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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The anti-drug anthem of the '90s

Well, I was wrong to say blogging has been going on for a decade. I finally found my old .txt archives, and it appears that blogging in some rudimentary form commenced in ye olde daies of 2001, era of sincere animated GIFs (as opposed to meme-induced nostalgia). There isn't much in them that bears reproduction; high school was not a time of great prose styling. But, I did find this one memento that actually predates the blog age which was too excellent to withhold: it is the time my friends and I wrote what should've been the pre-teen anti-drug anthem of the '90s, but it surprisingly failed to catch on.

This is from 1996, and the dance craze of that year, as some of you may recall, was the Macarena. (Side note: Whit Stillman was not exactly wrong in his argument about the social importance of dance crazes in Damsels in Distress, a film I have yet to comprehensively defend but one day will.) In 1996, I was in the sixth grade and enrolled in the school-wide anti-drug education program, DARE. DARE, for those unfamiliar with the recent history of great ideas in American education, was an idea about how children could be effectively manipulated through a combination of fear and "frank talk," which is not wholly unlike the impetus behind YA realism and many other efforts to "reach" the truculent, rebellious yoof of America. I don't know whether the program worked (though I'd be surprised if it did) or if it's still taught in my middle school or any other, but it was the source of at least three of the better forays into hilarity of this period of my life. This was one of them. It's hard to justify this event except by means of the excuse, "cash prize."   

What happened was that the assistant principal and head cheerleader for all hare-brained youth-intervention efforts like this announced a contest to pump us up for the awesome! fun! team-building! that was spending spending an hour a week being lectured by a local police officer and his teddy bear ("the DARE bear"), and greatly expanding our as yet undeveloped knowledge of the world of illicit narcotics. The way to get us excited, concluded the assistant principal, was to solicit an original, DARE-based song to the tune of the Macarena. The person who submitted the best lyrics would win $20 (a veritable fortune from the 12-year-old perspective) and a chance to perform their song over the PA and, along with a choreographed dance, in front of the student body at the annual DARE "graduation." DARE had a remarkable 100% graduation rate. This was due to the exacting nature of its requirements, which consisted of signing a pledge that, "I, [insert name], will never do drugs." My mother suggested appending "again" to that line to see how it would go over.

So, led by my enterprising and creative friend Dale, another friend and I met to hammer out the best anti-drug Macarena the world has ever heard, not least because it was the only one. Dale wrote most of these lyrics, Cathy and I contributed mainly moral support, and later, back-up dancing assistance. We won the contest with this:
The DARE Macarena 
Drug Abuse Resistance Education,
It can help you but we need participation.
It's really fun and it takes determination.
Hey, D-A-R-E! 
If you do drugs, your future won't be sunny.
Don't do drugs if you want a lot of money.
You may think it's a joke, but it's really not funny. 
Hey, D-A-R-E!
Gus was a boy who was head of the class.
Then he did drugs and ended up last.
This is just a lesson of something from the past. 
Hey, D-A-R-E!
If someone says, "Want some drugs today?"
You don't have to turn and run away.
You can stand up straight; NO is what you should say. 
Hey, D-A-R-E!
When you're a kid, you're always feeling feeling bad.
Then as you grow, you may feel sad.
But don't resort to drugs or you'll feel bad. 
Hey, D-A-R-E!
DARE is fun and really cool.
Its educational and right in your school.
You'll want to join and it really does rule. 
Hey, D-A-R-E!
Drug Abuse Resistance Education,
It'll help you but we need participation.
It's really fun and it takes determination.
Hey, D-A-R-E! 
[Spoken] We dare you to DARE!
The first great difficulty with our victory came when we had to split our $20 prize three ways. As I recall, that was somehow resolved with my two friends getting $6.75 each and my getting $6.50 because I "sucked at singing." (True fact.) The second great difficulty came with our public performance of this masterpiece. Dale had, in addition to her youthful songwriting talents, choreography talents that resulted in a complex performance piece featuring the aforementioned "Gus" meeting his drug-addled fate. Then she broke her leg several weeks before the performance and had to dance with the cast. A great moment in the annals of middle school humiliation.

4 comments:

Jacob T. Levy said...

A) I like your mother.

B) DARE very emphatically did not work. There's never been a study showing it to be effective and it ended up cut off from federal funding due to the complete lack of scientific support for it. Your story is a pretty good example of the level of sophistication it always demonstrated.

Andrew Stevens said...

I once met a young woman who told me that A) she didn't even know anything about drugs until she was in DARE and B) shortly after she was in DARE, she started using drugs. So my very unscientific conclusion would be that it probably promoted drug use.

Withywindle said...

I also like your mother. Jacob and I will have a thumb-wrestling match to determine who likes her most.

Miss Self-Important said...

JTL: Yes, not surprising. Although I'm not sure just how sophisticated any program aimed at sixth graders can really be.

AS: Annnnd, that will have to be my next blog post - tale #2 of how DARE went wrong.

Withywindle: I bet she's pleased with all this liking.