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Volume 72, Issue 68, Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Opinion

Children must be taught respect

Christian Palmer
Opinion Columnist

Last week, the Austin-American Statesman reported that a 7-year-old boy in Round Rock used a cell phone to make 49 phony 911 calls. The motive behind the crime, which could warrant a $2,000 fine and six months in jail for an adult, was amusement.

This incident, however, reveals more than just a child's enchantment with technology -- it says children need more education when it comes to police and crime. It is natural to assume young children won't have much reverence for the brave men who save their kittens from trees and drive cars with flashy red and blue lights. That's the problem. 

911 is just a very big number to people who haven't even learned their times tables, much less been in a situation desperate enough to come to appreciate its existence. Not only is education needed to prevent such occurrences in the future, but children as young as seven should know the service is available to them in case of a real emergency.

If children were enlightened to the serious roles the police play in our communities, they might show the men and women the respect they deserve -- not only at such a young age, but in the future as well. 

For more than 20 years, programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education have been part of the academic experience for youngsters. Many sources indicate they have had enormous success with the program, which uses real police officers to make children aware of the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence. 

According to www.dare.com, the close interaction with police fosters communication between the youth and the law, "humanizes" officers, introduces police as sources of information and allows kids to recognize police as helpful people as opposed to law enforcement units. 

The curriculum has also evolved with the times, reaching out to more areas and teaming up with Play and Learn Under Supervision to provide the most useful information possible to young people.

The reason these programs are so successful is precisely because they are implemented at the right time in a child's life: when the search for identity and curiosity about fitting in begin to come into play. If we can get children to respect the authority of police officers when they're 7 years old, it's more likely they will grow up with the proper reverence for their parents, teachers and any number of other figures. 

If DARE and other such organizations continue to do what they do and do it better every year, extending the program to all grade levels, rates for crime and violence can only go down. It's not just about proper socialization -- it's about safety for everyone.

Palmer, a communication junior, 
can be reached at christianapalmer@gmail.com.

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