I personally believe these All-or-Nothing programs in schools cause more harm than good. When approaching topic and seeking to reduce or prevent behavior among a group it is generally better to educate than to outlaw. In the early 2000’s I was an involuntary participant of the government sponsored D.A.R.E program. Also simultaneously being from the deep south, in middle school and high school sexual abstinence was pushed on us from an early age. It just so happens that regardless of this constant push to prevent sexuality in youth we are uneducated (unless discussed by our parents or peers) in the methods and options involved in safe and healthy sex. That may be on of the factors contributing to Mississippi being 2nd highest in terms of teen pregnancy rates all throughout the united states #1. This is also found to be similar in drug use as students who have participated in the D.A.R.E. program has been found to be 5% more likely to use drugs like alcohol and marijuana as compared to students do were not involved in D.A.R.E. #2. Also what has been found is that D.A.R.E. causes children to disregard information related to the harmful effects of drugs when they see their peers using substances without visible repercussions#3.
From this position I could see two possible avenues of pursuit in attempting to reduce a behavior. Either we make these programs available and optional to those who wish to participate or change the direction of the programs and ensure that the group is informed of the dangers. Making these programs optional would allow those who truly want to participate to attend, and those who see the program as nothing more than an annoyance to avoid it entirely, thus avoiding a portion of the stigma associated with these programs#4. On the other hand by informing the public in an unbiased manner would provide them the knowledge necessary to make the intended decision, and potentially make them more likely to make said decision due to the mutual trust and responsibility place on them thereafter. I support educating those in school on the “taboo’s” of life but it is imperative that we go about it the proper way.
#1 Martin, Joyce A, et al. “National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 66, Number 1 .” Cdc.gov, Division of Vital Statistics, 5 Jan. 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr66/nvsr66_01.pdf.
#2 Zili Sloboda, ScD, et al., “The Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study: A Randomized Field Trial of a Universal Substance Abuse Prevention Program,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Jan. 21, 2009
#3 Maia Szalavitz, “DARE to Follow the Data,” cannabisnews.com, Sep. 25, 2000
#4 Denise Hamilton, “The Truth about DARE: The Big-Bucks Antidrug Program for Kids Doesn’t Work,” Los Angeles New Times, Mar. 20, 1997