Some Thoughts on the Efficacy of DARE-Type Programs and a Funny Teacher Story

Some Thoughts on the Efficacy of DARE-Type Programs

My existential perspective would suggest that it is heroic to try to enlist support across our institutions to attempt to reduce violence and drug abuse whether or not school-based programs to mitigate the ills that effect our society are actually effective (a hotly debated topic). But all good-doers who attempt to discover the perfect pedagogy to fix whatever ails us would do well to remember that the instructional day is finite and teachers already have a lot on their plate (particularly in an age when knuckleheaded politicians would have us fire teachers and administrators based upon student test scores.) This all brings me to a discussion about DARE (Drug Awareness and Resistance Education) and it also gives me an opportunity to relate one of my favorite teacher stories.

Many people have argued about the efficacy and appropriateness of programs like DARE because there is little evidence that it changes student behavior. But seeking quantifiable changes in societal behavior is asking a lot of any curriculum. And even if DARE did cause, say, one out of a hundred kids to say no to drugs, or if it were to decrease in any way the harmful effects of substance abuse in our society, how could we possibly measure such success in light of so many other confounding variables?

Like all human behavior, substance abuse involves a multiplicity of causal relationships which are difficult to gauge, and some things are easier to measure than others. Let’s look at efforts to reduce traffic fatalities, for example. It is obvious that enacting mandatory seatbelt laws and reducing speed limits will result in demonstrably fewer traffic fatalities. But how do we measure the effects of educational programs which operate on the margins of these statistics, such as traffic school and public service announcements? Just because it would be difficult for a statistician to isolate the slender portion of a decline in traffic fatalities attributable to such efforts, we would be foolish to abandon such efforts. That’s how I feel about DARE. What harm could it do? (There are those who argue that DARE actually teaches kids how to be more effective drugs users, but I find this claim dubious. There was, however, one time when Officer S____ did a lesson on the dangers of Whiteout, which was certainly news to me. I immediately put all my Whiteout away.)

Funny Teacher Story

Say what you want about DARE, it supplied me with one of my best teacher stories. One of the first things that Officer S____ always tells the kids is that it’s okay to relate stories about people they know, but they should not use real names.

So if officer S____ is talking about, say, methamphetamines, it is not appropriate for a student to say, “My uncle has a meth lab out in San Bernardino.”

Instead, the student should say, “Someone I know has a crank factory in his garage.”

So one day when Officer S____ was describing the perils of drunk driving, a student (we’ll call him David) rose his hand.

“My dad drives when he’s drunk all the time.” said David.

Officer S____ quickly cut him off. “You mean, someone you know drinks and drives on occasion”

David responded in a very condescending tone, “Well yeah, I know him. He’s my dad!”

by Richard W. Bray

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