Tuesday, May 6, 2008

If not D.A.R.E., than what?

I'm just returning from a morning appearance at Northwest Middle School in Canal Fulton. I was the guest speaker for 100+ sixth graders who were graduating from the D.A.R.E. program. They've spent the last 10 weeks learning about resisting drugs and alcohol ... all while making good decisions to avoid trouble.

It's an odd juxtaposition considering our lead story last night was about three men busted for flying 66 pounds of cocaine into a local airport. I got paid to report on someone who misused drugs while at the same time I'm telling local kids to stay away from them.

I told the students, "if only those three idiots had had D.A.R.E. when they were your age, maybe they would have made better choices."

It's an easy illustration, but the bigger picture I fear is how best to really educate today's kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Several national studies downplay the real effectiveness of D.A.R.E., and quite a few police departments, including Akron and several others here in the area, have discontinued the program .. usually citing a lack of funds.

My question is: if not D.A.R.E., than what? What program will teach our kids about the dangers that await them? Not that D.A.R.E., was the be-all-end-all of education programs, but at least it was something for some kids whose parent(s) don't teach them about what's out there. Even for parents who do talk to their kids about this topic, D.A.R.E. adds extra education and reinforces what kids hear at home.

Do we need a similar program at the high school level? Is this a topic that should be added to health classes?
Maybe it's a bit extreme, but should we make questions about avoiding drugs part of the Ohio Graduation Test? I mean, it doesn't do Sandy and Sammy much good to know the three branches of government if the only one they'll be seeing is the judicial branch because they got busted selling weed.
I think local law enforcement and educators should have a summit on the issue ... and come up with a new approach. Something that touches on a topic that our kids are already seeing way too much of on youtube and the boob tube.

As a parent, I don't have the answer here .. but I just feel like someone needs to ask the question ... if not D.A.R.E., than what?

1 comment:

Cyberdine said...

I do believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unfortunately, that does not seem to apply to the D.A.R.E. program. A number of reports have come out stating that the D.A.R.E. program just does not work when it comes to reducing substance abuse. Even more disturbing is that many studies have also found that D.A.R.E. graduates are more likely to smoke, consume alcohol, and use illegal drugs, than those that never participated in the program. If the choice were mine, I would start looking into additional programs at the junior and high school levels. Most high schools only require students to take a single semester health class, with a curriculum that is predominately about sex education, sexually transmitted diseases, and AIDS prevention. Requiring a second semester of health education that focuses on substance abuse certainly would not hurt.