The Detroit News, April 2, 2000

DARE indoctrination fails to work and ends up endangering families
By Diane Barnes

Everyone is rightly concerned about the dangers that drugs pose to our children. However, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) is demonstrably ineffective and an actual danger to our families.

Many hours are spent indoctrinating children through DARE -- valuable time and resources that should be used for academics. Thanks to DARE and other useless, so-called self-esteem programs, American 12th graders now consistently score below average in math and science in international tests.

One of the most comprehensive studies from the University of Kentucky tracks more than 1,000 Midwestern students who participated in DARE in the sixth grade. The research published last August in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology showed that there is no difference between those who received DARE and those who did not in their use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. The only difference was that those who received the training had lower levels of self-esteem.

The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) was hired by the Justice Department to do a statistical analysis of all DARE research. RTI analyzed eight studies involving 9,500 children. Their report says that DARE has a "limited to essentially nonexistent effect" on drug use.

World-renowned psychologists Bill Coulson, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow developed the theories that DARE was founded on. Rogers and Maslow later admitted their theories were wrong and off-base. Coulson concluded that the program is "rooted in trash psychology" in a December 1998 interview in the Boulder Weekly in Colorado.

The director of DARE America, Glenn Levant, argues that the solution to the program's ineffectiveness is to spend even more money on it. What else would he say?

The one thing DARE is undeniably good at is raising money. News stories have reported that DARE uses lobbyists to compete for its share of more than $500 million in federal money targeted for drug and violence prevention. DARE claims the program costs are less than $200 million annually, but other credible estimates range as high as $700 million, considering all the costs.

Ominously, DARE is also encouraging kids to spy and inform on parents and friends. Children are asked to submit to DARE police officers sensitive written questions that can easily refer to the kids' homes. And you might be surprised by a DARE lesson called "The Three R's: Recognize, Resist, Report," which encourages children to tell friends, teachers or police if they find drugs at home.

DARE officials have denied that the program is set up to bust parents, but incidents of parental arrests related to DARE have been documented in Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Maryland and Maine.

If you ask kids about the anti-drug program, most of them will tell you it is boring or an excuse to get out of class.

DARE's usual response to criticism is to dismiss the evidence and rely on anecdotes. The good news is that school districts and police departments in California, Colorado and Texas have seen through this and have dumped the program.

We should do the same in Michigan. Parents must tell their local district to reject the hype associated with this putative drug education program. We should replace it with math, science or other academic class work -- the kind of education we expect our schools to provide and the kind of education they have so tragically neglected. Leave the teaching of moral values to parents.

Diane Barnes is a parent of three children who lives in the East Detroit School District.

Copyright 2000, The Detroit News

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