Thursday, November 13, 2003
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
Continued funding for DARE programs in the state of Illinois is in jeopardy,
according to this article in today's Chicago Tribune. Last year
the state provided $600,000 for DARE, a marked falloff from $1.9 million
the previous year. Funding ended October 1, though DARE programs
soldier on in many of the state's classrooms.
The most remarkable feature of DARE is that the anti-drug, pro-responsibility
curriculum is taught in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms by
uniformed police officers. Isn't it amazing how the legal status of a drug
influences the qualifications of those who are perceived to be experts?
Obesity has very serious health consequences, and children should be
encouraged to eat in a healthy way and to exercise. I know, let's have
police officers teach kids about proper nutrition! Skiing is a physically
dangerous form of recreation -- so of course, we must have police officers
educate our children about skiing! Somehow, we recognize the obesity
and skiing examples as absurd, but we (almost) take for granted that
police officers are the appropriate educators concerning drug choices.
A second interesting feature of DARE is that it is a very popular program,
even though there isn't much evidence that it works in terms of
keeping kids off drugs. Actually, most of the evidence is that DARE doesn't
work. But at least there are plenty of evaluations of DARE out there, and
some school districts and state and local governments have shied away
from DARE because of the lukewarm results. Where is the demand for
evaluations of programs that jail our friends and neighbors because they
have a little bit of some illicit drug on them? At least among some of its
customers, DARE is asked to justify itself. Drug prohibition backed by
criminal penalties just, well, is.