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A school course to learn how to say no

18/02/2005: General House

EU-DAP are the initials of a programme, organised by the European Commission for Public Health for the prevention of the use of drugs in schools. At the present moment, only seven states (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden) support this initiative, aimed at young people starting high school, aged thirteen and fourteen years.
The first results that have been made public reveal a worrying situation: at 14 years of age, 28.3% smoke cigarettes, 16.3% drink alcohol weekly (22% have been drunk at least once during the last 12 months) and 7.1% have used cannabis during the last month (under the form of marijuana or hashish). The percentage who have already used cocaine (1.5%) or ecstasy (0.8%) certainly are not high, yet nevertheless as it refers to children 14 years old, this is data that cannot leave you unconcerned. And if this is the panorama of the 14-year-old age bracket, what will it be like when they reach 20? It is not misinformation that pushes young people towards alcohol, smoking and drugs, but pressure from the group in which they live: parents (53% have at least one parent who smokes), friends, role models in society…

Faced with this problem, the European Commission has launched a project that will provoke quite a reaction among supporters of a free education at Summerhill: “You need to learn to say no” because giving information does not work and in fact, at times, produces the opposite effect. It is more important to develop in young people the capacity to express their own opinions, to forge a critical spirit, to confront the stress in difficult situations and to know how to get out of them, to be a leader without complying with the group. “To learn to say no” is not therefore the usual Lenten project proposed by so many bishops in the Catholic Church, but an educational programme of a political organisation that will involve students by regular lessons throughout a five-year period.

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