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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The alarming rise in illegal drug use by teenagers has made big headlines. Although drug use by adults has leveled off and is actually down since 1985, the rate of drug use (mostly marijuana) among teens aged 12 to 17 is increasing every year, doubling since 1992 to eleven percent in 1995. Marijuana damages the memory, energy, and general learning power of children. Children who start out on marijuana are 17 times more likely to progress to hard drugs than if they had never used marijuana.
The drug experts call this "very scary." Their explanations include neglect by parents, the misleading messages from political leaders, the glamorization of drugs by the entertainment industry, the failure of the media to cover the issue, and denial of the problem.
Congress has poured billions (not just millions) of taxpayers' dollars into drug education in public schools. In 1991, Congress's watchdog agency, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported to the Senate on the $1.1 billion that had been spent on drug education up to that date. The cover of the report summed up the result: "Impact Unknown."
The GAO report listed 21 classroom drug curricula commonly used in public schools. They typically presented students with a lot of "nonjudgmental information" combined with a process of "decision making" that urged students to consider the "alternatives."
A couple of courses vaguely described "refusal skills," but not a single course was based on a "just say no" approach, or stated that illegal drugs are wrong, or warned students that they must not consider the "alternative" of using illegal drugs. The courses did not comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act which requires all public schools to teach that "the use of illicit drugs and the unlawful possession and use of alcohol is wrong." Under prevailing public school methodology, all teaching (especially about sex and drugs) is "non-directive."
For example, the GAO report described a drug education course called "Me-ology." It called for 6th grade students to spend 17 hours of class time "choosing actions that conform to personal beliefs after considering alternative choices." The course did not teach that it would be wrong to choose cocaine as the "alternative" that conforms to their personal beliefs.
The GAO descriptions of the 21 drug curricula show that most of the courses spend most of their class time playing psychological games under the rubric of "enhancing students' self-awareness and self-esteem." The education theorists have convinced themselves that drug abuse is caused by students' lack of self-esteem.
Dr. Richard Clayton, director of the Center for Prevention Research at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, told the New York Times on September 18 that the popular course called DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) "has been evaluated in a reasonably rigorous way by 5 to 10 different researchers in different parts of the country," but researchers "failed to find lasting effects." Mathea Falco, whose Drug Strategies group scrutinized all published studies on prevention programs, said "the DARE evaluations did not show behavioral change."
The Education Reporter conducted an informal survey by calling nine drug-prevention programs listed in the September 11, 1996 issue of Education Week. Not one of the programs' representatives could confirm that the curriculum states that use of illegal drugs is "wrong." Most insisted that words that are included, such as "illegal," "unhealthy," and "dangerous," strongly imply that such use is "wrong." A representative of one organization even insisted that use of the word "wrong" would threaten their federal funding.
In 1995, the Michigan State Senate exposed a giant scandal in the use of federal anti-drug funds by the Michigan State Department of Education. The bureaucrats had illegally diverted more than $50 million of federal anti-drug funds into pressuring local school districts to adopt a controversial health, sex and psychological curriculum called the "Michigan Model."
Some diverted funds were spent on an organized campaign to discredit and intimidate parents by keeping files on parents, making photos and videos of them, training coordinators how to "handle" parents, having a computer bulletin board to exchange information on parents, labeling them with epithets, and inviting People for the American Way to assist in the anti-parent campaign.
Meanwhile, Michigan Drug Control Director, Robert Peterson, was reporting alarmingly high drug-use rates among Michigan youth. The illegal diversion of funds indicates that the educators were not particularly interested in addressing the increased use of drugs by teenagers, even when they were given plenty of funds to deal with the problem.
According to the GAO report cited above, federal drug education funds were also diverted to psychological and attitudinal "touchy-feely" courses in Los Angeles and Cleveland. Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign never made it into the classroom.