Yes, it is the most widely used drug resistance program in the country, but just as the aforementioned program has taught us: Just because everyone else is doing it does not mean it's the right thing to do.
Quite frankly, this program has become a cliche -- a novelty if you will. Even some clothing stores have cashed in on the retro aspect of it by selling DARE T-shirts.
Currently, DARE is seen as a joke to the demographic that matters the most: teenagers. After all, aren't they the ones most commonly faced with drug-related peer pressure? I know I wasn't offered a cigarette or a joint in elementary school. All we knew at that age was that some horrible thing called "puberty" was about to hit us. Most of us spent our time on the monkey bars waiting for the inevitable.
The concept of DARE is admirable enough and would work fantastically if everyone grew up with the same wonderful background, same plentiful income, same virtuous education, same extraordinary etc. However, if that were the case, there would be no need for anti-drug or anti-anything programs in the first place.
The DARE Web site states their mission is to "equip kids with the tools that will enable them to avoid negative influences and instead, allow them to focus on their strengths and potential."
I remember going through the program myself. It started in kindergarten and spontaneously appeared a couple of more times during elementary school. We would watch videos containing an endless stream of bad actors getting kidnapped if they talked to strangers or being pressured to smoke pot. But at the end of the day, we all knew those bad actors made their money and went home safely -- just like the Power Rangers.
Gangs and drugs were not things we cared to think about. It was simply not an issue for us. And remember that thing called "puberty" I mentioned earlier? Well, at this point, our hormones seemed far more deadly than any heroin needle. And for the love of God, why were our faces so greasy?
But what about not talking to strangers? Isn't that a useful topic DARE has taught us? I would have to say no.
Sure, you can use the Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck argument. In fact, it would be quite fashionable of you to do so. But the reason why that story is making headlines is because of its extremely unusual outcome. And as of this moment, I understand neither one of them was lured with the "lost puppy" bait I was always warned about in DARE.
Although I am basing this entire column off my own experience with DARE and a few facts I found online, I have to say this program has done nothing more than provide a few free shirts, some bumper stickers and a false sense of self-esteem for children all across the nation.
Contact Sam DeReign at email@example.com.