Can you imagine how unhealthy we'd be if we didn't have large organizations spending millions on public health campaigns? If we didn't have them to herd us around with their slogans and posters, our lives would be a nightmare of illicit drugs and bad choices.
Shockingly, however, these well-meaning programs sometimes don't work out so well.
5The D.A.R.E. Program May Increase Drug Use
Damn near every school kid in the United States has been forced to sit through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (D.A.R.E.) at least once. Good ol' Officer Friendly shows up once a month or so and leads the class through obnoxious skits intended to give them an idea what peer pressure is like and how to avoid it. Spoiler alert! You avoid it by just saying "no!"
Apparently, that works for everything from drugs to unwanted sexual advances to strong-armed robbery. But it's more than just saying no, the program aims to equip young people with "creative" ways by which to say it. For the record, we generally incorporate some sort of interpretive dance when we spurn unwanted offers of sex and drugs. But we don't dance that often, if you know what we mean, ladies.
On the surface, encouraging kids to say no to drugs seems like a fine idea. What could go wrong?
It would be hard to actually know how well a program like D.A.R.E. was working unless you, say, kept track of a thousand or so kids who went through the program and then caught up with them 10 years later. So that's exactly what some people did.
Two separate studies, the results of which were prominently reported by TIME, indicated that at the very least D.A.R.E. was ineffective, but at its worst actually pushed kids toward drug use and lowered self esteem. Researchers suspect that the overstated, "peer pressure is around every corner, because EVERYONE IS DOING DRUGS BUT YOU!" message made some kids actually want to get high as a way of fitting in. If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't they?
Look at you, just saying no to drugs, and friends, and a well-adjusted childhood.
The studies argued that the program's use of "drugs are everywhere, fucking run!" type of messages amounted to hyperbole, and kids don't like hyperbole. All it takes is the kid having one drug-using friend for him to recognize that, no, a single bong hit can't make your brain go running out of your ears like strawberry jam. And if that part is wrong, hell, maybe the whole thing is.
When are we going to figure out that even kids have bullshit detectors?
4England's Beat Bullying Campaign Gets Kids Beaten
Remember that one time when we all had this big problem and then we bought a bunch of wristbands and it went away? England's Beat Bullying campaign hoped to replicate that success in their fight against the generations-old problem of surly douchebags at school.
The idea behind the program was to sell blue wristbands that kids would wear to school to signify that they thoroughly reject bullying in all its forms, be it a physical attack, like the dreaded swirlie for example, or a more subtle form, like a YouTube video of your mom earning her "coolest" title the hard way with a group of your classmates. Kids weren't going to take it anymore. Unlike that mom of yours, who takes it all the time (if you know what we mean).
Even celebrities got in on the act, buying up wristbands by the boatload and wearing them to prominent events. We know what you're going to ask. The answer is yes, there is a picture of Bono coming up. Right now, in fact.
"Yeah, one punch and the little nerd went down. Then I took this bracelet from him."
In February of 2005, David Beckham handed out the millionth wristband to 13-year-old Jess Sparrow, who happily proclaimed "I'm here with David Beckham. It's fantastic. I hope no one has to suffer bullying ever again." Nope, that should about take care of it. Thanks, Beckham!
When trying to avoid the wrath of the school bully, it's best to not do anything that may attract their attention, like buying royal blue wristbands for yourself and everyone else in your World of Warcraft guild to wear to school. Almost immediately after the program was implemented in the nation's schools, kids wearing the blue wristband were, naturally, targeted by bullies.
One reason kids were targeted was because of the scarcity of the bracelets. The campaign was so popular at its launch that supplies of the "Beat Bullying" wristbands quickly sold out. Prices on eBay skyrocketed, reaching $32 each. Not a bad day's haul for an enterprising young bully.
Even when strong armed robbery wasn't involved, kids were just targeted because they were wearing the wristband. According to one student, "They basically thought 'Hey! Everyone who's wearing a wristband must be scared of bullying!' So they decided to bully the people wearing wristbands. So, it's made a difference, but not a good one." A ringing endorsement for a campaign that continues to this day.