Gazette: D.A.R.E. is for drugs, cookies are for munching

What do Boulder and Colorado Springs have in common? Among other things, there’s Wayne Laugesen, a former libertarian columnist at The Boulder Weekly who some time ago took up the post of the editorial page editor of The Colorado Springs Gazette. And, as Laugesen in the past applauded eliminating the law enforcement-sponsored D.A.R.E. in Boulder, he’s now promoting abolishing the anti-drug education program in tax-strapped El Paso County, where the sheriff is looking to save $1 million a year.

Reading from critical comments posted at the newspaper’s Web site, Laugesen’s controversial position crosses about three tokes over the line for many in this conservative town — but it is certainly consistent with the small-government libertarianism that the daily newspaper espouses.

From the editorial:

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa may eliminate the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program because voters rejected a requested 1-cent countywide sales tax increase. The demise of the county program would be a prime example of low taxes, limited government and spending cuts helping the public.

The elimination of D.A.R.E. stands to benefit the county. Sheriff’s deputies should be fighting crime, not teaching drugs in the classroom. Public schools, furthermore, have no business introducing the subject of drugs to our kids without conclusive proof that these efforts help.

Laugesen is correct in the notion that little proof exists that the D.A.R.E program — which started in Los Angeles in the 1980s and has long since been installed in communities across the country — actually works (though one analogy that is used in the Gazette editorial is positively munchie-inducing:

Each child is a unique individual who responds in a different way to information and authority. Some children, told to avoid the cookie jar, do as they’re told. Others interpret the order as a message that warm cookies have been placed in the jar, and cookies are for eating. Keeping kids out of cookie jars is tough; keeping them off drugs can be tougher.

Anyway, in an 1998 editorial in The Boulder Weekly citing the same rationale — including the assertion that D.A.R.E. does not work — Laugesen dared law enforcement there to eliminate the practice of teaching children all about drugs in public schools.

“The results will be astounding,” Laugesen predicted. “Fewer children will use drugs, more classroom time will be spent on legitimate education, and police will be able to focus on crime.”

In 1995, Oakland, Calif., became the largest city in the United States to eliminate the D.A.R.E. program.

But if a recent news story in his own newspaper is any indication, Laugesen has an uphill battle. Over in Widefield, in southern El Paso County, school leaders are battling valiantly to keep the D.A.R.E. program intact.