Newsmakers

April Fool

Perhaps you were too busy on April 13th preparing to join an estimated 3 million young people for the 12th annual National Youth Service Day on April 14-15 to check out the White House web site. 

If you had, you would have discovered that our still-not-clued-in-on-youth-issues President Clinton had issued a proclamation making April 13th National D.A.R.E. Day. “Since 1983” proclaimed the president, “there has been a strong positive influence in the lives of America’s children that is helping them to navigate safely through … danger and uncertainties: Drug Abuse Resistance Education.”

An estimated 80 percent of Americans now in their prime drug-abuse years have passed through D.A.R.E. to little effect. For example, a new survey in D.A.R.E.-saturated Wisconsin by the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Extension found that 22 percent of ninth- through twelfth-grade students used marijuana, twice the percentage who did so in 1993.

The latest zinger in a no longer even mildly surprising series of D.A.R.E. exposes ran in the Detroit News in February. Reporter Jodi Upton found that 70 of Metro Detroit’s 88 school districts use D.A.R.E. The result: 60 percent of high school seniors have used drugs, 5 percentage points higher than the national average.

In reality, D.A.R.E.’s expensive program survives thanks solely to the symbiotic relationship between local, state and federal elected public officials and police departments. D.A.R.E. is to drug education what Scientific Marxism was to compulsory political education: After billions of hours of mandatory instruction, few true believers.

Los Angeles-based D.A.R.E. dismisses all critics as pro-drug legalization advocates and numerous negative D.A.R.E. evaluations over a decade as flawed, since, claims D.A.R.E., it has changed its curriculum – which D.A.R.E. refuses to release for public scrutiny. In a rare interview with the Detroit News, D.A.R.E.’s $240,000 per year (in 1997) president, Glenn Levant, says “When they [parents and school officials] are happy with the program, then I know it’s doing good.”

So far that’s not good enough for President Clinton’s Department of Education, which courageously left D.A.R.E. off its list of drug education programs whose effectiveness has scientifically been established and are thereby recommended for classroom instruction using Safe and Drug Free Schools funds. But D.A.R.E. is a very big business, with revenue in 1997 totaling $223,119,690. Among D.A.R.E. America’s 1997 expenses: compensation of $222,500 to Levant’s deputy Charlie Parsons; $40,000 for lobbyist Scott Green, a former judiciary committee staffer to Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), to ensure the funneling of millions directly from Congress to D.A.R.E. America; and ownership of a Baglietto yacht with a now-depreciated value of $206,500.

D.A.R.E. we say, this is a collision on the high seas of national drug education politics just waiting to happen.

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