The Corner

Booze Follies

My professor friend Steven Horwitz chimes in:

The eyeballing thing hit our campus a few years back along with another method:  young women choosing to deliver alcohol via a tampon inserted in the usual place.  In both cases, the behavior is about “macho” alcohol stuff, but also about finding ways to deliver alcohol without calories.  Both methods also, supposedly, enable kids to get drunk more quickly.  It’s a doubly sad state of affairs when young women feel pressure to drink heavily just to get drunk (and keep up with the boys) and to do so in ways that maintain crazy perceptions of female body image.  The whole notion of delivering alcohol without tasting it is the perfect symptom of the problems of high-risk drinking among the under 21 set.

These are all, in my view, unintended consequences of the 21 year old drinking age and DARE and related culture of eeeeeeevil that we’ve created around alcohol in this country.  Kids have very few responsible role models for healthy and cultured use of alcohol and they don’t have the rites of passage to adulthood of prior generations that it often seems high-risk alcohol behavior is substituting for.  (Which raises a research project I’d love to see:  compare the drinking habits of Jewish college students who did and did not have a bar/bat mitzvah and see if communal recognition of adulthood matters at all.)

The bottom line after over 20 years in the business, 6 of which were spent as an administrator overseeing first-year students, is that high-risk alcohol use is the single largest factor interfering with my ability to educate college students the way I think I should be able to and the way they should want to be educated at the price they are paying.  All the concerns about political correctness and crazy professors and curricula are all well down the list. 

Until we get a sensible policy around alcohol and help young people use it responsibly, and enable colleges to facilitate responsible use for those under 21, we’re going to see more stories like this one.  And we’re going to see more young people injured and dead from high-risk use, and more wasted (no pun intended) potential among those same young people.  I love my job, but having seen student alcohol abuse from the inside makes me both very sad and very angry, and very frustrated with a political culture that refuses to take on this problem.

I think he’s absolutely right. I think the 21 drinking age has always been deeply flawed, creating all sorts of perverse unintended consequences.


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