A Project for Better Journalism chapter

D.A.R.E. aimed towards wrong age group

I remember standing in the PAC as a little fifth grader, yearning after the coveted Daren the Lion, singing that song that still gets stuck in my head . . . Yeah, that is about all I remember; the words to that song and how excited I was when I finally learned how to spell “alcohol;” it was a tricky word.

Currently, the D.A.R.E. program is taught in fifth grade for 10 weeks, third grade for four weeks and kindergarten for 1 day. The two officers who are in charge of teaching the program are Officer Steve Nichols (Middle School SRO) and Officer Doug Rose (High School SRO)

Honestly, I could not recall much from my D.A.R.E. years. “Don’t do drugs” and “Just say no” loom in my mind, and he drew the different alcohol containers on the board. Based on this, I seemed to have missed the point of the program.

According to Rose, one of the main goals of the program is for students to end the program and go forth to make good decisions from this point forward in life.

“It is an introduction to good and bad things and the main point of entire program is making good decisions,” said Rose.

I do not remember my decision making skills much. I am sure they are there, somewhere, but I could not regurgitate to you what was taught to me.

According to Rose, the program is taught at these ages because these are the ages chosen by the school district; when the district believes these are the age appropriate times to learn this material.

The problem with the program is that it teaches students these things, then throws them out to deal with even bigger things that occur later in life.

While Rose believes the program is very effective, and the age level actually provides itself as a benefit, I feel that looking around at the people we go to school with, some of that information we are supposed to so easily retain, has been lost.

The course ends with the D.A.R.E. graduation where students are given their certificate of graduation and some prizes, sing the D.A.R.E. song, and the overall winner of the D.A.R.E. essay contest reads their winning essay. The prompt? This is what I learned in D.A.R.E.

Last year’s winning essay boasted “I’ve promised myself not to even touch a cigarette in my lifetime…”

That is a fantastic promise for someone to make. Anyone, whether fifth grade or fifty. But perhaps it is a little presumptuous. A fifth grader still has a lot of life to live and a lot of things to experience. It would not take a pessimist to tell you that this promise was made in naivety. I remember my friends making promises like that, during the lesson, in their essay or even later on at recess.

If you walk down the hallways, you can tell that some of the promises have been broken, based off of recounts of weekend activities and the night before. I am not going to pretend it does not happen here.

According to Rose, however, there have been things done in attempt to counteract this problem.

“It was modernized about five years ago to keep up with changing styles we use today,” said Rose. “I imagine in a year or two they’ll do it again, to keep things fresh. It’s very effective, very well loved, and very well recognized,”

I know that the program has changed since I went through it myself. Alcohol is now taught as a drug, there is no “drugs and alcohol,” there are no drugs taught about further than tobacco and alcohol, no learning about marijuana anymore. There is a larger focus on communication and personal behavior and choices than the resistance I learned about.

Maybe it is my class who is behind, and maybe we will be the last to not get everything out of it, but in case it is discovered that we were not, we need to remember the feeling of having to make these middle and high school decisions alone. Trying to quickly think back to what was learned in fifth grade is not a feasible thing to expect in a pressuring situation that could affect someone’s life.