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The Ebb and Flow of the D.A.R.E. Program

Updated on June 5, 2010

If you were in elementary school during the 1980's, you probably remember the D.A.R.E. program. Started in 1983, this school-based program was designed to educate children about the dangers of drugs and violence. What you might remember about the program is having a police officer come to your classroom to teach you about drugs, gang membership and violence prevention. If you ask your own kids about this today, they will likely tell you something like, "yeah, I think we had something like that last year".

That's because D.A.R.E. is still around in schools and communities today. In fact, they are regularly re-vamping and re-working their programs in order to be able to keep their information current with modern issues facing children. (For example, they recently altered their program to include information about the use of prescription medications as recreational drugs, a widespread problem in schools today.) The overarching goal of the organization, which is to get kids comfortable with law enforcement in order to build stronger and safer communities, is still being met in schools today. So why don't we hear as much about D.A.R.E. as we did when we were in school?

There are many different reasons that D.A.R.E. isn't as heavily promoted and "in the public eye" as it once was. There has been an ebb-and-flow to D.A.R.E. over the years. Sometimes the program makes news headlines. Other times people who bother to think about it wonder if it even still exists. But it doesn't really matter whether the organization is in "ebb" or in "flow" mode; it continues operating to meet its goals regardless of whether community attention is focused on its efforts or not.

Here are some of the reasons that there is an ebb-and-flow to the attention we give D.A.R.E.:

  • Popularity of the program. The popularity of this program has varied over the years. It was originally a highly popular program which parents, community leaders and the media strongly supported. In the 1990's, it decreased in popularity because of reports that anti-drug programs were not successful in deterring drug use among children. The changing popularity of the program (and even the criticism of it) caused media attention that made people more aware of the D.A.R.E. program.
  • Personal interest. When you were in elementary school, you were interested in D.A.R.E. because you were a kid and the officers were coming to your classroom to talk to you. If your kids speak to you about the fact that D.A.R.E. officers came to see them, you'll be interested in the topic again. But for the most part, the intervening years will find you not thinking twice about D.A.R.E. If you're not thinking about it, you don't notice the news.
  • Changes in the focus of schools. The implementation of nationwide standardized testing and other curriculum changes have altered the focus of many schools. Although schools do still recognize the importance of anti-drug and anti-violence programs, they don't always have the time to focus on this type of education. There are only so many hours in a school day and some programs, like guest speakers from D.A.R.E. have to be cut to accommodate the change in focus of schools.
  • Political climate. When politics change, programs change as well. Legal acts that make anti-drug programs a focus can bring attention back to D.A.R.E. Likewise, when the politics of the country are focused on other aspects of education and non-education politics, D.A.R.E. may lose attention by the general public.
  • Interest of officers in the program. You can't just walk into D.A.R.E. and start working with them. To become a D.A.R.E. officer requires eighty hours of training at a minimum (with another 40 recommended for those officers that are teaching at the high school level). Like with any other program, the D.A.R.E. program sees an ebb and flow in the level of interest that officers have in participating in the program.
  • Availability of alternative programs. D.A.R.E. is a well-known name but it's not the only anti-drug, anti-violence, community-building organization in existence. Schools have their own programs. Communities have local organizations. Other nationwide organizations exist to raise awareness of these issues. Because of this, we sometimes see a decrease in D.A.R.E. presence that doesn't translate to a decrease in the presence of anti-drug education in the classroom.
  • Success of alternative methods to drug prevention. In addition to the general availability of other programs, there is a specific difference between some programs and D.A.R.E. For example, there are organizations working towards the decriminalization of drugs whereas D.A.R.E. has a no-tolerance approach to drug use. When organizations with opposing approaches gain success, interest in D.A.R.E. can decrease.
  • D.A.R.E. is well-established. Because D.A.R.E. is a well-known organization that has been around for twenty years, it doesn't have to fight for media attention. It doesn't have to promote itself excessively to get the attention of the general public because the general public already knows it exists. It doesn't have to send out a slew of press releases because it has decades of proof of its services. And the media doesn't really have a reason to focus on the program because it's just doing what it does - drug awareness.
  • Funding changes. When D.A.R.E. does start fighting for media attention is likely when the organization needs additional operating funds. The fact of the matter is that it costs a lot of money to do the kind of training and services that the organization provides. Changes in funding change how much media attention the organization needs as well as how many programs they can offer to students.

D.A.R.E. has been around for a long time. If you have the chance to stop into a classroom where a D.A.R.E. officer is giving a presentation, you'll find that the education they provide is significantly different from what we saw back in the 1980's. That's because there are different problems facing twenty-first century children than there were facing us when we were kids. But the program still maintains many of the same goals. And it's still out there working to achieve those goals, even if you don't hear a lot about it these days.

Question to readers: Do you believe that the D.A.R.E. program is successful in drug and violence prevention?


Submit a Comment

  • ARKAWANA profile image

    ARKAWANA 7 years ago

    JOHNWINDBELL You are wrong, I have meet students over the past 5 years that Love their DARE Teacher and learned to make better choices then you must have. These kids remember what was shown to them and want a better future then most of them from druged up parents. You are way off Base. Go back to School.

  • johnwindbell profile image

    johnwindbell 7 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

    No, I feel DARE, and those like it, are responsible for teaching and introducing our children to drugs before the parents have a chance. Another GOV. agency that made more problems than solutions. Can we expect anything but?

  • shareitt profile image

    shareitt 7 years ago

    knowledge is power :) thanks for your hub

  • kirstenblog profile image

    kirstenblog 8 years ago from London UK

    Oh I loved this one! I was a dare kid back in the '80s. As a teen in the '90s I was a bit cynical as my views on drugs did not follow the propaganda of the dare program but I still loved it! Problem was in the '80s I was living in a home where alcohol was being severely abused by my step-mom and by the '90s I was no longer living with my family, was with my adopted mom instead. I found the no tolerance stance of the dare program a bit difficult to swallow when my family life was ruined by a legal drug and I could see example after example of illegal drugs (mainly cannabis) not causing the devastation that alcohol had caused in my life. Even now I wonder, one of my old high school friends died from a drinking accident, he fell off a bridge while very very drunk! I had loads of friends who tried a variety of drugs and its alcohol that has proved time and again to be the most devastating drug to their lives and mine.

    I loved the dare program because I like the nice police officers that made me feel I could trust them, the message itself is not one I agree with but I am glad that they are still around and who knows the essence of their message may be more honest and straight forward then it was when I was a kid.

  • profile image

    ESAHS Association 10 years ago

    I agree! Your focus answer to my question is an political view and is grounded in popularity also and Reagan is no longer president. Hence! The goverment now focuses on war and the old mighty dollar which includes the fact some family values have declined amoung U.S. culture. "Therefore our current social climate in the U.S. pro choice and our no childern say no to their parents in a mintue!"

    Lastly, the Dare Program declined in popularity also due mainly to it was no longer being a major govermental focus to control drug abuse and which includes the wide spread of numerous street drugs( Meth,Heroin, Inhalent -Abuse,prescription drugs (Hydro) not limited to old drug crack cocaine.

    Nice Hub!

    Signed CEO ESAHS Association

  • Catawn profile image

    Catawn 10 years ago from Portland, OR

    Hmmm, I always wondered about that. I had it back in the ol' days of elementary and middle school, and I remember being really unable to stand it. I don't think they'd worked out some of the kinks at that time, because most of the kids seemed to dislike the program.

    Though, being a middle schooler, you disliked most things anyhow.

    Great hub and info, and nice to see there's something out there still. ;3