DARE to Say No
Policing and the War on Drugs in Schools
by Max Felker-Kantor
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Pub Date 02 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 12 Mar 2024
With a signature "DARE to keep kids off drugs" slogan and iconic t-shirts, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was the most popular drug education program of the 1980s and 1990s. But behind the cultural phenomenon is the story of how DARE and other antidrug education programs brought the War on Drugs into schools and ensured that the velvet glove of antidrug education would be backed by the iron fist of rigorous policing and harsh sentencing.
Max Felker-Kantor has assembled the first history of DARE, which began in Los Angeles in 1983 as a joint venture between the police department and the unified school district. By the mid-1990s, it was taught in 75 percent of school districts across the United States. DARE received near-universal praise from parents, educators, police officers, and politicians and left an indelible stamp on many millennial memories. But the program had more nefarious ends, and Felker-Kantor complicates simplistic narratives of the War on Drugs and shows how policing entered US schools and framed drug use as the result of personal responsibility, moral failure, and poor behavior deserving of punishment rather than something deeply rooted in state retrenchment, the abandonment of social service provisions, and structures of social and economic inequality.
Max Felker-Kantor is associate professor of history at Ball State University.
"Masterful—DARE to Say No pierces through usual debates about the drug war with an original and damning framing. Many people have cultural impressions and memories of DARE, and Felker-Kantor’s book illustrates that the program’s significance is far wider and more complex than we imagined."—Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, author of Getting Tough: Welfare and Imprisonment in 1970s America
"No such historical account exists of the most widespread and well-funded antidrug program in American history. Max Felker-Kantor's carefully studied policy history on the underlying agenda of the DARE program will be readily welcomed by a range of scholars."—David Farber, author of Crack: Rock Cocaine, Street Capitalism, and the Decade of Greed
"As the demand for increased police presence in schools continues, Felker-Kantor’s timely analysis of the history of police-based antidrug programs shows clearly that these interventions don't work. DARE to Say NO is a necessary read for anyone who thinks we can police our way out of this problem."—Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing