So John, as a fifth grader, participated in the DARE program at school this year. DARE programs were established soon after I entered high school, and I never knew much about it. I've always kind of associated it with things like Nancy Reagan saying "Just say no" on Diff'rent Strokes and the "Your brain on drugs" commercial -- things that I was aware of, but were merely crass appeals to reason that I was too old for.
I've since wondered about the effectiveness of the DARE program -- apparently there are few studies that look at its outcomes, and the few studies that there are don't agree on how useful the program is. It can eat up class time, it is inconsistently applied across school districts depending on who's running the program, and I can speak from experience in saying that it sometimes has your kid asking hard questions that make you feel like your totally rationalizing. Which you just might be.
In any case, though, I figure there are enough families that need to have those conversations, and if this opens that door, then I'm OK with that. Also, in a small town, I appreciate John knowing the police chief by first name and being thrilled to get his picture taken with him after the DARE graduation. We heard every week about what Chief D. had to say, and John would bring home worksheets about alcohol, drugs and tobacco. It made a huge impression. HUGE.
A week or so after the DARE graduation, I ran into the sheriff at the recycling center. While the sheriff probably couldn't come up with our name, we know his because his wife was Maia's preschool teacher for two years. So as I was sorting my recycling, I told him how much John had enjoyed the DARE program and thanked him for his work.
He thanked me for telling him that, and said he thought it was a good program. We chit-chatted about it for a little bit -- not chit-chatted, but yelled at each other over the noise of me sorting my recycling into clear, green and brown. Sorting glass is noisy. Sorting glass beer bottles is really noisy.
"I think it's good for people to talk with their kids about alcohol use," I hollered as I sorted out my 20-gallon bin that was full of empty beer bottles. I looked at the bin. "Um. Yeah."
This story gives me a chance to share a photo from the recycling center. This is a semi-trailer that's pulled up behind it and it has some of the awesomest graffiti I've seen (click on the photo to enlarge it -- it's a pretty good graffiti job!):