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The week TV set a better example

September 24, 1981



Television is properly chastised so often for purveying bad examples to the young that it ought to get a word of commendation when it tries to correct the balance. This week NBC is carrying a campaign against the drug culture, the pervasive atmosphere to which TV itself frequently contributes, whether through commercials making pills seem solutions rather than problems or through entertainment glamorizing alcohol and illegal drugs. It is hard to judge the campaign's effect on the intended youthful audience. But it was good to see an array of talent from all generations singing the praises of drugless enjoyments and achievements during the opening salvo on Sunday night. Besides the social and economic environment to deter resort to drugs, young people can benefit from the model of those who refuse to let drugs taint their lives and sully their attainments.

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The difficulties these days were illustrated by an episode in which a boy said he had never run into drugs at his school -- and was made out by other young people to be an extraordinary exception. They had to be reminded that such experience should not be an exception. As an educator in the turbulent 1960s noted, there is a danger in stressing student excesses to where students not involved in them feel that either they are "left out" or their elders are misinformed.

What the campaign on NBC should remind young audiences, indeed, is that most people still have nothing to do with drugs, and that the drug takers, albeit tragically numerous, are the sad, unthinking exceptions.