DARE Never Dies


I'm not sure if anyone has noted this yet: Last month the General Accounting Office issued a report that drove one more giant spike into the coffin of Drug Abuse Resistance Education. The problem is that the coffin is empty. As I noted last summer, every time someone points out that DARE doesn't work, it is reincarnated in a supposedly new form. After a decade of well-justified criticism from parents, journalists, and education researchers, it remains the nation's most popular drug abuse prevention program.

Reviewing six long-term evaluations of DARE, the GAO concluded: "All of the evaluations suggested that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use." Ah, but that was the old DARE; the new curriculum is being evaluated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with results expected in 2006.

NEXT: Record Player Redux

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  1. The problem is, DARE is just one piece in a very large puzzle. The entire government school culture promotes surveillance of classmates and snitching to authority as “correct” values. Besides DARE, we have a WAVE program that encourages students to snitch on “peers” they suspect may be prone to violence. In practice, that means students who express politically incorrect opinions like, say, support for gun rights. Not long ago, I heard an interview with a publick skool teacher on NPR (naturally), in which she bemoaned the surviving schoolyard honor code that still caused students to hesitate to go running to teacher when they overheard something they disapproved of. She even planted a tape recorder to monitor their private conversations, and then “cried” about the “violent” content (talking about the previous night’s TV programs, mainly). I’d like to fucking well give her something to cry about. Of course, snitching and planting bugs wasn’t even made an issue by the NPR reporter–just the horrible, horrible epidemic of violence. Boo hoo hoo.

    Combine all this stuff with various “zero tolerance” policies in regard to one thing or another, and you have a cultural atmosphere designed to churn out humorless, unthinking drones who carefully avoid saying or doing anything to get on the wrong side of “the authorities.” Now I think I’m going to cry.

  2. Say no to drugs kids.

    Ritalin time! Form a line here for your afternoon Prozac!

  3. If the administrators of the program could find it within themselves to shake their “progressive” values-neutral approach to drug use (A DARE officer had this comment to make: “I tell kids they can smoke dope if they want to, as long as they consider the consequences.” (Governing, September 1992, page 6.) they might enjoy a little more credibility.

    I published an op-ed on this very thing just the other day.

    Funny thing – teaching moral relativism fails every time it’s tried. Go figure.

  4. Of course DARE will never end. The Drug Warriors have to have something to sheild them from claims that they are focused on punishment rather than prevention. As long as the have DARE and a few TV ads, they can say that they’re real goal is to educate the children about the dangers of drugs.

  5. When my daughter told me the DARE officer came to visit her kindergarten class, I asked what he told them. The only thing she could remember was that he “talked about bottles.” At the grocery store a couple of weeks later, she told me that it was bad for me to buy a bottle of wine. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to understand the irony of the police trying to discourage perfectly legal behavior.

  6. Wayne,
    “Funny thing – teaching moral relativism fails every time it’s tried.”

    Depends on how you define ‘fail’, and who does the teaching. Perhaps you define success as, raising children to think and behave in the manner you have determined that they should. I would define it as something closer to, considering and accepting the consequences of their actions. Of course, government bureaucrats are completely unsuitable to teaching such values.

  7. I’m not a big supporter of DARE, or of the drug war, but there’s a point I’d like to make. I live in a city where the police have had a great deal of success in reducing crime by adopting a progressive community policing model. An important part of this model is for the city’s youth to have positive contact with police officers, so they come to see them as public servants, community members, who keep the city safe, instead of “the enemy” who kicks your butt and won’t get out of the cruiser. DARE visits to schools are a good way to have this positive contact. So, yes, we’ll keep taking the money and telling Justice that we’re teaching Just Say No.

    Of course, ending the drug war would be an even better way of improving the relationship between young people and the police…

  8. The DARE program I took in the fifth grade sure wasn’t value-neutral. They said no drugs, ever. Of course, this was the first incarnation of DARE, and we know how well that worked.

    Personally, I think DARE will be around as long as we have either government schools or a drug war. Yep, it’s going to be here a pretty long time.

  9. Speaking of which, anyone catch _7th Heaven_ this week (3-Feb)? Even by 7H’s incredible usual standards, this one was laying it on with a trowel.

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