section three

what is D.A.R.E. teaching our children?
a look at the curriculum


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D.A.R.E. is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. The avowed purpose of the D.A.R.E. program is to educate students to resist drug abuse; its motto is "DARE to keep kids off drugs." To accomplish these goals, fifth graders are presented with seventeen lessons, each lasting around an hour. Children are given "workbooks" summarizing each lesson, and are encouraged to keep them at school.

The D.A.R.E. curriculum is promulgated from the Los Angles D.A.R.E. headquarters, and is standard across the country. Unlike other public school curricula, it undergoes no local review by teachers and administrators. Nor does it take into consideration local problems, local conditions, local needs, or local concerns. According to D.A.R.E. guidelines, it may not be modified by local educators or parents without an okay from Los Angeles. (The curriculum has only been changed once in twelve years, and that was to capture new federal dollars. See Elliott, Jeff, Drug Prevention Placebo, Reason Magazine, March, 1995.)

The central theme of D.A.R.E. is somewhat surprisingly less simplistic than the "Just say no" message of the early eighties. It is, instead, a more sophisticated, although more dated message of "Just say maybe," based on an educational philosophy called "values clarification." In a 1975 educational psychology textbook, "values clarification" is described as follows:

"Values clarification" is not an attempt to teach students 'right' and 'wrong' values. Rather, it is an approach designed to help students prize and act upon their own freely chosen values. Thus, V.C. is concerned with the process by which students arrive at their values, rather than the content of those values."
Leland and Mary How, Personalizing Education (1975).

A D.A.R.E. officer put it this way: "I tell kids they can smoke dope if they want to, as long as they consider the consequences." (Patrolman Karl Geib, Portland, Maine, D.A.R.E. officer, quoted in Governing, September 1992, page 6.)

With the passing of the Seventies, "values clarification" fell out of favor among educators. A 1993 educational psychology textbook had this to say about V.C.:

"There is no reason to assume ... that students will automatically make sound choices when they engage in values clarification sessions. It is quite possible that when students are encouraged to develop clear and consistent values,they will choose those that focus on material possessions, power, self-indulgence, and the like."
Robert F. Biehler and Jack Snowman, Psychology Applied to Teaching, Seventh Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston (1993).

The seventeen lessons are listed by D.A.R.E. as follows:

  1. Introducing D.A.R.E.
  2. Understanding the Effectsof Mind-Altering Drugs
  3. Considering Consequences
  4. Changing Beliefs About Drug Use
  5. Learning Resistance Techniques--Ways to Say No
  6. Building Self-Esteem
  7. Learning Assertiveness--a Response Style.
  8. Managing Stress Without Taking Drugs
  9. Reducing Violence
  10. Combating Media Influences on Drug Use and Violence
  11. Making Decisions About Risky Behaviors
  12. Saying Yes to Positive Alternatives
  13. Having Positive Role Models
  14. Resisting Gang and Group Violence
  15. Summarizing D.A.R.E. Lessons
  16. Taking a Stand
  17. D.A.R.E. Culmination

forward to section four:
what's right about D.A.R.E.?


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