Red Ribbon Week the new gateway drug
I am not going to send my 6-year-old out to prosthelytize the neighborhood about the evils of drugs just to earn a paper "key" to tack up on a wall at school.
For one thing, the neighbors all are in the Army. They're subject to random drugs tests, and chances are they already are well-versed in the physical and career hazards of illegal substances.
For another, asking first-graders to tell others about the dangers of drugs presumes knowledge most of them are fortunate to not have. Big Guy hadn't even heard of drugs - aside from the pharmacy variety - until yesterday, when the Red Ribbon Week packet arrived home.
Isn't that a kick in the pants? A kid learns about drugs through an anti-drug program. Where are all the conservatives who usually howl about schools taking over parenting on this one? They're strangely silent, because Red Ribbon Week was born in part out of Nancy Reagan's incredibly naive "Just Say No" slogan.
Naive, because it takes more than vocalizing three words to "just say no." It takes self-esteem and confidence. Reagan knew that - "Understanding what drugs can do to your children, understanding peer pressure and understanding why they turn to drugs is... the first step in solving the problem," she'd once said - but that part of the message is lost in the din of the shouting and in the carping of those who like to portray addiction as a moral failing.
Sending 6-year-olds out to parrot adult words they don't understand isn't going to do a thing to help children develop the skills truly needed to resist drugs. If we must have a Red Ribbon Week in first grade - and keep in mind that even the much-criticized Drug Abuse Resistance Education doesn't even start until fifth-grade - it should focus on lessons that are useful.
Concepts such as resisting bullies. Learning to be confident in who you are and what you believe in. Standing up when someone tries to get you to do the wrong thing. Respecting rules and yourself and the consequences of not doing so.
They're all values that are useful now and through out a child's life. I'm not seeing much value, though, in walking around telling people drugs are bad and they shouldn't use them.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.