100 Years of “Just Say No” Versus “Just Say Know”: Reevaluating Drug Education Goals for the Coming Century

By Jerome E. Beck, Dr. P.H. Center for Educational Research and Development
From: Evaluation Review , Vol. 22 No. 1, February 1998 I5-45 1998
Sage Publications, Inc.

Through comparative socio-historical analysis of American school-based drug education, this review critically examines past perspectives and practices and how they shaped current programs. Among the key findings emerging from this analysis: Contrary to the popular belief that drug education began in the 1960s, its roots actually go back at least 115 years to the advent of compulsory temperance instruction. Although the particular substances targeted by such approaches have changed, the underlying approaches and dominant “no-substance-use” injunction has not. Despite the existence of “informed choice” approaches, throughout much of this period, evaluation efforts continue to be constrained by the limited dictates of “no–use” perspectives. A pragmatic alternative to contemporary “Just Say No” education is offered that strives to minimize potential harm resulting from the uninformed misuse of licit and illicit substances. A unique evaluative strategy designed to assess the effectiveness of this form of “informed choice” or “harm reduction” drug education is discussed.

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