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CHILDREN AND DRUGS: FREEMASONRY'S ROLE
by Lawrence J. Chisholm, Ex. Dir. National Masonic Foundation for Children
In the seven years since the Conference of Grand Masters established this effort to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among children, one insight stands out with frightening clarity: The pervasiveness of the problem is still underestimated at all levels of our society and the solution is dangerously misunderstood even among many of those whose duty it is to pursue the solution. The frame of reference for these misunderstandings was discussed in our last Short Talk Bulletin. This STB deals with Freemasonry's role.
A decade ago, one Grand Lodge (Pennsylvania) initiated support of what has come to be known as ' Masonic Model" Student Assistance Training. The training has become recognized as the most effective long-term weapon we have against the problem of addiction.
The Masonic Foundation for Children has a great many publications describing its overall program and Grand Lodge participation. If you would like more information, please write the National Masonic Foundation for Children. P.O. Box 28()00, Washington, D.C. 20038-8000, or call 202-331-1933 (FAX: 202-33 1 I 972).
The following list of Short Talk Bulletins also deal with the subject of Children and Drugs.
7-86 'Good Kids, Hurt Kids, Bad Kids" 5-87 Masons Care About Children 1-89 Drug and Alcohol Abuse: A Masonic Response 5-92 Drug and Alcohol Abuse Problem: Lodges Can Help 8-94 Children and Drugs (Part 1)
How It Works
It is first of all important to mention that there are several forms of student assistance in operation today, some of which are not Prevention programs at all, but are purely informational or, in some cases, vocational or other counseling programs bearing the name "Student Assistance Training."
The "Masonic Model" contains many of the same components of all such training (e.g., presentations on "The Pharmacological Effects of Drugs," "Characteristics of an Addictive Family," etc.) but, to bear the name "Masonic Model," the Training must consist of two key components: Identification and Assistance. These two words refer to specific actions.
Heavy training emphasis is placed on Identification, which means learning how to identify those children who are at-risk of using drugs, ideally, before they begin addictive use. This is Prevention at its best, and we have learned enough over the last decades of the drug epidemic to know how to do this kind of early Identification. If the child is not helped early in the addictive process, Prevention is no longer possible and a far costlier process, Treatment, becomes necessary.
Equally heavy training emphasis is placed on Assistance, i.e., once the Identification is made, what are the several appropriate actions to take to intervene in and interrupt the addictive cycle? This can range from a simple conversation with an adult in the school who has a particular understanding of the child's situation, to a full meeting with the Core Team, the child, and the parents.
"Masonic Model" training can be either a 3-day or a 5-day session with Core Teams of 5-7 educators having been chosen from ten area schools. The Core Teams typically are made up of teachers, the school nurse, guidance counselor, someone from Administration and sometimes a maintenance or cafeteria worker if it is known they have a unique rapport with the students!
No one who has attended a "Masonic Model" session has ever failed to come away with the feeling that they have seen the solution in action, that solving the drug problem in America is possible, and that potential benefits to our country are enormous.
Based on experience so far, it is easy to see that if "Masonic Model" trained Core Teams were in place in each school in America, we would be beginning to address the very causes of the drug problem in America. This is an admittedly large vision, but let's look at some numbers.
In the Grand Lodge jurisdiction where "Masonic Model" training has operated the longest, over 7,000 educators have been trained-and over 45,000 at-risk children have been identified and assisted!
Cost for training ten Core Teams, for example, for ten schools can range anywhere from $9,000 to $14,000, depending on variables such as location, facilities, etc. Compare that with the cost of a 28day treatment for one addicted teen--$15,000 and up, at even the most reputable and effective treatment centers!
If that is not impressive enough, compare the cost of "Masonic Model" training to the billions of dollars that have been wasted over the last 20 years on programs that have repeatedly shown an inability to change anything.
We will win the War on Drugs only when we consistently direct our time, energy, and dollars toward solutions that work, solutions like "Masonic Model" Student Assistance Training, where we address causes rather than endless symptoms, where we pursue Prevention of addictive use, rather than waiting until the child is lost to us.
Freemasonry can take pride in its support of this wonderful program. The educational community has been unstinting in its praise of our efforts. Let us continue to help them to help us.
What Have We Learned?
In our seven years of work, certain key elements have become clear that form a basis for success.
We have learned that bureaucracy seems incapable of solving the problem and, in fact, there have been instances where they have formed part of the problem, attempting to obstruct rather than assist. There are many examples but, in one memorable case, the State agency responsible for pursuing solutions to the drug and alcohol problem was obstructing any program that was not their own even in cases where they had themselves failed to implement a program. Our position from the beginning has been that we need more, not less; that there must be an attitude of being inclusive rather than exclusive if we are to solve this terrible problem. The obstructionism didn't work, by the way. One of Freemasonry's most successful programs is now in place in that State.
There are many examples of where a no bureaucratic approach works better. In one eastern Grand Lodge jurisdiction, one Core Team included the school janitor because the schoolchildren frequently sought his help and advice. Within a few months after the Core Team was trained and returned to the school setting, the janitor evidenced previously unnoticed managerial skills, was made Chairman of the Team, and that school has become a model for how to clean up a drug problem.
We have learned that no one is exempt from being affected by the continuing tragedy of what the professionals in the field refer to as "alcohol and other drug addiction." "Masonic Model" trainings frequently are attended by Masonic or educational observers from other jurisdictions considering participation. At a 1988 training in the Midwest were four representatives from a New England jurisdiction, including, as head of the delegation, the chief of educational services from the State. For the first two days he was surprisingly negative in his occasional comments, maintaining that this was just another program. Just before noon on the third day, he stood with tears in his eyes and declared, "If this program had been available in (our State) six years ago, my son might still be alive." That New England jurisdiction now has one of the country's most successful "Masonic Model" programs.
At a 1992 Midwestern training, the typical midweek evening session was taking place where a recovered teen addict and a parent (in this case, a young girl and her mother) were describing their experiences. The objective of such a presentation is to make the point that if a Core Team is in place, years of heartache and agony can be cut short or avoided altogether. When the teen reached the point where she described her first drug use in the third grade, a teacher on one of the Core Teams being trained burst into tears and cried out, "Julie! I was your teacher in the fifth grade! I didn't know! I had no idea!" The "Masonic Model" trainer put her arm around the teacher and said, "That's part of what we are here for. After this training, you will never again not know."
We have learned to be patient. One High School principal was vocally pessimistic that anything could be done about the problem of children and drugs. Since undergoing "Masonic Model" training, he has given numerous talks throughout his entire State, at his own cost, urging others to adopt our program.
Similarly, another school principal from an exclusive private school was overheard to remark during a break in a 1990 training session that he didn't know why his boss had asked him to attend because private schools such as his didn't have such problems. He was informed that statistics show that private schools have a greater drug and alcohol problem, although more well-hidden, than public schools; he was promised that, if he kept his mind open during the training, he would see a different school when he went back. That principal has returned to subsequent training sessions to tell others of his eye-opening experiences.
Mike, a teacher asked by his school to attend a "Masonic Model" training, arrived and openly announced, "This is going to be nonsense. Nothing can stop these kids from what they're doing," After training, and after a few months of Core Team activity back at his school, Mike asked to become a part of that State's "Masonic Model" training team and took a pay cut to do so.
We have learned that freemasonry is saving children's lives. A Midwestern Core Team trained in 1993 was back in the school setting only a week when a Team member walking down the hall passed three whispering teens and overheard some key words she had been trained to recognize. A suicide pact was revealed and those children's lives were saved.
We have learned that, all across the country, Freemasonry's "Masonic Model" training is not only saving children's lives--many thousands of them but it is also turning those lives around so that they become healthy, productive citizens.
One promising development now being explored with the Department of Justice and in several Grand Lodge jurisdictions is the opportunity presented by coordination of efforts between the DARE program and "Masonic Model" Core Teams. The advantages to the two programs working within the same school building within close time frames are valuable and far-reaching.
DARE, as most already know, is a program presented to classrooms in the school setting by police officers, usually within the same day. DARE is a unique information program that reaches the kids in both a caring and effective way. So effective, in fact, that the very children who are of most concern, the at-risk children in pain, are often stimulated to reach out for help; but their gesture may not come, sometimes, until days or even weeks later. By coordinating the two programs, the effectiveness of the DARE information that is presented to the kids by a caring officer is combined with a "Masonic Model" Core Team in place to 'pick up the pieces' should a child reach out or respond later.
Now being discussed are (I) presentations by DARE officers to "Masonic Model" training sessions so that educators, any Freemasons present, the Core Teams, and the officers can become familiar with each others' program, and then (2) coordination of DARE presentations in schools with trained Core Teams. There is great promise for making maximum use of resources, something the entire War on Drugs has sorely neglected.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014