To Dear Charlie Parsons the CEO of DARE America:
Dear Mr. Parsons, I'm a college student from Georgia Institute of Technology who concerned about the drug abuse and its prevention. I really appricate you and DARE program's effort that try to reduece the drug abuse among our new generations. I oberserved and researched different aspects of DARE and have some advices that may help you improve your great drug abuse prevention program. Hope you can spend a little time going through them.
Drug abuse is a huge issue for American teenagers including college students. The data collected by National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that from 2002 to 2004, 32% full-time college students have used marijuana, and over 6% have used cocaine These numbers are really high. They indicate over one third of my classmates may take illicit drugs recently. Unfortunatly, the increasing of drug abuse is still on its track. Illegal drugs damaged the health of teenagers besides billions of dollars each year. CDC reports that "Each year approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as the result of their use of tobacco, alcohol, or another addictive drug" (NARCONON). That's why numberous of organizations including DARE America try their best to educate children to keep themselves from drugs since they are in elementary or middle school.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education(DARE) is one of the most famous program to reduce drug abuse among students. According to the official website of DARE, DARE was established in 1983 and have been used in 75 percent of our nation's school districts (DARE America). This long-history program is still on its road. Every year many police officers take DARE courses and then go to different schools to teach students how to resist over using prescription drug or taking illegal drugs.
The research done by Dukes, Stein, Ullman shows taking DARE is related to less use of deviant illict drugs, such as nhalants, cocaine (483). However, many more researches show DARE is not as effective as what we hope (Hanson). Dr. West and Dr. O'Neal published their research in American Journal of Public Health showing "Our results confirm the findings of a previous meta-analysis indicating that Project D.A.R.E. is ineffective" (1029). Their data shows the correlation coefficent between taking DARE and drug resistance is 0.011, which means no sinificant correaltion (1027). Kate Zernike wrote on New York Times," In the the past two months alone, both the surgeon general and the National Academy of Sciences have issued reports saying that DARE's approach is ineffective; several cities, most recently Salt Lake City, have stopped using the program" (par. 6). The sugeon genreal reports, "Overall, evidence on the effects of the traditional DARE curriculum, which is implemented in grades 5 and 6, shows that children who participate are as likely to use drugs as those who do not participate" (the Department of Health and Human Services).
The most important factor leading to the failure of this kind of program is that the curriculum designed is not very suitable for our current generations. The designer don't understand enough about the psychological characteristics or the "taste" of this generation. In DARE, designers use lectures, games, and songs to ask students keep themselves from drugs not matter anything happens to them, which lacks enough consdieration of the real condition they are going to face. According to Generation Me by the social scientist Twenge, teenagers nowadays face more challenging world than their parents, like more school competitions, more depressions, and more misleading art work (105), but DARE fails to teach them how to deal with these kinds of new challengings. Most of police officers working for DARE have the intends to give a lecture or even sermon rather than education. Teenagers who grow up with self-esteem movments and question-solve learning have distaste of being simply taught instead of educated (Twenge, 218). Contrast to bomers obey authorities, new generations even have trends to challenge any kind of authorities. It's not enough to simply teach them durg is dangerous and then not to take it. They will doubt your ideas in many ways. In a video made by marijuana supporters, the critique the officers of DARE know very little about drugs and strongly argue marijuana should be one kind of the cigarates. Simply giving a lecture or sermon will not have impact on them. They prefer finding by themselves and study by interaction.
Considering the problems that exit in DARE so far we should have a better designed DARE curriculum to educate children about drug abuse, because new generations are really different from our old generations. Like Twenge said, "many of them do not remember Ronald Reagan's presidency, the USSR, or Michael Jackson with dark skin" (216). I don't think DARE isn't a useless program to prevent drug abuse, but DARE defintely need innovation in the curriculum wich fits the psycological characteristics of the current generations.
More High School Program
DARE should add more curriculum into its program. Accroding to the website of DARE, you have started thinking about this question, which I think will be very benefital. At the war against drug, the high school is the more important war field than elementary or middle schools. Different from old generations, the current teenagers have almost 100% rate of attending high school. Lives of high school are so important for them that hundres of art works produced each year are related to the high school, like High School Muscial, Twighlight, Mean Girls. Unfortunately, illict drug sellors also target on high school students. National Institute of Drug Abuse reports in 2008, 36.6% of 12th Grade students have tried any illict drug in the past year. This number is even higher than the percentage in 2007. The most frequently cited studies shows "[a]ny effect the program has in deterring drug use disappears as students enter senior year of high school or college" (Zernike, par. 12) Thus I highly recommend DARE set up more high school curriculums to maintain the impact of drug abuse resistance on students.
Another reason why DARE may think about targeting on older students is that most of elementary students lack the basic knowledge or careness of drug at their age. Many people think drug education had better start The 3rd or 4th Grade studnets are rarely exposed to marijuana or LSD, because the illegal drug sellors understand they won't get profit from these yong kids who love candies and barbies. It's hard to educate children what they have never seen or heard. The better sechedule of DARE program should be starting education in the middle school where students start to hear about illegal drug, and then make another education in the high school where students have high risks of falling into drug abuse.
The instructor of DARE courses should be better trained befoer the class and pay attenation to build their credibility during the class. New generations question authorities, and have their own doubt of anything in the world. Dr. Twenge talked about a professor's experience in a commmunity college. "Students after student balked when he corrected their essays, several complianing that his comments were 'just your opinion'" (28). 50 years ago, it was reasonable to say police office uniforms or teaching certification help the instrctors build their credibilities. However, teenagers nowadays seems to have decline to doubt these kinds of anthorities and exame whether these so-called teachers know more than them. A group of teenagers spotted a DARE stand and challenged a representative from DARE about the effect of marijuana. They uploaded their video on the youtube, and exclaiming "he doesn't have any way to back him up, and he isn't a medical doctor." Thus DARE America should make better effort to train your instructors making sure they have comprehensive understanding of drug and basic persuading skills. Providing some materials about the personalities of new generations, like Generation Me will be very helpful for the police officers and teachers. For example, if they realize the current teenagers really hate crtiques and commands, they will wisely use encouraging or advising tone to avoid the resistance from their young audience. For the instructors, they should show their knowledge about drug and concern about teenagers before their main lecture. Using personal experience related to drug is not a bad idea for them to start informing or persuading.
Teach Kids How To Deal With Depression
Besides telling kids to say no to drugs, we also need to teach them how to deal with depression and pressure. New gernerations live in a more compeptive enviroment and with higher cost of living compared to bomers. Most of them want to get in and graduate from a reputaional college, or even the Ivy Legal. However, the acceptance rates of the Ivy can be lower than 10%. Teenagers find themselves living in a world which is changing at every moment and can't be controlled by them. According to Generation Me by Twenge, "The number of people being treated for depresission more than tripled in the ten-year period from 1987 to 1997, jump from 1.8 million to 6.5 million (Twenge, 106)." Our new generations are born in an enviroment full of anxiety and depressions. Teenagers naturally seek for the sultions to release their anxiety and escape from their depression; one of the solutions for them may be taking drugs. Thus it's not enough to simply tell them "say no" to drugs. Teenagers have to find the way to "say no" to depression first, then "say no" to drugs.
The curriculum of the current DARE lacks the content about depression releasing or lifestyle guide, which will be very useful for the students. In the contrast, DARE educators talk a lot about the examples of drug abuse, but don't indicate the percentage of these cases. It "may lead students to overestimate how many of their peers use drugs," because new generation may be led to the such misconclusion-- it's acceptable to release anxiety or depression with drug, because so many peers are doing it. In DARE, students should be informed which the best way to deal with depression is. They can enjoy music, play sports, hang out with friends, and also talk to the counselor to filght against depression. We should teach them drugs won't reduce the depression or anxiety, and in stead durgs lead to more problems in the life.
We also need more creative curriculum of DARE instead of pure leactures or even sermons. I have watched many recordings of DARE class given by the police officers. They talk fast about the danger of illict drugs and the necessaries of keeping ourselves from durgs. Most of the under-12 students in the seat stare blankly at the police officer with their beautiful big eyes showing their boredom and efforts to concentrate on the lecture. Why don't we use more interactions between the student and instructor? This will fit better the studying habit of our new generations, because most of their studying in school is designed to be task orientated and full of interactions. A similar program among colleges like DARE is Alcohol Education. Many public colleges, like Georgia Institute of Technology, Montana State University, require their under-21 incoming students to take the online course of Alcohol Education, which they believe can help students learn more about alcohol danger and reduce the alcoholism. I personally went through this program. The most intersting and impressive part of the online course is its small computer game about alcohol and blood alcohol content(BAC). In the game, students can choose their gender, weight, and wine wanted; then they will find out BAC level and the danger of driving under this condition. DARE may consider adding more interactions like this into its new curriculum. For example, the instructor can lead students to do virtual durg trades with their classmates, then they will find most of them get sucked dry by the durg sellorsand go into bankrupt very qucikly. Thus children can make the conclusion by themslves that taking drug is dangerous and foolish.
Learning the DARE song and DARE dance is a great interaction part of the current curriculum, bcause students can enjoy this process and get educated in arts. However, most of the songs and dances are designed for elementary or middle school students. It sounds a little bit funny to hear a high school student singing "Just say no/I don't want to do that stuff/Just say no." Writing some new songs and designing "cooler" dance for high school participants will make progess of the currenet DARE program.