Last week there was a news item about a school in the San Diego area about a "scared straight" tactic they used. Lots of backlash, lots of complaints, . . . and lots of making sense, if you ask me. (If you didn't click the link, the school kept several students from going to classes, then announced that they died in drinking-related accidents. The students showed up later in the afternoon, and the school announced that the scare tactic was to prove a point. People were pissed, but students got the message.)
We do a thing here every other year (that many, many schools do) in partnership with the local police department called "Every 15 Minutes." Students are taken from classes by the Grim Reaper every 15 minutes all morning to indicate how often someone dies from drinking-related accidents, and then there's a big to-do out back of campus with a simulated accident scene, simulated blood, and real emergency response--including the medivac helicopter--to demonstrate just how ugly it gets.
Our program makes a point. Theirs, I feel, does it much better.
What impressed me is that several of the students interviewed really felt like they learned something. In the 21st century, there's a certain amount of desensitization in kids that I don't think enough of us recognize. In order to get the message across that violence is bad, we're competing with violent video games played by the hour each day. When stressing the dangers of sex, we're competing with cable television (my assistant pointed out to me that she needs to have "the talk" with her youngest son, who's just finishing the second grade, for the love of God). To counter all of this, we need to take a page from a district-level friend of mine who coordinates emergency drills: the best drills, he says, aren't announced until they're over.
"Scared straight" needs to go to the next level to be effective. Fine by me.
*In "Seven," Kevin Spacey's character is creepy as hell. He's got a valid point, though.