Monday, October 27, 2008

Drug Awareness Programs Have Me Seeing RED

This week (October 23-31) is Red Ribbon Week. As I was driving around town this week, I noticed an annual occurrence at several of our community’s local schools - gobs of little kids running around donning red clothing and chain link fences decorated with hundreds of little red ribbons. Some of them get really creative and use the ribbons to spell out banner-sized messages on the chain link fabric like “Just Say NO!” and “Drug Free.” Some schools still have old ribbons littering their fences from last year.

And inside school, a weeklong campaign involving poster-making, games, assemblies, and other activities designed to “raise the level of drug awareness,” takes the center of attention as well-meaning teachers and parents really believe that their meaningless, superficial acts of symbolism over substance is really going to “make a difference.” How is it that, by having little children wearing red ribbons, wristbands, or red T-shirts is going to solve the illegal drug use problems in our world? And do we really want the public school system to introduce our little children to the subject anyway?

All of this is organized and promoted nationally by the Red Ribbon Coalition which, by its own admission makes the following statement on their website: “…it is important for you to understand that Red Ribbon Week will not - nor is it intended to - fix the drug problem in America.

A little closer scrutiny of their site reveals that some of their intended goals include “social marketing,” and “social norms marketing” which is, in reality, social engineering.

I think the methods used by my parents’ generation worked pretty well. When I was in elementary school, I didn’t know anything about drugs; all I knew is that everyone stereotyped “drug addicts” as some dark, evil, undesirable element of society that we were to shun and avoid. They were “bad,” we were told, and not to be glamorized or emulated..

My first personal experience with a “drug awareness program” began when I was in Jr. high school. We were warned about the dangers of glue sniffing. For those of you who are under 35 years of age, there was a time when assembling model planes, ships and cars actually required knowing how to follow written instruction and actually gluing the parts together. Today, the nanny government has replaced parental supervision and model building is a snap. But, I digress.

Back in those days, we all had access to model airplane glue and most of us had been using it for years. But suddenly, my curiosity was piqued and I had to find out for myself, what it was like to squirt the glue into a paper bag, bury my head in it, and inhale. The good intentions of well-meaning people to make me aware resulted in my experimentation. But hey, what do I know? You might just dismiss my experience as anecdotal and ludicrous so let me offer something more compelling. Here are some excerpts from an article reported by ABC News and soon to be published in the American Journal of Public Health:

Study: Anti-Drug Ads Haven't Worked
Report Finds $1 Billion Campaign to Curb Teen Drug Use May Have Encouraged It

"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report suggests as a possible reason for its findings. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves."
"Despite extensive funding, governmental agency support, the employment of professional advertising and public relations firms, and consultation with subject-matter experts, the evidence from the evaluation suggests that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign had no favorable effects on youths' behavior and that it may even have had an unintended and undesirable effect on drug cognitions and use," the report said.

In other words, teens who specifically said they had a lot of exposure to the campaign messages were no less likely to stay away from marijuana than those who did not.

There is also a small amount of evidence that indicates the anti-drug campaign may have had the opposite effect for some teens. In one part of the analysis, teens who recalled seeing 12 or more anti-drug messages per month were actually more likely to start using marijuana than those who had seen fewer anti-drug messages per month.

In their 2004 Abstract on the Effects of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign on Youths, a group of professors and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported the results of their study. They determined that most anti-drug advertising campaigns had NO EFFECTS on the children. In fact, more ad exposure predicted LESS INTENTION TO AVOID MAIJUANA USE and WEAKER ANTI-DRUG SOCIAL NORMS.

They concluded that the campaign was unlikely to have had favorable effects on youths and may have had delayed unfavorable effects. The evaluation challenged the usefulness of the campaign.

The bottom line is that the very campaigns and ad programs designed to prevent illegal drug use actually encourage it. But I guess the facts don’t matter. The important thing is how good we all feel about our intentions regardless of the outcomes. But the real question remains; do you want the school, which is probably miserably failing to teach reading, writing, counting, and thinking, to take the responsibility to provide social, behavioral, and moral education to your child? This is one more compelling argument for home-schooling.


Stan McCullars said...


I do find it annoying how the proponents of such programs look down their noses at us as though they are superior. Same thing with so-called "global warming."

Anonymous said...

Home-schooling is the best answer to this nonsense. The second-best answer is Christian schooling that is based in truth rather than in mindless, feel good programs the world throws our way. Far too many Christian schools waste days of instruction in order to participate in this type of foolishness. Jayson Finley

Anonymous said...

I agree about homeschooling. This is the same kind of social engineering and brainwashing that convinced a whole generation children that exposure to second-hand smoke is more dangerous than actually smoking.

David vanHorn

Stan McCullars said...

And let's not forget fetal-alcohol-syndrome.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Right, Stan.

The point of all this is that all of this symbolic awareness happycrap is perpetrated on our children whose empty brains are being filled with dung. Educators stopped teaching children HOW to think a long time ago; now they teach them WHAT to think. This current election cycle is proof that most Americans are incapable of reason; all they do is "feel."

Stan McCullars said...

True. All too true.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget about Earth Day and green awareness.


Anonymous said...


YOUR school participated in Red Ribbon Week, complete with an assembly with the CHP.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

Dear Anonymous,
I don't know what you are talking about when you say that MY school is participating in this. I don't have a school, I don't work at a school, and I don't have any kids in any school. So I can only assume that you must be aware of my former involvement on the board of a private school over which I no longer have any influence or control. But thank you for your comment; your ignorant and irrelevant response makes my point that most people act on emotions, can't think, and don't know how to process objective information. We're all in trouble.

Roger Gilstrap said...

See, here's how it works. Red is the color of blood, and blood is a good thing. It makes us feel good to have enough blood, and the red ribbons remind us to feel good. On the other hand, drugs are bad, even though they can make us feel good, but that is a bad good, since drugs are harmful most of the time, unless of course they are prescribed, and then they cannot harm us. A prescription makes drugs good, so red ribbons can also remind us of how comfortable drugs can make us. But, it is normally better to feel good about having enough blood than it is to feel good about having enough drugs. That's why red ribbons are a very good thing to have in schools. When students feel good about themselves, they can't help but succeed, even if they flunk out. Simple.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...


I'm not sure what you said but I feel like I agree with it. That makes about as much sense as awareness campaigns.

Anonymous said...

How cud you bad-moth a wunderful prowgram lyke Red Ribbun Weak? It is four the childrun, and yoo wood deny them they're fun. Thay kan uhford wun dae frum they're lessons, lyke spellink.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...

deer a nanny mouse

Thanks fer yer commint. That wuz a gud wun.