CHILDREN AND DRUGS:
Laurence 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 havc 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 28000, Washington, D.C.
20038-8000, or call 202-331-1933 (FAX:
202-331- 1972). Or check out their web site at:National Masonic Foundation for Children
The Pennsylvania Masonic Foundation for Children
The following list of Short Talk Bulletins
also deal with the subject of Children and
7-86 'Good Kids, Hurt Kids, Bad
5-87 Masons Care About Children
1-89 Drug and Alcohol Abuse: A
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
The "Masonic Model" contains many of the
same components of all such training (e.g., pre-
sentations 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 iden-
tify 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
"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
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 28-
day 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
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
There are many examples of where a nonbureaucratic 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 Tcam 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
We have leared 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
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
expenences. 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
durng 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
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
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 otficers, 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 eftectiveness 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