Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Drunk Last Night...

drunk the night before, gonna get drunk tonight like I never got drunk before!" Remember this ditty from your college days?

Shari Roan of the Los Angeles Times has been studying the debate universities, across the country, are having as to whether or not to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. The problem is the high incidence of binge drinking and the consequences thereof - everything from the onset of alcohol dependence to death.

Listening to them you'd think this is a new problem and they've been caught off guard. Did not any of those officials attend college themselves?

My college days were back in the late '50s and early 60's. The dark ages, I know. But the problem existed even then. Sloe gin in the dorms. Where I went to school all you could get in the bars was 3.2 beer; no one could afford anything stronger. Do you know how much 3.2 beer a young, healthy metabolism has to consume to get drunk? A lot. But it was accomplished on a regular basis.

I remember football players getting kicked off the team after an arrest for disorderly conduct; sorority pledges being taught the evils of consumption prior to the latest frat party only to see the older "sisters" chug-a-lugging with the best of them once there. There were the keggers on some remote piece of land the townies always knew about and the frat house parties where just about everything was available.

Know what? It didn't matter if you were 18 or 21. It was available to everyone. We're talking 40 years ago here!

There is another side to the age debate and it involves societal differences. Take the young man who can't afford to party away four or more years at college so he joins the military. Six months later he may be off to a combat zone and if he's not 21 he can't legally have a beer with his buddies before he heads out, or on an infrequent leave or after a really rough deployment.

The question is how can you allow one and deny the other? I don't see it happening. The 18 year old GI, even if allowed to drink is going to come home a far more sober, in the serious sense, individual than the college kids who think of it as a rite of passage.

Somehow, a lot of this argument seems to come back to parenting - or at least it should. In the military the young have, in a sense, substitute "parent" figures in their superiors and the discipline they learn. The college kids need to learn this discipline from their parents before they are let loose on campus, often far from home and oversite. Administrators and their staffs on a campus with thousands of students can't do it adequetly; campus police can't be everywhere and the upper classmen aren't going
to even try.

Here's what we can do. Leave the age at 21 and stop waging wars or lower it to 18 and have the adults, especially the parents, assume the responsibilities that go along with the title.


Sylvia K said...

You are so right on! I surely did my share of drinking -- wisely and otherwisely, but you know what? I grew up to be a responsible, if big-mouthed adult. My kids probably did a whole lot less than I did -- except for my youngest, but he, too, turned it around when he woke up one morning and said, 'this is pretty dumb'. They all enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, but then so do I -- look forward to my evening glass every night about nine. Great post, as always!

Anonymous said...

I've wondered whether this particular rite of passage has more to do with college students testing their limits for the first time.

In France, e.g., it's nothing for a child to have a small glass of wine with the family dinner. And I don't know for sure, but I'd be surprised if the majority of people in France were alcoholics.

Here's an idea: a two-tiered system. If you join the military, then the age limit is automatically dropped to 18. Maybe it would help with recruiting efforts. LOL!

Margie's Musings said...

I have to admit I didn't do any drinking. My parents had both been alcoholics and when you live with it for eight years, you don't care to join them in their debauchery.

Bay Views said...

I have up till now, been against younger drinking ages. Gyma's remarks make sense, though. If a person is under age 21 and wants to drink, let them. One, I assure you that if someone in the military screws up, it is treated much more seriously than would a civilian in the same circumstances. Discipline is the key here. Once the civilian courts get done with the perpetrator, the military blatantly flaunts double jeopardy. It might work.

Idaho Escapee said...

Oh maaan...I had some almost-fatal hangovers when I was attending the University of Idaho. And in the years afterwards. I had a psychological dependence; I needed to go out every weekend and lose myself. Those days are long gone. I'm lucky I didn't become an alcoholic.

Finally, once, my Dad (who could be awfully mean but had a very 'rapier' wit), once told me about the 'Pistol' club.

(Drink 'til midnite, 'Pistol' dawn)

Idaho Escapee said...

I, too, had killer hangovers in college. And in the decades after that. Psychological dependence; I'd drink to 'lose myself'.

My Dad once told me about the 'Pistol' club...drink 'til midnite, 'Pistol' dawn.