Leave Them Kids Alone!
If you couple the Boomerang Effect with the fact that you’re speaking to teenagers, who often actively seek out those actions that will piss everyone off (I still do that too), then you’ve got a perfect recipe for encouraged drug use. The problem lies in those people whose views won’t shift despite mounting evidence. This was happening very early on in the D.A.R.E. programme as researchers showed not only the ineffectiveness of the programme but the dangers of it. What promoters of D.A.R.E. heard was… well, nothing at all. That conservative strand of devout fearmongerers were sure that once they showed their children an egg frying and said “this is your brain on drugs” (they really did do that) then they’d never have to worry again. No drugs for those kids, eh?
It is, however ridiculous, understandable that parents would get behind such a thing. It was ran by the police, it enforced rules, and it might save your child from becoming a raging bag head. However if you haven’t ever tried drugs, have no qualifications in the psychology behind drug taking, and just generally just like a little middle class outrage, then I’m pretty sure you’re not the most suitable to organise an anti-drugs campaign.
Reagans on a Mission
Apparently who was most suitable was Nancy Reagan who told all the kids to “Just Say No” which is absolutely stellar advice unless you accidentally say yes. The campaign was so successful that Zammo and Roland from Grange Hill ended up going to the White House. In this effort to connect with the youth of the day - mainly Americans who had no idea what Grange Hill was - Nancy smilingly shouted on every television network about the dangers of something she knew nothing about. Thankfully it soon became clear that Reagan’s glaze-eyed blanket term approach wasn’t working so it was time to do away with the whole thing! Not really, course it wasn’t, why do away with something that clearly doesn’t work when it’d be much easier to just have a simple rebrand.
As is the way with most misguided, uneducated bollocks, this unneeded rebrand wouldn’t actually come in until 2009 when D.A.R.E. became ‘Keepin’ it REAL’ which sounds like it was named by an English teacher who tries to teach William Shakespeare by rapping, in character, as MC Billy Shakes. What do you do if you realise, after a very long time, that your anti-drugs campaign isn’t working? Make it cool. In other words: keep it real.
Keepin' it Real
Keepin’ it Real was under the D.A.R.E. umbrella but tried a new approach. I say new approach, essentially the same approach but hidden under a different banner: Keepin’ it Refuse. Explain. Avoid. Leave. It seems to me like they wanted to use ‘keepin’ it real’ as a catchphrase but had to come up with some sort of backronym to give it any sort of credibility. The truth is all of those words are just different ways to ‘just say no’; the failing approach was just dressed up in some new clothes, no revision or reflection, just roll it all in some glitter.
Amazingly though, Keepin’ it REAL has actually been successful, at least in comparison to its predecessor. Where students of D.A.R.E. were actually more likely to end up banging a load of drugs in, students of Keepin’ it REAL were 72% more likely to not become drug heads. I’m not really sure this has anything to do with the new acronym though, it’s more to do with the fact that the new programme is interactive rather than a list of instructions. Facilitating young people to make their own decisions is more effective than telling them what to do? Who’d have thought it, eh?