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Skagen paper - Findings Revision

Skagen paper - Findings Revision - Findings and...

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Findings and Recommendations for More Effective Drug Education for Youth: Honesty, Respect and Assistance When Needed Rodney Skager, Ph.D. 1 These findings and recommendations propose fundamental changes in drug prevention education. First and foremost, most drug education should be moved up into secondary schools. Currently there is very little drug education for teenagers, and what there is merely repeats earlier messages that often are no longer credible to high school students. Continued wide spread use by teenagers of alcohol and other drugs suggests that “inoculating” most children against experimentation and use later on as teenagers has failed. At the high school level prevention education should provide honest and balanced information for all students and at the same time connect with intervention and assistance services for the minority whose use of alcohol or drugs poses problems to themselves or others. Whenever possible under the law schools should emphasize assistance rather than punishment. Effective assistance strategies will reduce negative statistics on low achievement, poor attendance and dropping out of school. Examples of such approaches are already available in some comprehensive Student Assistance Programs. Student assistance staff is trained to work with young people in ways that facilitate self-examination and development of responsibility for self and others. Published research and related principles of youth development supporting these findings and recommendations are available in Research and Theory Supporting an Alternative Perspective on Drug Education for Youth. 2 1 Rodney Skager is Professor Emeritus at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. He is a consultant to the Safety First Program. 2 Available from Safety First at www.safety1st.org . 9/30/2004 1
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Findings and Recommendations Finding 1 : Substance Use Remains Common among High School Students For at least three decades alcohol and other drug use by peers have been widely accepted in the teen population. The majority of older teenagers, including those who choose abstinence, views use of alcohol and marijuana as a social activity. Most teenagers try alcohol or marijuana because they are curious about the effects. Young people tell us that “having fun” is the reason many peers continue to drink or use. The social climate thus engendered is tolerant of experimentation and occasional use, though not necessarily of abusive use. Many of the negative messages delivered in drug education for preteen children become exaggerations or even falsehoods once teenagers acquire first hand knowledge based on observations of peer use or their own experience with substances. Such experiences promote doubts about all drug information they were given as children and as a result facilitate experimentation with alcohol and other drugs. To compound the problem, older teenagers inform us that alcohol and marijuana are easy or fairly easy to obtain. There is no reason to expect that
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