Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Does the abstinence message for drug use work?

This past week I've made time to read up about social aspect awareness and education programs for young children in our public schools. My interest, of course, began with the red ribbon program, which I became alarmingly familiar with due to my daughter's negative experience. I read the Brain, Child article (Scared Straight? Or Just Scared? Do elementary school anti-drug campaigns work? by Juliette Guilbert), which was excellent, as well as the research study that found the Boomerang effect of drug education and awareness programs that article cited (see a fact sheet that provides source citing for the University of Illinois article and also read the original Brain, Child article for more information).

In short, our techniques are not working:
"Levels of drug use did not differ as a function of whether students participated in D.A.R.E. Every additional 36 hours of cumulative drug education…were associated with significantly more negative attitudes towards police…more positive attitudes towards drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, and more delinquency."

Source: D.P. Rosenbaum and G.S. Hanson, Assessing the Effects of School-Based Drug Education: A Six Year Multi-Level Analysis of Project D.A.R.E., Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 35:4, pp 381-412, 1998.; Joel Brown, Youth, Drugs, and Resilience Education, Journal of Drug Education Center for Educational Research & Development, Berkeley, CA. Pp. 91.

One more quote about drug education:
"Some D.A.R.E.-by-community interactions were observed: Urban and rural students showed some benefits, whereas suburban students experienced small but significant increases in drug use after participation in D.A.R.E."

Source: D.P. Rosenbaum and G.S. Hanson, Assessing the Effects of School-Based Drug Education: A Six Year Multi-Level Analysis of Project D.A.R.E., Sage Journals Online, Abstract, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 35, No. 4, 381-412 (1998), DOI: 10.1177/0022427898035004002.

I have three not unique to me hypotheses about why this is (and my ideas are formed from reading these articles, research and findings, so please know that those are the basis for my thoughts here):

1. Mixed messages about group think
2. One size does not fit all
3. The irony in the negative

Allow me to explain.

1. Mixed messages about group think

This idea clicked in my mind when bright commenter Jenny wryly noted the irony in a school employing peer pressure and intimidation to teach kids to say no to drugs, which most kids try due to peer pressure and intimidation.

As I sat and reflected, my mind expanded beyond the single issue of drug education. In point of fact, schools generally promote an across-the-board social construct of group think.

This isn't just ironic, it's deeply, deeply disturbing.

Children are taught and trained not to just move and act en masse, but are also taught to think and respond en masse, too.

Lessons, and approaches to information, are taught as if there was a single idea that is right, with no gray area around it.

I recognize the need for standards, something against which to grade, but am frustrated by the limitations this places on critical and original thought.

My daughter recently brought home a check minus paper (the equivalent of an F, perhaps?). She was to have grouped items. Apparently she either spaced out or disagreed with the instructions because her items were not grouped according to plan. I missed this originally, because when I looked at the items, I saw several possible groupings. Patience's chosen grouping made sense to me. The items were:

green apple
green grapes

Sorting possibilities: cylindrical items and round items, fruits and vegetables, mild flavor and strong flavor, how and where they grow (tree, vine or ground) and so on.

The instructions called for items to be sorted into fruit and vegetable categories. Patience sorted by how they grew.

She is what you might call an out of the box thinker. This? I understand.

Instead of the purpose of the exercise being to teach children to think of as many possible permutations of sorting and grouping as possible---an excellent and useful exercise, in my opinion, that would teach them far more than one lesson, such as learning more about the objects, thinking of them in different ways, and so forth---the object was instead to teach children how to follow instructions---a necessary evil, but not terribly educational.

This? I do not understand.

Then again, I am not a teacher.

So back to the main point: group think.

Children learn by example, and we demonstrate in our schools (and likely also frequently in our parenting) an excellent model of peer pressure and intimidation. Children are to go along with what the adults say, do as they are told, or else. Although I've oversimplified the discipline model, there is a valid point here.

But schools. Oh schools. In my limited experience (personal as a student and short time as a parent) I find a disturbing encouragement for grouping, aka peer pressure.

Two things motivated Patience to keep the red ribbon bracelet on:

1. Intimidation---she was desperately anxious about getting into trouble with her substitute teacher if she removed her bracelet. But, more than that...

2. Peer pressure---she was desperately anxious to not let down her classmates. The class with best participation in Red Ribbon week got an extra half hour of recess as a reward. (Yes, this infuriates me on multiple levels.)

The children were all forced to go along with each other (peer pressure) and the programs, or else (intimidation).

And we wonder why this is their default technique.

We teach it to them using the "do as I say but not as I do" method. We tell them to not give in to peer pressure and intimidation. We tell them to be themselves and think for themselves. And then, we use the exact opposite technique to teach them a social lesson. That leads me to my second hypothesis about why our social awareness education programs (aka brainwashing) techniques are not as successful as we'd like: children are actually individuals who respond to different methods of information delivery.

2. One size does not fit all

If you noticed, that six year drug study mentioned a positive benefit for urban and rural students, but a negative effect for suburban students. Social education programs are customizable, but as I compared programs across school districts within my state, I noticed that in general, most schools appeared to follow the set template for the program. That means regardless of geography, socioeconomics, culture, and so forth, students are in general getting more or less the exact same program.

That doesn't even account for individualism within that school.

This is why I think (a) parents need to be involved, notified or consulted, but more importantly, (b) these programs ought to be extracurricular.

We're so worried about not leaving any child behind, but as best I can tell, education is frequently interrupted with extracurricular activities.

[And DO NOT even get me STARTED about the television programs and movies (all entertainment) shown in the classroom. With a distressing amount of frequency.]

I am not on board with the social awareness programs because I don't agree with their method of delivery. However, the school seems to think that by virtue of having my child enrolled in their school, I tacitly approve of and agree to whatever they wish to do with my child while she is in the school.

As it so happens, I do not. I prefer to be informed, and in many cases, believe the school needs to seek more parental agreement and approval for extracurricular programs being held within the curriculum.

I don't agree with the school day beginning with what amounts to three Christian rituals, despite my own Christianity. Moreover, two of the rituals are legally binding social contracts sworn under God. These would be, in point of fact, the Moment of Silence, the State Pledge and the Pledge of Allegiance. At a certain point students are old enough to begin learning about the social contract we must make with our government and country as citizens. At some point, our children will be old enough to undertake the responsibility inherent in a social contract with a legal entity. At that point, swearing a pledge of allegiance is reasonable. Drumming it into a five year old's head by repetition is simply assimilation. It's not true loyalty. It is my humble opinion that a child's first loyalty ought to be to family, and vice versa. Said family should teach the child about responsibility and place in society. This should remain the dynamic, until the child is old enough to take on his or her place in society, including all of the responsibility inherent in that.

(Have you ever noticed how meaningful certain things become in adulthood? Or how much more meaningful certain things are when you don't adopt them until adulthood? Of course this is not exact or 100% but I've noticed that when I agree to, accept or adopt something in a thoughtful, deliberate, comprehending way, it has much, much more meaning. I'd like to promote that with my children, a certain thoughtful and deliberate approach.)

We don't think kids are old enough to drive until sixteen, die in a war until 18 or drink alcohol until 21...so why is a child just out of toddlerhood old enough to swear an oath of fealty?

That is such a big responsibility. At least wait until the kid is old enough to marry without parental consent. Isn't that a pretty close equivalent? (An interesting read about teaching kids about the pledge: The Pledge and the Contract, from Active Citizenship, Empowering America’s Youth, by John Minkler.)

I don't agree with focusing kids on abstinence by teaching them to say no to sex, drugs and rock and roll. That leads me to my third hypothesis: just say no simply piques rebellion and curiosity.

3. The irony in the negative

I'm sure you've heard the adage about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, "Don't say 'don't look down' or you'll just look down, say 'keep looking up' instead."

Social scientists have proved time and again that, especially with children, the negative is discarded and the messages following the negative become the unintended focus. This means whatever follows a no or don't? Gets reversed in your kid's mind.

"Don't drop the ball!" Thud.

"Don't have sex!" Have sex.

"Don't do drugs." Do drugs.

The Boomerang effect I mentioned is mentioned in several articles and studies I read (most cited in my post). It's the increase in drug use for kids who are targeted by anti-drug messages. Drug education and awareness is meant to promote a no response in kids with regard to illegal mind-altering substances. Instead, it can provoke curiosity that could lead to experimentation that might lead to addiction.

We are teaching our kids about drug-induced highs and how to get them. Doesn't it make sense that curious kids who aren't known per se for maturity and wisdom, good judgment, might experiment?

In the Brain, Child article by Juliette Guilbert, she shares a conversation she had with a friend who was a former heroin addict. The friend actually became interested in heroin after a school report she did as part of an anti-drug program, "I do think I got a little interested in it," she says. "I found out how it made you feel, and that sounded appealing. Unlike something like LSD, which sounded horrible."

The truth is education can be prevention, but it can also lead to an unhealthy awareness. I attribute this to the peer pressure and punitive intimidating approach, the one size fits all, and the accentuation of the negative. I also attribute it to misleading kids (read: betrayal, loss of trust) because we have to oversimplify it to reach the too-young audience.

Right now, I don't think my five year old is ready to begin learning about drugs any more than I believe she is ready to swear her allegiance or sign any binding legal contracts.

You're swatting at me in your mind. I hear you.

You're thinking, "It's never too early to begin!" And you might be right, for you, or based on your experience. I actually think that idea is more of a 'drummed into your head' thought. Did you think it yourself, or are you repeating what you've heard countless times?

I disagree that it's never too early to begin, and evidence backs up my point of view.

Saying something before you can comprehend it makes it meaningless, as does saying something over and over. Did you ever sit in elementary school and ponder what you were actually agreeing to when you said the Pledge of Allegiance? In the same way, "just say no to drugs" can become a meaningless bit of pratter.

I've heard you and countless others say, "Oh we just ignore it, go about our business, it's no big deal to us, my kids don't even pay attention, it has no effect, we just gloss over it..."

In essence, you are saying it's meaningless. You are expecting that it has no effect (which I don't quite believe) and that when your kids are ready, it will kick in and have the intended effect.

I don't think it's that benign.

Consider this from Juliette Guilbert's Brain, Child article:
And in 2005, a five-year, $42.7 million, government-funded study by the University of Pennsylvania and Westat, Inc., a Rockville, Maryland, research corporation, concluded that the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was totally ineffectual at preventing drug use by teens.

The Westat study, which surveyed between 2,000 and 4,000 nine- to eighteen-year-olds each year for four years, found that exposure to the ads led to higher rates of marijuana initiation among non-users, a result known as the "boomerang effect." While self-reporting has obvious limitations for pinpointing the number of kids using drugs at a given time (kids reported their attitudes and drug use on in-home touch-screen surveys; they can easily lie) it is considered more reliable as a measure of change in use over time, because if they are lying, they are likely to do so with some consistency on each year's survey, unless there's a major cultural shift.

Robert Orwin, Westat's principal investigator on the study, says that he and his colleagues were surprised to find that the Media Campaign produced a boomerang effect, but they "couldn't make it go away." He offered a theory on why it might be so. "The message was that drugs are bad for you; don't do drugs," he says. "The meta-message was that a government agency is spending all this money and all this effort to tell me how bad drugs are, so everybody must be using drugs."


A study in 2002 found...that Philip Morris's "Think: Don't Smoke" ads increased the likelihood that kids would take up smoking. Clearly, not all "un-selling" is created equal.

In my opinion, it's important to find the right approach, and target kids in the right way at the right age. Kindergarten, for the record (in case I haven't said it enough) is not it.

Right now, we aren't there, and starting younger and throwing more money at it isn't working:
By the government's own standards, are we winning the war on drugs?

No. In 2000, federal and state governments will spend more than $40 billion fighting the drug war - a dramatic increase since 1980, when federal spending was roughly $1 billion and state spending just a few times that. Yet, despite the ballooning costs of the drug war, illicit drugs are cheaper and purer than they were two decades ago, and continue to be readily available. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 57% of the population report that marijuana is fairly or very easy to obtain. In 2000, 47% of eighth graders and 88.5% of senior high school students say marijuana is easy to obtain. Additionally, approximately 24% of eighth graders and nearly 48% of seniors report powdered cocaine is easy to get.

Source: SAMHSA, 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, D.C. 2001. See table G.75; SAMHSA, Monitoring the Future: Overview of Key Findings 2000, Washington, D.C. 2001. See table 8.

In fact, there is an effect, and it's not what we want. Therefore, in my opinion, we need to stop, pause, reflect, regroup and come up with a new, more positive, better targeted message.

In point of alleged fact, it appears doing nothing is better, in this case, than just doing what we are doing.

Let's empower parents, and through them empower kids to say yes to something else, and do more ignoring of drugs and less focusing on them, and what NOT to do.

After all, despite the name of their show, even Stacy and Clinton realize the most important lesson is teaching clients what TO wear.

Note: Some hope for a better message: Parents: The Anti Drug. I really do believe it is up to parents. You know yourself, your history, your genetics, and your child. Although your child isn't you, you can take a wild guess that if addiction runs in your family, your child has a higher risk of becoming addicted to a substance. Also, low esteem or disorders that affect esteem and mood (such as depression) increase the risk of self-medicating with drugs. You, the parent, can best assess the risk and correct approach. Of course, remaining an in touch parent is best, too. Nothing is 100%. Nothing. Nothing is perfect and there are no guarantees. But again in my opinion, the parent is the most effective key to a good chance of preventing a child from becoming unhealthily involved with drugs and alcohol. And my school, somehow, didn't involve me at all, even after I specifically requested it.

Coming soon...what about the abstinence message for sex? Take a WAG what my thoughts are about that, and teaching that in the schools...

TOMORROW: Hump Day Hmm is the Blog Blast for Peace. Join in! Write your post, link to me here, send the link to me at j pippert at g mail dot com and I'll add all our participants in (plus link love, twice).

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Gwen said...

I'm not going to touch on the drug thing because my experience with the presentation of it has been so different from yours. I hear what you're saying about the one school fits all approach being problematic.

Your reaction to the grouping exercise is what struck me the most. And I'm speaking as a teacher, naturally. Many five year olds are going to struggle with just separating fruits from vegetables, so maybe that was the point of the exercise, rather than a larger idea about grouping. I'm not sure the majority of the class is going to be able to handle that kind of higher order thinking. They're in kindergarten, non? I remember volunteering in a kindergarten class and being unable to get the kids to think about what it would be like to be 100. They just had no frame of reference to think that far in the future. They would say things like, when I'm a hundred, I'm going to swim with dolphins! Huh?

The thing about being a teacher is that you are also a human, a flawed human who makes mistakes. You are underpaid, under-respected and overworked. Everyone knows HOW to do your job better than you but no one actually wants to do it. They just want to complain about how you're always screwing it up with regards to their individual child. But as a teacher, you're not just responsible to one child, you're responsible to the class as a whole, which means that sometimes each individual loses something for the 'greater good'. And, you're HUMAN, with human emotions and baggage and experience. So--could a perfect teacher have given Patience credit for her outside the box grouping? Absolutely. But there's also a reason that she's bringing home check minuses and not F's. Because grades aren't the point in kindergarten. And as a parent, who is taking the reins on drug education, you can also take the reins on the rest of education. Schools are imperfect, but most of the damage they do can be mitigated in the home.

Do I sound bitter about the rash of abuse that teachers get? LOL.

Julie Pippert said...

I hear you. I watch my mother get beaten down day after day, week after week and year after year. And still she picks herself up, dusts herself off and does the best she can because she's a teacher and loves teaching.

In this case, though, I'm not railing on teachers. I'm railing on the school and school system.

Although it sounds like other teachers implemented the anti-drug program better than our substitute did, in the end, the teachers had no choice: they had to do it, as prescribed.

Umm I guess a lot of kindergartners are clueless; this is a pretty bright bunch though. I've been in events with them and I think they'd be able to say similarities and differences and different groupings.

Driving home from preschool I was able to get two three year olds and one two year old to look around and list off anything related to the category Halloween. And the preschool did lots of things like the "what are different ways you can sort these objects" all the time, when the kids were a year younger.

But I'm basing that on (a) an inexpert opinion and (b) outside the classroom experiences with these kids. So I remain hopeful but not positive, how about that?

Julie Pippert said...

Oh for the record: I do not think I can teach or do the teachers job at all much less better than she does (hence why I am not) (well okay I've seen *some* teachers and I think a brain dead monkey could do a better job) (so the profession of teaching is admirable as are many teachers but simply being a teacher doesn't make one admiration worthy KWIM?) but I do know as a parent what I hope to see for my kid and that is individual growth and development. I worry that the constraints of the school system preclude that. GREAT teachers (which you don't always get) can mitigate that.

But, again, here my point is about things beyond the teacher and the classroom and that's the anti-drug program. It comes from way, way above the teachers.

Julie Pippert said...

ARGH just call me a windbag LOL

Okay and as far as the exercise goes...I don't dicker with the "grade." She missed the exercise. We talked about listening to and following instructions.

But my little anarchist's heart seethed and burned because I want to cry, "Cast off the shackles! Free your mind! Don't fall victim to prescribed and unoriginal group think! Keep your creativity!"

And it will probably bite me in the rear (it always does) but I just can. not. bring myself to make a deal about grades right now. I start feeling like I channel my father (you know those moments when you sound like one side of your parent that always chapped your hide and it HORRIFIES you) who never saw anything good enough from me.

So she doesn't seem to notice or care about the little symbols on her paper and I pretend to do the same.

It's like our scoreless soccer games. Someone's keeping score.

In all sincerity I was concerned upfront about this prolonger substitute situation and some of my fears seems to be coming to pass.

But what can I say or do?

She's even more underpaid, overworked and disrespected than a teacher is.

thailandchani said...

Well, just call me the dissenter.. as usual... because I agree with everything you say. This is clearly one of your best posts ever and I wish it would be seen in some professional circles.

The system as it is appeals to mediocrity. It was even worse when I was a kid.

I could go into details but I'll spare you all that. I'm a lousy historian and also figure most people know it...

... but you're right.

thordora said...

Thus far, i can only speak from my own experience as a bit of a druggie in my youth, and I will say that anti drug programs did NOTHING to prevent anyone I knew. There were those who had no desire to do drugs, and those of us who did. Most of us who did want to do drugs found the lemming like group think offputting, and it drove is further into the arms of illicitness (oh evil weed!).

I found most effort by schools laughable and insulting frankly.

I'd prefer my daughters use their heads anyway, and group the drugs by origin rather than type. :) The exercise might be wrong for that moment, but it sounds like your daughter has a fantastic brain!

Family Adventure said...

I'm leaving the teacher thing alone, except to say that I realize that many teachers are doing the best they can within very defined and limiting constraints.
HOWEVER - what I loved about this beautifully written piece, Julie, was what you called "The irony in the negative". I couldn’t agree with this point more.

A scare tactic only works for however long it manages to frighten its intended ‘victims’ (for lack of a better word) into submission. People have to make decisions for themselves based on facts they understand, not fear. They eventually outgrow their fear, but without any facts, what are they left with then? Curiosity?


Lawyer Mama said...

I understand your frustration with failure to recognize out of the box thinking. And with group think in general! It really rankles with me too. I certainly wasn't a rebel in high school, but I like to think I was never a copycat drone. I really want my children to think for themselves and be confident about it. It's so hard when school teaches conformity.
We're doing a political/topic day on Education tomorrow on the SV/DC Metro/Chicago/NY Moms Blogs. Mind if I link you? Your post really fits in with mine!

Kyla said...

Like I said on the last post of this nature, I grew up in these programs. Ask me if it kept me from trying drugs? Okay, actually don't. I'll just tell you. IT DID NOT. Ask me if going to Christian HS and being taught only abstinence kept me from losing my virginity (on school property). Nope. It didn't.

You have a lot of great points in here. I will be honest and say, I usually don't think about things this much, though. I don't see a problem with little ones learning a measure of group think (of course, they still need to be treated and taught to be individuals as well), how to follow instructions and rules, or learning the pledge, ect. But I also don't think it is a perfect recipe for good citizenship or patriotism either. It just is, I guess.

I like, at least for my kids, that they are learning these things, that they are just becoming a part of life for them. It is part of the reason BubTar is in Christian school. We want him to grow up in that sort of knowledge, even though I know he will make up his very own mind about it and I want him to do so. I think of the pledges and that sort of thing at this early of an age to be akin to introducing them to baseball or soccer or the theater or Sunday school or anything else you might be passionate about and want to share with your children. The exposure, even at an early age can be a positive, I think.

But drugs and sex and all of that in Kinder? I have to agree it is too early. It is unnecessary, too. And I agree that it is doing very little good at all. I agree that parents should have control over when and how those topics are broached with their children and should take the reins back from the schools.

Gina Pintar said...

Well, I disagree with you on some points.

I think there is value in following direction. Maybe the first questions should be to sort by fruits and vegetables and then the second question could be how else can they be grouped? This would show that each child CAN follow the directions and then get them thinking. It would teach them all to think outside the box.

Wow do I disagree with you on the Pledge of Allegience. I do think every child who can speak needs to know it. I think what you object to is the way it currently taught and you know what, I hear that and agree. You object because the children are just taught to say it nothing about what it means. I think that even 3 yr olds can understand some pride in country.

I am one of those people who DOES think that action against our flag is one of the most heanous crimes. That is because, to me, that flag is a visual symbol of all that makes this country great. The speaking out, the chance to say no, the equal treatment for women etc. Is is perfect? No, it's not but we can all stand here and discuss it and try and make it better. I think the children should be taught at their age level all of that and then how our flag represents that. THEN they CAN say the Pledge of Allegience with meaning. Even at their level. Sure it will get more meaningful as they age but it can be meaningful NOW.

As far as drugs, what kept me away was my parents pride for ME. I did not want to let them down. I do agree with you that the current system bites. I think that these programs will be better served by teaching self esteem for each child. I also think that a program like that will teach that every person is different but valuable in their own way. No better or worse but valuable no the less. I think that will bring us all closer together as well.

Julie Pippert said...

Can I just say I am SO THRILLED with these comments. Your opinions and experience and perspectives---especially differences regionally---really, really add a lot to how I am thinking about this (and hopefully others too).

Gina, I had not thought about the pledge being like soccer. Yes, for me the problem is NOT the pledge (I do have a lot of patriotism and that's because I have thought about it) but the meaninglessness of the act because nothing else accompanies it, and the fact that I do think kids don't get what they are agreeing to. It's a big commitment, the pledge. Kids need to know that. It's NOT just words. I try to inform. I try to augment.

I like your suggestion of 1. Follow direction and 2. Think more about this.

Teaching kids to go along with the program is necessary but I say it is a necessary evil because I think it hits an extreme in school. I think too often we forget to progress outside and beyond that. Again, though, the times we do, it is individual from a great teacher.

And you beautifully demonstrated the point that the campaign of "Parents: The anti-drug" works, while so many other shared how the anti-drug school programs boomeranged.

I can't agree more about the esteem and positive direction.

Kyla, one of the biggest pros and cons to me about big schooling (because I don't think public and private generally are too different on this count) was the Learning to Group Yourself.

I decided to go with it because that DOES seem essential to societal success, whether we are talking activities, school or work.

I think it's my nature to think a lot about things (to the GREAT annoyance of most people) but also, severe school trauma makes me a big Doubting Thomas and Sally Skeptical, so that quality of me is enhanced due to a tremendous amount of Ass Suckage I experienced in public school.

LM, I'd be extremely honored to be linked (right up until I get the death threats) (so far, at least half my community thinks I bite the heads off bats, vote commie pinko, or am completely insane...and I might low-balling it).

Thordora, I think you bring up a great point: those who did and those who didn't. Internal motivation and personality play a role here, and the boomerang effect, I think, probably hits one type more than another. I tried to think what prevented me from ever using drugs. Gina hit on one: did not want to disappoint my parents (but that's part of my nature, too). The other is: control freak. I do not like to be out of control. Drugs make you lose control, therefore drugs sound dreadful to me. Again, though, part of my nature.

But I knew that through education.

So, although I predate the "just say no" campaigns and so forth, they may have actually worked for me. Ironically, I am probably the target audience. Then again, maybe not.

They might have pissed me off and provoked my curiosity and rebellion.

Chani, thank you so much. :)

Family adventure, you really said it well there. Absolutely it can only work until the fear is demystified and then yes, what do you have left? Curiosity!

Kellan said...

Julie - I think your school should be making you aware of the things/programs they are planning on introducing or sponsoring. Our schools send out flyers and ask that the kids wear something different (crazy hats, crazy socks...) each day during red ribbon week and if they want to participate - they can. I think it's a good program. I was in the car last week with my little one and asked her about red ribbon week - what did she understand about it and she said, "Say no to drugs," and then she listed the drugs she had heard about. At six years old, I was astounded that she could list them (not really fully knowing what they were) - but that she had digested the information enough to be able to recall the names and to say "No" to them. I feel the schools are trying to help against drugs by just introducing them to the issue. I think it definately does not help to prevent all (even may a large percentage of kids) - but, like any cause, if it touches a few - then those few may be safe. And ... I believe some things take time. This type of program certainly could use improvements and even maybe changes - and then it may do even more to aid in this cause. One of my biggest fears is that any of my kids will fall into drugs in their life time. It is such a trap. I hope it doesn't happen to any of our kids. Great post - see ya.

Kyla said...

I kind of love that you think about things too much. It makes me think about them in new ways and I like that a lot. Yummy brain food. ;)

Cardozo said...

Julie, I appreciate what you have to say in this post. As a graduate of D.A.R.E. I cannot remember a single thing learned in it, and I think this is because my teachers were basically uncomfortable preaching to us in that way. The whole thing came off as perfunctory (in much the same way as Physical Education ended up being just another recess rather than education about and practice in physical fitness.)

Until drug education addresses the real reasons why people do drugs, and stops with the scare tactics, I don't think it will be effective.

Of course, I'm speaking for myself here. Maybe DARE reaches a few "at risk" kids a year, and prevents disaster.

slouching mom said...

Julie, Bravo. You marshal and review evidence so astutely in this post. That's why I've always thought you should go into the law, which I know I've said before...

Lawyer Mama said...

Julie - I finally had a chance to come back and read all the comments. Wow, girl. You really know how to hit a nerve when you do it!

I hear what Gwen is saying. I have friends who are teachers, my mom and my MIL were both public school teachers. I thrived in public schools (after surviving the horror that was junior high). But I've also seen the worst that can happen with bad teachers with my brother.

Yes, teachers are human. Yes, they make mistakes. I think we all get that. But there are bad teachers and they do NOT belong in the classroom. If I were a bad lawyer, a client could fire me. If my kids have a bad teacher, there's little to nothing I can do it about it and frankly, that pisses me off. Good teachers simply aren't valued in the way they should be, either monetarily or by society.

And now, I'll just save it for my Thursday post....

Oh, and for the record, I LOVE that you think too much. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

bubandpie said...

The only drug education that was really memorable to me was that commercial with the fried egg. I like my brain the way it is. That was reason enough not to do drugs. I think high-pressure education campaigns just make the forbidden fruit more intriguing.

Christine said...


i had all this great thinky stuff to say but after reading all the comments i am SO SO SO SO intimidated! LOL

seriously though--great post. In many ways you echoed lots of feelings i have about universal pre-k programs. these programs are designed to help a certain population of students but in the end they end up intimidating parents and pressuring 4 year olds how to read and follow directions like first graders. anyway, there is obviously a lot more to this subject than i am so very lightly touching on here. a post of mine someday perhaps.

anyway--group think--bleh.

Snoskred said...

Degrassi Junior High is what taught me not to take drugs. It was replayed over here all the time. Seriously, I completely credit the show with teaching me a LOT of important lessons. TV can do a lot when it comes to this kind of thing.

Sadly these days I don't think there are any shows that can have the same kind of effect. Not even the new version of Degrassi which I have heard about but not seen much of. I don't know what it was about those kids that taught me the most important lessons.

I'm not sure if I missed the outcome of the letter you sent, I'll read back. I'm not feeling too flash..


melissa said...

Amazing post and comments. Having just seen RRW at our school, I totally agree with you. I think the blind exposure to some of this is actually harmful long term.

Out of the box thinking...I'm sorry, what is this box you speak of? I have such issues with this, you can't imagine.

Can't wait for the next one!

melissa said...

Not sure if I'm going to double post here, so sorry if I do.

This was just an amazing, thought provoking post. I agree with so much of this. I am still mad that when my kids were in kinder they were exposed to all of this. They were SO not ready.

Out of the box....what is this box you speak of? I don't own a box. :) But I have a huge problem with that at my kid's school, too.

Emily said...

You actually contradict yourself. You say 5 is too young, but then you point out that parenting is the best antidote to drugs, presumably well before turning 5. And you are right on both points, because while 5 is too young to learn specifically about drugs, it is definitely not too young to learn confidence, pride in one's life and body, and independence. Those things are the biggest part of saying no to drugs.

Julie Pippert said...

In my mind, Emily, it didn't seem contradictory, LOL.

I intended to communicate that I think 5 is too young for this anti-drug program, but yes, you caught correctly that I do also mean it is never too young to begin parenting the positive, the best chance for prevention.

Thank goodness people can read my mind, or at least my intention LOL.

If it wasn't NaBloPoMo I'd have spent more time editing LOL.

Melissa, thank you! I am SO GLAD NaBloPoMo introduced us. You, you with no box, you can be my BFF. :)

Snoskred, you young'un you. I was too old for DeGrassi but we had ABC After School Specials. DeGrassi...that is cool. Very, very cool. The outcome of the letter was...well, I am less happy.

Christine, you always have something good to say. Your last line is classic. :)

B&P, oh that commercial! HA! I remember that and the ENDLESS spoofs. It was pretty effective. Succinct.

SM, thanks! Let's see Unanmed Person I Know roots for foreign service exam and you want the LSATs...not mutually exclusive, actually, LOL.

Cardozo, you nailed it. We have to address the real reason and do actual prevention. In a way, that concept ties in to the blog blast for peace and one of the quotes (the Andre Gide one) that it is easier to fight than prevent. And that's what we are stuck in: a WAR on drugs. So true, coming at it from the wrong angle!!

Kellan, I think the intent is good. I think the desire is well-intended. I think we all want to same outcome. However, I very much disagree with the approach. None of us want our kids on drugs. But I think preventing is more effective than fighting, and I think the anti-drug programs are fighting.

Kyla, you come over to my house Thursday. We'll show you and KayTar a good time. I promise to think way too much.

Suki said...

After that post, I couldn't manage reading all the comments. Just read a few.

I would agree with you, Julie. Your post hits out at a major social defect we have - achieving the balance between originality and the ability to function in society. We need a known common ground(such as language) as a basis for communication and interdependence, but we also want to be constantly creative so that society keeps changing and doesn't stagnate. A very fine ground to tread.

I think I should unravel what Emily calls a "contradiction". Well, the children need to KNOW what drugs are in order to be told not to have them. People don't need to point out, "See? That's a drug. Don't use it." That's simply inviting reverse psychology to take over. But when kids come home talking about it, they need to be told what they are and why what they have and can do without harming themselves is better.
Education methods all over the world need constant development. Stuff just isn't working.