Archive for January, 2008

Moving Waters in South Carolina

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Legislators in South Carolina understand the conflicting messages being delivered to men and women of the military. These individuals are provided weapons and trusted to defend their country in the most dangerous of environments. However, upon returning home, they are stripped of their label of maturity, and are told they are not responsible enough to drink a beer or glass of wine. 

Rep. Fletcher Smith (D- Greenville) is on a mission to standardize these messages, in the hope of allowing young adult members of the armed services to legally consume alcohol. We commend Smith’s efforts in his state of South Carolina, and we encourage the blossoming of comparable movements around the country. Productive steps have also been taken in Kentucky, among other states. It is abundantly clear that Congress needs to lift the 10% highway funding penalty — so that forward-thinking states can freely engage in debate, and we can finally answer the perplexing question: Fight at 18…Drink at 21?

Lessons From Frost’s Cabin

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Drunken acts of vandalism were recently inflicted upon Robert Frost’s historic Vermont farmhouse, prompting questions about the connection between the drinking age and destructive party environments. We strongly believe that what transpired on Frost Lane cannot and should not be connected to the drinking age,  but rather, speaks to the lack of alcohol education and widespread disrespect for law amongst young adults.

In this case, the perpetrators were all under-18 — true minors by every standard marker of adulthood — eroding plausible connections to the drinking age.  However, what the New York Times has coined a “violation of both the law and the spirit” (nice pun!) exemplifies the problematic culture of alcohol permeating youth circles in America. Drinking to excess is often seen as a noble act, and destroying property in the Homer Noble Farm (or dorm hallways, for that matter) an accepted rite of passage.  Young adults need to receive a thorough alcohol education — one that is reality-based, interactive, and can curb unlawful and disrespectful behavior.

In reforming youth attitudes towards the law, there are miles to go before we sleep. But try, we must.

Risky Drinking: Brian’s Story

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Brian Threet was not a big drinker, but one night of heavy drinking — a seemingly normal event in the life of a college student — was one too many. Brian, a 20-year-old student at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, lost his life to alcohol — not as a result of drinking and driving, but because of excessive alcohol consumption itself. 

 The drinking environment that led to Brian’s tragic death was risky, underground, and unfortunately, all too common in college settings. America’s youth needs to change its attitude towards alcohol, and we need to provide them with the means of doing so.

Dress for Disaster

Monday, January 7th, 2008

From ‘Toga’ to ‘Dirty Professor/Naughty Schoolgirl’ to ‘Sports Pros/Hoes,’ sexually-charged themed parties are growing in number and visibility on college campuses. The behavior of young women at these functions is particularly noticeable, unlike their clothing, as they dance scantily clad and drink to excess. The dangerous combination of revealing dress, assumed character, and risky drinking was the subject of a recent study conducted by San Diego State University and the University of Michigan. Researchers found that themed parties represent one of a few places where women outdrink men. The resulting loss of inhibition, coupled with revealing and attention-grabbing costumes, and a parade of bare skin, pose problems for the safety and well-being of young women.

 Not only do such parties promote the submissive role of the female, but they are also frequently coupled with competitive drinking. An associated finding of the study, which observed 1,304 students at 66 college parties over three semesters,  suggests that parties with drinking games result in higher blood alcohol levels.

Binge drinking is widely acknowledged as a concern amongst young adults; however, its consequences are exacerbated when intertwined with sexualized themes and costume, particularly amongst young women. Themed parties, often thought to be controversial but hardly harmful, deserve campus-wide discussion and more critical examination.

Lesson Plan: Anti-Binge or Anti-Alcohol?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Two recent New York Times opinion pieces shed light on the relationship between binge drinking and the responsibilities faced by parents and their young adult children. The dangers of binge drinking  are reinforced by Paul Steinberg, who stresses that activity’s significant negative effect on cognition and brain development. Citing research conducted by Fulton T. Crews at the University of North Carolina Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, Steinberg notes the “diminished capacity for re-learning and maladaptive decision-making” amongst binge-drinking subjects. This research raises red flags as binge drinking practices gain greater prominence on college campuses and youth environments around the country.

The dangers of binge drinking —  not the consumption of a mere beer, but rather, five, ten, or more drinks in a setting — have raised concerns for parents, as well. Michael Winerip provides an account of a parental checkmate — trying to teach his children responsible drinking practices as they inevitably face risky drinking environments, yet understanding that drinking under the age  of 21, though widespread, is illegal. Winerip proves prohibitionist programs such as D.A.R.E to be ineffective and untimely in equipping young adults with the skills to act responsibly.  However, in the face of increasingly high-risk drinking, even those parents who would never think of allowing their children to consume alcohol, are assuming less prohibitionist and more realistic stances. Other parents, who chose to turn a blind eye, have attempted to establish household policies that place harsh punishments on binge drinking offenses, rather than the consumption of a single alcoholic beverage in a controlled environment. Prohibition does not work. Without state-level adjustments in the legal age of alcohol consumption, parents must continue to walk this fine line between guidance and safety, prohibition and binge.