During the week of Oct. 23-31, schools and organizations across the nation participated in Red Ribbon Week. If you don’t know what Red Ribbon Week is, it is a widely-recognized campaign aimed at taking a visible stand against drug use.
The red ribbon became a symbol after Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico City in 1985. Red ribbons were placed upon his grave, and thus have stood as a visual symbol against alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and violence.
I was made aware of Red Ribbon Week when I was in elementary school and we used the entire week to have dress-up days and activities surrounding the issue. Many elementary schools still participate in this week in their own ways. I have no doubt that Red Ribbon Week was created to handle a profound, significant issue. My doubt is whether or not young elementary students have the intellectual capacity to be participating and whether or not they should be introduced to the topics in the first place.
You may be thinking that a student’s age does not mean they will not be exposed to drug or alcohol abuse and violence, but I pose this question parallel to the issue of sex education in schools.
Some school districts include no to very little curriculum about sex education. Arguments opposing sex education for high school-age students include statements like, “Sex education exposes students to sex and therefore encourages sexual activity,” or “gives students more information about ‘risky business’ which is irresponsible.”
There are, of course, many differences between the issues of sex education and a campaign about drug and alcohol abuse. But an important connection I am trying to make is that if high school students cannot be offered sex education because of the reasons I stated above, how can elementary students be exposed to an event like Red Ribbon Week, and participate in conversations about drug abuse?
These children cannot possibly understand the actual impact of drug use and abuse, and their age limits their ability to accurately process this topic. It may seem harmless to participate in fun dress-up days, and all for a good cause, but drug abuse will be mentioned to the children at some points and they might just be too young to appropriately comprehend the subject.
Children of all ages should be educated about subjects they will encounter in their own lives. Useful curriculum could give students the necessary tools to be out in the real world and deal with topics like sex and drug use on their own, but each topic and style of teaching should be appropriate to age and ability to comprehend.