I haven’t done a load of laundry in about three weeks. The pile of dirty clothes in my closet resembles Disneyland’s Matterhorn — only instead of finding a gnarly abominable snowman amidst the hidden crevices, you’d probably find the piece I’ve been missing since January. Yesterday, though, in all its irony, I came across my old, wrinkled D.A.R.E T-shirt while probing the heap for my bubbler. The black menace was buried beneath the dress shoes I never wear and the khaki pants I wish I never bought. In the past I would have just ashed my joint on the meaningless piece of cloth, but this time I figured I’d invest some thought into the hypocritical propaganda I had buried in the depths of my mind.
Originally, I thought the whole thing was a joke. Cops who had no credentials would stand in front of our class and spout pig jargon about violence correlating with drug use, and how we all had “the right to be happy.” Hell, if we had the right to be happy, then I’m sure every Elmer’s-sniffing adolescent seated next to me would be playing four-square out on the asphalt instead of listening to a man in uniform boast about his decked out squad car.
I actually remember the program’s “lessons” pretty vividly — how they tried to explain that drug use is a symptom of low self-esteem or dictate the dangers of drug dealers waiting to profit off of our innocence. Through the years, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen some of the outrageous paraphernalia their diagrams depicted. D.A.R.E.’s erroneous interpretations of drug abuse and drug culture failed to sway my mind as a fifth grader, and I look back now and can’t help but laugh at the program’s blatant failure to acknowledge its faults and, more importantly, a child’s common sense.
After getting on the program’s website, my Curious George instinct kicked in and I discovered that not much has changed since I used to carry a Ninja Turtles lunchbox to school. For starters, the link to D.A.R.E.’s statistics on prescription drugs is six years old. The information on pharmaceuticals is embarrassingly small, only comprising brief summaries of Ecstacy, GHB and Ritalin. If D.A.R.E. wishes to actually educate youth on drug abuse, the program’s vaults are about as helpful as a broken down stem and about as clueless as an L.A. tourist on San Francisco’s Hippie Hill.
D.A.R.E.’s interpretation of National Drug Intelligence Center research studies is also extremely misleading. On the program’s homepage, a link was recently posted entitled, “Marijuana can cause acute psychosis.” After reading the actual scientific report posted on the NDIC webpage, the researchers never claimed a causal relationship between psychosis and smoking marijuana. They administered 2.5 to five milligrams of Tetrahydrocannabinol intravenously to a group of fewer than 30 patients and found positive results in both the control group and a group composed of those with schizophrenia. I’m sorry, five milligrams of THC in your veins is definitely going to make you trip out, but acute schizophrenia? Come on, the results do not stipulate whether the control group had even smoked marijuana before or how exactly the patients described their symptoms. Furthermore, the statistics found on methamphetamines were far more engaging and relevant to actual drug abuse prevention.
Statistics aside, the most appalling aspect of the website was the picture located above the D.A.R.E mission statement. In the photograph, nine children ranging in ages from elementary to high school stand, clad in D.A.R.E attire, beside three smiling D.A.R.E. police officers. I’d overestimate and say two of these children are actually smiling. None are showing their teeth.
D.A.R.E has it all wrong. We shouldn’t tell our kids what they shouldn’t be doing. Instead, we should give them something they should be doing.