The Electric Commentary

Monday, March 28, 2005

Drinking 101

Maybe if young adults stop viewing alcohol as a taboo, they won't abuse it quite as much. Colby College has the right idea:

Colby officials say the program is just one component of the college's alcohol education efforts. "There are some who say the college should take a just-say-no approach, but I don't think that's realistic," said Janice Kassman, dean of students.

It was the notion that college life seemed to include just two types of alcohol consumption -- too much or none at all -- that prompted Catherine Welch, the student government president, to suggest the get-togethers. College administrators gave the OK.

In a room off a dining hall, an average of 30 to 50 students come and go from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on select Fridays. It is a tasteful affair, with white tablecloths and $1 drinks served by a bartender in a tuxedo shirt and black pants.

The students can learn about the beer and wines by reading handouts or talking to wine distributors and brewery owners who may show up. Featured wines have come from Argentina, Chile, California, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand, Sicily and South Africa. Beers have included ales, porters, stouts and Belgian-style varieties from breweries in Maine, Vermont, New York and California.

On a recent night, most of the students came simply to enjoy a drink with friends over dinner. Some said they now feel more informed.

Katie Lucas, a junior from Milwaukee, said knowing a chardonnay from a pinot grigio from a sauvignon blanc will help at business dinners for her summer job at an investment firm. "It's good to know your preferences so you can sound confident," she said.

If alcohol is truly a concern on campus, moderation is definitely the way to go, and a good way to extol the virtues of moderation is to introduce some sophistication. Classes and events like this are certainly not a cure all, but they are better than nothing at all.

I would actually like to see something similar to this for kids in their mid-teens. The idea that binge drinking is cool is driven into teenagers on a regular basis by their peers and in pop-culture, and learning to drink in moderation, in a controlled environment is a good idea. I've made the driver's ed analogy before and I'll do it again. Would you like your 21 year old daughter to simply be issued a car on her 21st birthday with no instructions or training, with the exception of what her friends tell her?

This article has some criticism of the program too, all of it stupid:

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says drinking by college students contributes to about 1,400 student deaths each year, along with 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault.

I can't believe that National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is against drinking. I though that they would be for it. And they even have ready to go statitstics! Seriously, can we stop quoting interest groups in news stories? I have a better idea: Let's play Mad Libs!

The National Institute on "Noun" Abuse says that "Adverb" "Verb" by "Group of People" contributes to "Horrible Tragedy."

For instance:

The National Institute on Wristwatch Abuse says that excess tightenings by businessmen contributes to a slowdown in productivity, unsightly blue hands, and frequent amputations.


The National Institute on Cow Abuse says that inappropriate milking by unibrowed farmers contributes to a lack of sensitivity in cow udders as well as horrible bovine/human monsters roaming the countryside.


The National Institute on Wicker Abuse says that excessive weaving by the Amish contributes to poor posture in wicker aficionados, and a severe drain on the wicker reed industry.

Quoting the positions of special interest groups is not news. Let's move on:

Henry Wechsler, director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, said colleges should not be in the business of providing alcohol to students, who already have plenty of drinking opportunities at fraternities, bars and parties.

"This free flow of alcohol is one of the problems around binge drinking," Wechsler said. "It's ironic that giving more alcohol should solve the problem."

Actually I'm not sure that CNN is reading Weschler properly. His quote, I think could be interpreted as "pro booze-class" or anti booze-class. Assuming that the quote is "anti booze-class," couldn't you also say something like:

Colleges should not be in the business of providing reading assignment to students, who already have plenty of reading opportunities at their apartments, libraries, and in the john.


Colleges should not be in the business of providing housing for students, who already have plenty of rental opportunities in the city.

Of course, colleges have a certain expertise on what books are especially important for students to read, and can offer insight into their meanings and significance. Colleges and Universities also feel that the dorm experience creates a sense of community that is beneficial to new students. Why is drinking so different? Why do colleges have nothing to offer with regard to sophisticated, adult drinking customs?

One thing that I am sure of is that the "free flow of alcohol" is not the problem. Rarely has there been a product with a more inelastic demand curve. I mean, when we had prohibition people were making alcohol in bathtubs at huge personal risk! People are going to drink; they should know how to do it properly.


  • While I don't agree that the University should be illegally providing alcohol to minors, I don't agree with the 21 year old drinking age. My thoughts are that 18-20 year olds should be allowed to drink, however they should not be allowed to drive with any alcohol in their system. This would result in altering their behavior to have a designated driver, walking, or drinking at home and hopefully would carry on into the future.

    By Anonymous Rod, at 8:27 AM  

  • I basically agree with that, although as I said, I'd start them a bit younger. Part of my reasoning is that I want "kids" to start drinking in situations where they are likely to act in a resonsible fashion, like with their parents. I don't think it's a good idea to have loaded 16 year olds out on the road. I suppose Wisconsin's law allowing underage drinking with parents is a good idea, I just wish that more people would take advantage of it.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:42 AM  

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