R.E. Officers came equipped with stories meant to keep kids drug-free and well-adjusted. My favorite was the one about the boy and his “self-esteem balloon” that inflates and deflates with different events during his day.

Along with wasting student time, they also waste taxpayer money. A 1997 study based on a USA Today interview with D.A.R.E. America Director Glenn Levant showed that from $700-$750 million is spent on D.A.R.E. each year. This all for a program taught by police officers with only two weeks of drug education. Professional drug educators receive a four-year college degree on the subject.

Aside from D.A.R.E., there are the ridiculous anti-drug commercials. These usually featured some bully-like student lurking in the hallways who stalks smaller students offering them drugs that consist of a handful of colorful pills. The dealer then calls the student a chicken when he declines. In four years of high school and two years of college, I have never once met this dealer. In fact, when I tell kids that I don’t drink, I’m not laughed at. Instead, students say “Really? That’s awesome man.” My decision to not drink has nothing to do with D.A.R.E., nor does the decision of any of my friends who do drink. Showing sixth graders the film “Requiem for a Dream” once would do more than thirteen years of D.A.R.E. from K-12.

The most recent absurd anti-drug commercial is the one where the kid walks into the garage, and hands a joint to the kid next to him. Each kid in the garage passes the joint to the next kid until it gets back to the first kid, who puts it in his pocket and shrugs. (Wouldn’t this kid be pumped that he doesn’t have to share, and light up himself?)

While lots of attention is given to drugs, little attention is given to race relations. The impression I got in school was that there was racism in America until the 60’s, when Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement ended it. There was never any talk of the less visible but still destructive racism that exists today in institutions and people. The kids at my school growing up were smart enough to realize that there is still injustice all over America, but you might not have known that just from the curriculum.

Men like Matt Hale—head of the World Church of the Creator—recruit kids into hate groups and mindsets. Maybe it’s time we educate youth about what’s really going on in the world. Don’t just ask what it means to be black in a white society, but also what it means to be white in a white society. That question is the most important of all, because it is white people who have the power to change the system, a system that many of them do not see. It’s time to open your eyes, and those of students.

Copyright 2001, jm silverstein

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