Archive for May, 2012

Reactions to yesterday’s NYT essay

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

John McCardell’s essay spurred quite a conversation in cyberspace–and surely face-to-face– yesterday. Supporters and dissenters of a lower drinking age, albeit with a license, made their voices heard by commenting on the New York Times page, on our Facebook page, and through our Twitter feed.

We often receive emails from high school students interested in lowering the drinking age, and this is not surprising. These students perceive an intrinsic benefit in lowering the drinking age. So it was interesting that most of our commenters on the NYT page yesterday were, according to the information they provided, middle-aged people with young adult children. These people are not fighting for a lower age because they seek the freedom. Instead, based on their comments, this demographic favors a lower drinking age to enable a greater sense of responsibility in their children. The opinion of adults who can drink on their own yet do not have the opportunity to teach their children to do so demonstrates the disparity in the intention of the law and in the outcome of the law.

One particularly pertinent comment is included below. And readers, we’d love to hear what you think about Dr. McCardell’s essay. Go ahead and provide your insight in the comment section below.

From “A Cranky Alumna” in Ohio:

As the parent of two young adults, I was shocked at the ways their college experiences differed from mine regarding alcohol. At a small liberal arts college in the 70s, when the drinking age was 18, alcohol was an integrated and thus controlled and, indeed, educational aspect of college life. Wine and beer were served at college-sponsored functions; security was generally informed of larger student parties, loosely monitoring them not in search of violations but to ensure safety; it was a treat and an achievement to be invited to a professor’s home for an evening that might well include a tutorial on the fine points of a special apertif. In short, responsible, intelligent drinking was seen as an aspect of responsible, intelligent adulthood, something to which we all aspired.

By contrast, when my children attended a similar college 30 years later, the official position was that there was no drinking on campus. There was, of course: students drank as much as possible, as fast as possible, as surreptitiously as possible. There was no occasion for drinking with any objective other than to get drunk, and most frightening of all, students were so intimidated by the zero-tolerance policy that they refused to call security when problems–ranging from alcohol poisoning to drug overdose to sexual assault–inevitably ensued.

You tell me which strategy is most likely to result in healthy, responsible young adults.


John McCardell on the Drinking License

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Choose Responsibility President emeritus John M. McCardell published an essay on the drinking age and a proposed drinking permit in the New York Times today. The essay evaulates the effectiveness of the current drinking age and provides a common sense solution for teaching young people to drink, and act, responsibly. McCardell writes,

We should prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol in the same way we prepare them to operate a motor vehicle: by first educating and then licensing and permitting them to exercise the full privileges of adulthood so long as they demonstrate their ability to observe the law.

If you infantilize someone, do not be surprised when infantile behavior — like binge drinking — results. Prohibition is not the answer, and never has been. Let us treat young people who turn 18 as the adults who the law, in every other respect, says they are.

You may read the entire article here.

Solutions in Communication

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Several days ago, I posted about parents hosting parties for the underage children. And while we by no means endorse breaking the law–people under 21 cannot legally consume alcohol–we realize that parents of teenagers are in an uncomfortable position. It can be treacherous to speak candidly about alcohol without scaring a teenager away or making them think drinking is allowed.

Linda Flannigan, a parent from Summit, New Jersey and writer for the Huffington Post, noted the perils of turning a blind eye to drinking in a blog post published today. She beseeches parents to come to terms with their children’s behaviors, despite how uncomfortable the conversation might be, and she notes the value of solid communication.

Promising new research out of Penn State indicates that parents who adopt simple conversational tools with their kids can transform the way these children approach drinking. The lengthy study carried out by Dr. Turrisi includes easy tips: talk about alcohol, listen and don’t lecture and discuss rules and consequences of drinking, to name a few. When parents follow these guidelines, Turrisi found, underage drinking declines by up to 30 percent.

Flannigan proves that a positive relationship with adolsecents about alcohol yields promising results. The research she mentions suggests that aparent can be a young person’s best role model with regards to alcohol. However, it is difficult to read her post without noting that the law continues to prohibit parents from actually teaching children to behave responsibly.


Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Fears that updating the DSM-5 would over diagnose thousands more college students as alcoholics have been put to rest, for now. Erika Christakis reported for Time that “editors of the DSM-5 countered that the change in definition won’t increase diagnosis.” However, she argues that semantics cannot hide the fact that college drinking occurs at astronomical, and dangerous, levels.

Christakis provides sobering statistics that any reader would find impossible to ignore. Drinking among young peole, she claims, is not decreasing but has likely increased in the last 14 years. Her statistics also show that underage people are not only drinking, but they are also driving.

The statistics are truly sobering. Every year, more than 3 million students between ages 18 and 24 drive while drunk. Alcohol accounts for 1,850 annual deaths in that age group, including deaths from car crashes and suicide. Almost 600,000 are injured under the influence of alcohol and another 700,000 have been assaulted by an intoxicated student. Around 400,000 had unprotected sex as a result of intoxication and 100,000 reported being too drunk to give consent for sex. Eleven percent of college drinkers damaged property. A quarter report academic difficulty due to alcohol use, while 150,000 college students have alcohol-related health problems.

Christakis’ article, published in a widely read magazine, demonstrates the increasing gravity of college drinking and reminds readers of the uncomfortable realities that can accompany irresponsible drinking. She concludes her piece by asking that we ignore, at least in principle, diagnostic labels and instead focus on the issue of harm reduction.

Hazing: A professor speaks up

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Patty Kleban, a Penn State professor, lamented the dangers surrounding hazing in a recent article on Kleban reflects on recent college hazing incidents including one on her own campus, and she argues that all play a role in curtailing the behavior. As a college professor, she keenly, and regularly, observes behaviors associated with hazing and coercion–students wreaking of beer, sleep deprived young men, a student coming to class barefoot.

However, Kleban’s most perinent comment is not one on the subject of stopping hazing. Instead, she recognizes that hazing  has been engrained in our culture since the 16th century;

According to Hank Nuwer, author and expert on hazing, rituals forced on new members of a group go back as far as the 16th century. The idea that one must prove strength, loyalty and dedication to the group while senior group members assess membership appropriateness has roots in preparation for war and has been rationalized as part of the bonding process.

Hazing, according to Nuwer, is not limited by gender, age, ethnicity or the group’s primary activity. For centuries, hazing was accepted and condoned.

In recognizing that hazing has persisted through time, Klebal acknowledges that the practice may be difficult to terminate.

However, we might truly begin to reduce this increasingly scary practice by teaching young people how to handle alcohol approriately. If college students existed in a society that taught them to consume, and behave, responsibly, we might begin to see a pendulum shift.

Understanding that alcohol is meant to be enjoyed appropriately may prevent some from using it in hazing practices. With hazing, alcohol–when one has not been taught to respect it–becomes a physical manifestation of a power struggle between young and old, new and experienced. Respecting the drink may lead to respecting each other.



Monday, May 21st, 2012

In 2002, twice as many 21-year-olds as 18-year-olds were involved in alcohol related traffic fatalities.


Acknowledging college culture

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Fairfax County, VA recognizes the destructiveness of college drinking culture. And they’re attempting to prevent dangerous behaviors in high school seniors before they matriculate in the fall. A panel on the perils of college culture was held at a local high school, and parents and students were able to ask telling questions. The story, reported in the Centreville Patch, points to the reality of underage college drinking.


Did you know…

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

…that a World Health Organization study found that in many European countries where the drinking age is 18 or younger (and often not enforced), 15 and 16 year-old teens have more drinking occasions per month, but fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication than their American counterparts.

Fake IDs

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

A 1996 study found that 46% of 272 undergraduates surveyed had used a fake ID to purchase alcohol. The study’s results indicate that MLDA21 does not inhibit the consumption of alcohol in minors but instead simply pushes it from daylight.

Binge drinking and sexual assault

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A study recently completed at the University of Georgia reported that “found that first-year female college students who drank four or more alcoholic drinks in one day at the start of the study were 33 percent more likely to be victims of a sexual assault in the following months.”

Sarah Fischer, author of the study, noted that women who binge drink are in greater danger of sexual assault, which is a harm associated with binge drinking; “The main take-home point is that binge drinking at the start of the year increases risk for freshmen college women for later sexual assault during their first year of college.”

This study may lead to other research on the relationship between alcohol and unwanted sexual activity and the social context in which both occur.