Remember when you were a kid and you had to sit through a block of D.A.R.E. (that's Drug Abuse Resistance Education for the non-alumni) assemblies to learn how the world is full of dangerous drug peddlers waiting to ambush you at every corner so they can shove a wad of pills, needles, and marijuana down your throat and get you hooked for life? And remember reading about how the D.A.R.E. program has had "no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use"? Do you recall hearing about how D.A.R.E. received a $13.7 million grant to create a new curriculum that would be more effective in preventing drug use among minors?
Well, clearly the "new" D.A.R.E. program that's focused on "keepin' it REAL" is smarter, more modern, and more reasonable than the D.A.R.E. lessons us twenty and thirty-somethings recall being subjected to in elementary school. Instead of rehearsing "just say no" skits and learning corny rap songs about how "drug-free is the way to be!", today's D.A.R.E. kids have stepped firmly into the 21st century and are learning that "for every one joint of marijuana, four teenagers become burdened with pregnancy," according to a news story that was posted on the program's website. They're keepin' it real, all right — here in Washington we're up to our eyeballs in pregnant teenagers thanks to the state's legal retail cannabis market. We have to plow the streets every morning, we've got so many.
I'm kidding, obviously — anyone with a modicum of common sense would realize that smoking a cannabis joint doesn't automatically fertilize the eggs of four teenage girls within a five mile radius. D.A.R.E., unfortunately, didn't really think that claim through, nor did they apply any critical oversight to these other ludicrous anti-drug gems from the article:
- "Marijuana candies, sold on the street as 'Uncle Tweety's Chewy Flipper' and 'Gummy Satans' are taking the country by storm."
- "It is sad that in a country as developed as America, such third world drugs such as marijuana are allowed to exist."
- "Children are being addicted to marijuana. I knew this day would come, when a liberal president allowed a state to legally sell Marijuana Flintstone vitamins to children."
- "Marijuana. It is one of the most dangerous drugs on Earth."
Before your outrage threatens to burst through your skin, creating a supernova of wrath that blots out the sun, the article that D.A.R.E. published on its website was repurposed in its entirety from topekasnews.com, a satire news site. If you were rolling your eyes at how ludicrous the above bullet points sounded, that's because they were intentionally written to sound as absurd as possible. Unfortunately, the content wizards over at the D.A.R.E. organization didn't identify the article as fake, nor did they bother to research the legitimacy of the source from where they were repurposing the article.
Instead, D.A.R.E. blindly published an article making ridiculous, politically-charged claims with the intent of spreading the misinformation under the guise of drug prevention and education. No wonder the D.A.R.E. program has been labeled ineffective — how can you take an anti-drug program seriously when it peddles nonsense, outright lies, and can't even fact-check the sources it's citing?
We can all agree that children need to learn how to stay away from drugs and how to say no to peer pressure that's encouraging them to do something they're not comfortable with or don't want to do. But spreading fear and misinformation in order to promote your agenda does not pave a path towards healthy and informed decision-making, it cultivates a culture of ignorance, cynicism, and stagnation. We need drug awareness programs that reasonably inform, not blindly terrify.
The D.A.R.E. website deleted the article as soon as a Washington Post writer informed the program that it was fake, but the damage had already been done. Once again, the anti-drug program has been reduced to a punchline instead of an effective tool to educate kids on responsible behavior, informed decision-making, and self esteem-building. As with scrunchies, No Fear shirts, and CK1 cologne, perhaps it's time to tuck the D.A.R.E. program away with other embarrassingly dated 80's and 90's trends and replace it with something that reasonably reflects the changing cannabis landscape and takes a modern, positive approach to educating children.