D.A.R.E. - Failure to Fashion

D.A.R.E. - Failure to Fashion
We’ve all seen the D.A.R.E. logo; even if it wasn’t as prevalent in the UK as it was in America, by 1995 we still had coppers coming to school to warn us off drugs. Did anyone ever get that free hit dealers were supposed to give you to get you hooked? No? Me neither. The D.A.R.E. logo would turn out to be much more successful than the programme it advertised as, in a beautifully manufactured twist of irony, drug countercultures decided to adopt it and wear it with pride. In fairness it’s a great logo - that dramatic red on black - it’s just that the idea itself was, with all due respect, absolute shit.

What's the Point?

D.A.R.E. was created as part of the equally useless War on Drugs programme implemented by Nixon which has proved, year on year, that lots of people are going to take drugs. Even with the threat of prison hanging over them. With clear evidence that it wasn’t working (prison numbers AND drug use went up) the ever-clever American government decided to further the initiative by including children in the remit. Thank you D.A.R.E. for protecting our kids!
The reality is that studies have shown that those children who participated in the D.A.R.E. programme ended up more likely to have a bit of drugs. It turns out that, weirdly, if you tell a kid not to do something they want to do it more. The Boomerang Effect comes into play, I still suffer from it as an adult: tell someone to stay away from something and they’ll be drawn to it. Even if there’s a threat of death attached to it by some copper and a puppet dog copper called McGruff (or was that just at my school?). In fact the threat of death only serves to heighten that morbid curiosity.
 

Leave Them Kids Alone!

If you couple the Boomerang Effect with the fact that you’re speaking to teenagers, who often actively seek out those actions that will piss everyone off (I still do that too), then you’ve got a perfect recipe for encouraged drug use. The problem lies in those people whose views won’t shift despite mounting evidence. This was happening very early on in the D.A.R.E. programme as researchers showed not only the ineffectiveness of the programme but the dangers of it. What promoters of D.A.R.E. heard was… well, nothing at all. That conservative strand of devout fearmongerers were sure that once they showed their children an egg frying and said “this is your brain on drugs” (they really did do that) then they’d never have to worry again. No drugs for those kids, eh? 

It is, however ridiculous, understandable that parents would get behind such a thing. It was ran by the police, it enforced rules, and it might save your child from becoming a raging bag head. However if you haven’t ever tried drugs, have no qualifications in the psychology behind drug taking, and just generally just like a little middle class outrage, then I’m pretty sure you’re not the most suitable to organise an anti-drugs campaign.   

Reagans on a Mission

Apparently who was most suitable was Nancy Reagan who told all the kids to “Just Say No” which is absolutely stellar advice unless you accidentally say yes. The campaign was so successful that Zammo and Roland from Grange Hill ended up going to the White House. In this effort to connect with the youth of the day - mainly Americans who had no idea what Grange Hill was - Nancy smilingly shouted on every television network about the dangers of something she knew nothing about. Thankfully it soon became clear that Reagan’s glaze-eyed blanket term approach wasn’t working so it was time to do away with the whole thing! Not really, course it wasn’t, why do away with something that clearly doesn’t work when it’d be much easier to just have a simple rebrand. 

As is the way with most misguided, uneducated bollocks, this unneeded rebrand wouldn’t actually come in until 2009 when D.A.R.E. became ‘Keepin’ it REAL’ which sounds like it was named by an English teacher who tries to teach William Shakespeare by rapping, in character, as MC Billy Shakes. What do you do if you realise, after a very long time, that your anti-drugs campaign isn’t working? Make it cool. In other words: keep it real.

 Keepin' it Real

Keepin’ it Real was under the D.A.R.E. umbrella but tried a new approach. I say new approach, essentially the same approach but hidden under a different banner: Keepin’ it Refuse. Explain. Avoid. Leave. It seems to me like they wanted to use ‘keepin’ it real’ as a catchphrase but had to come up with some sort of backronym to give it any sort of credibility. The truth is all of those words are just different ways to ‘just say no’; the failing approach was just dressed up in some new clothes, no revision or reflection, just roll it all in some glitter.

Amazingly though, Keepin’ it REAL has actually been successful, at least in comparison to its predecessor. Where students of D.A.R.E. were actually more likely to end up banging a load of drugs in, students of Keepin’ it REAL were 72% more likely to not become drug heads. I’m not really sure this has anything to do with the new acronym though, it’s more to do with the fact that the new programme is interactive rather than a list of instructions. Facilitating young people to make their own decisions is more effective than telling them what to do? Who’d have thought it, eh?  


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