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Home » Is Our Education System Actually Backed By Research? – Matthew Courtney (Transcript) 

Is Our Education System Actually Backed By Research? – Matthew Courtney (Transcript) 

Here is the full transcript of Matthew Courtney’s talk titled “Is Our Education System Actually Backed By Research?” at TEDxGainesville 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


It was a typical Tuesday morning in Miss Fortune’s 5th grade class when Officer Anderson came through the door. He was standing more than 6 feet tall in his navy blue uniform with his shiny brass badge, and he’d come over from the local police department to talk to our class. Behind him, he pulled a wagon filled with red workbooks, t-shirts, and pennant flags that said, “Dare to keep kids off drugs.” This was the first of what would be a series of visits by Officer Anderson throughout the school year as he implemented the DARE program.

The DARE Program

Now, for those of you who grew up in the U.S. in the 80s or 90s, you probably had a similar experience, but for those of you who didn’t, let’s recap. The DARE program was founded in 1983 when a group of community leaders in Los Angeles came together to try to design a curriculum that they hoped would prevent kids from becoming substance users. The program quickly spread across the United States, teaching kids about the different kinds of drugs, the dangers of using illicit substances, and role-playing those classic “just say no” style scenarios.

As a nation, we spent over a billion dollars a year on this program and countless instructional hours. It was wildly popular until the late 1990s when a team of researchers looked around and said, “Hey, does this thing even work?” Turns out it did not. Those researchers took a careful look at the DARE program, and they found no evidence that it prevented kids from becoming substance users.

In fact, one study from 1998 showed that for some kids, it actually increased their substance use. Now, I don’t know about all of you, but to me, it seems pretty ridiculous that we would spend billions of dollars and hundreds and hundreds of instructional hours delivering a program in our nation’s schools before anybody bothered to ask if it was even a good idea in the first place. But here we are.

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