How DARE they?

February 6, 2012

Clive Staples Lewis - or, C.S. Lewis as he is known to the world - was an author an educator who died on the same day as President Kennedy was assassinated.  Obviously, President Kennedy’s death overshadowed that of even perhaps the best known author and educator of his day.  Thus, it was in near silence that C.S. Lewis was laid to rest.  Yet, as with the speeches of President Kennedy, the writings of Mr. Lewis still today stir the soul and remind us that ideals based in logic and common decency once held a place of esteem in our society, and should hold such a place even today.  Sadly, the ideals that Mr. Lewis proposed were not nearly as radical in his day as they are in ours.  Yet, we need them so more radically today, than then.

In his writing “The Abolition of Man” Mr. Lewis pointed out a text book that was being used to teach “upper elementary” students (presumably high school).  In critiquing the method the authors used to educate their readers on the meaning of words, Mr. Lewis observed that the authors were not teaching grammatical theory, but were laying assumptions in the mind of their youthful readers.  Those assumptions would then, ten years later, grow into conditioning within the mind of those youthful readers with such certitude that they would never even think to question the assumption at a later point.  Thus, either intentionally, or unintentionally, the authors were “cut[ting] out of his soul, long before he is old enough to chose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane.”  Thus, he said, “[a]nother little portion of the human heritage has been quietly taken from them before they were old enough to understand.”  

Mr. Lewis proposed two reasons that the authors of this book were teaching the youth of their day in the described manner.  They either did “not fully realize what they [were] doing and do not intend the far-reaching consequences it will actually have,” or they wish to produce “the ‘trousered ape’ and the ‘urban blockhead’ who would not question the assumptions they were laced with at a young age, nor those who laced them with such assumptions.”  

Had Mr. Lewis been born in 1988 instead of 1898 I suspect he would look at the government propaganda passed off in our schools, through our media, and on our billboards as having cut the soul out of our democracy one student at a time with slices going increasingly deeper every few years.  

In 1983 the D.A.R.E. program began and was delivered to our children in their classrooms.  In these programs the police were introduced as the people who were out there to save our children from the evil drug dealer who wanted to take their mommies and daddies, and enslave them into a life of prison, crime and death.  The police were warriors battling to save our society from being overrun by a horde of soulless drug crazed maniacs, but couldn’t do it alone - the kids had to help.  Police who taught this program to our children were given a whole two weeks of training before being sent off to lace our children with the zero tolerance message - zero tolerance for themselves and anyone else they knew of using.

Early studies suggested that D.A.R.E. was counter-productive to a zero tolerance goal.    Indiana University released a 1992 report that stated D.A.R.E. graduates were more likely than non-D.A.R.E. graduates to use hallucinogenic drugs.   The National Institute of Justice released reports in 1994 and in 1998 showing that D.A.R.E. was counterproductive to the stated goals.  Other groups released studies in 1995 (California Department of Education), 1999 (American Psychological Association), and 2001 (U.S. Surgeon General) all concluding that D.A.R.E. was not only ineffective, but were seen to produce higher levels of substance abuse in those who were given the training.  Nonetheless, in 2007 D.A.R.E. added a prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse curriculum, and in 2011 began a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security.    

If Mr. Lewis were alive today, and if he were to draw a critique of our government’s anti-drug efforts, he might very well assess that the people behind the D.A.R.E. program, as well as their government sponsors are seemingly attempting to create the ‘trousered ape’ or the ‘urban blockhead’ he spoke of in The Abolition of Man.  

Despite the repeatedly confirmed failure of this program we continue to drop an estimated 1.04 BILLION dollars into the D.A.R.E. program EVERY YEAR.  It’s been renamed (currently “Keepin’ it REAL”) and reformulated from time to time, but it is still out there.  How long do we have to wait this time to see if the government check-writers care about the effect their carelessness has on our children and our society?  How many more of our children are going to become addicted to hallucinogenics because someone with typically less training than it takes to become a barber took an additional two week course to teach the D.A.R.E. curriculum?  This isn't a war on drugs, it's a war on our wallets.