make mine a cement mixer, jimbo

8/19/08

REDEMPTION! Or at least, some form of redemption, as apparently another one of my gadfly Krusty Old Fart™ predictions has come true. Seems that college presidents are now lobbying to lower the drinking age. And these are not the pater familias of South Miami Dade Bartending School, these are the presidents of W&L, Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Tufts, Syracuse and even (gads) Dook, among others. They all state that raising the drinking age in the mid-1980s has only encouraged binge drinking.

People like Ron Slepitza, president of Kansas’ Avila University (affiliated with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, no less) said that talking sense to 18-year-olds was working before the 21 law passed, but now students just binge “underground and off-campus.”

Back in the Dark Ages, known to you and me as the year 2003, I wrote: “My guess is that a sort of “speakeasy” vibe has taken the place of a keg, a clandestine knock that is answered with a bottle of unmarked Pabst. Or maybe students get smashed on Rumplemintz in their dorm rooms, and then drive over to the party.”

Even last year, I bitched and moaned that the drinking laws were “leading students to take five shots of Jägermeister at the beginning of the evening, effectively erasing the slow buzz of a casual evening out with the girls, and replacing it with a season-ending barf at 8:30pm.”

It has always been my position that history views “the restriction of basic human desires” as a virus and finds a way around it; when The Man told college kids they couldn’t drink until they were 21, it didn’t foment self-actualization and encounter groups, it made fraternities buy laminating machines in order to forge identification.

FreshmanLodgePic(bl).jpg

about to enjoy a LEGAL Sun Country Wine Cooler, April 1986

The drinking age should have stayed at 18 for the same reason that Sun-Tzu warned to “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer” – the only way to neuter a potentially bad habit is to make sure it remains in light. The 21 law made alcohol more precious than gold, and it became a means unto itself, rather than a social lubricant.

Like John McCardell (president emeritus of Middlebury) said:

The 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking.

This is the hard lesson of prohibition that each generation must relearn. No college president will say that drinking has become less of a problem in the years since the age was raised.

In fact, if all these university presidents are on the right track (and my own experience bears out), the 21 age limit has put tipsy kids behind the wheel, set the scene for date rape and unwanted pregnancies, and actually created alcoholics. Nice job, Congress! The United Arab Emirates, Oman and us have the most Draconian drinking age laws on the planet, and it’s workin’ like a charm!

0 thoughts on “make mine a cement mixer, jimbo

  1. scruggs

    My concern has always been how lowering the age may increase drunk driving incidents. FYI, This is from Time…
    “But some other college administrators sharply disagree that lowering the drinking age would help. University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Clinton, declined to sign.
    “I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we’ve made some progress,” Shalala said in a telephone interview. “To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all.”
    McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn’t working.
    But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.
    In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.
    McCardell cites the work of Alexander Wagenaar, a University of Florida epidemiologist and expert on how changes in the drinking age affect safety. But Wagenaar himself sides with MADD in the debate.
    The college presidents “see a problem of drinking on college campuses, and they don’t want to deal with it,” Wagenaar said in a telephone interview. “It’s really unfortunate, but the science is very clear.”
    Another scholar who has extensively researched college binge-drinking also criticized the presidents’ initiative.
    “I understand why colleges are doing it, because it splits their students, and they like to treat them all alike rather than having to card some of them. It’s a nuisance to them,” said Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of Public Health.
    But, “I wish these college presidents sat around and tried to work out ways to deal with the problem on their campus rather than try to eliminate the problem by defining it out of existence,” he said.

    Reply
  2. chaircrusher

    According to Wikipedia, in Ireland, “It is illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk.”
    This made me laugh. It’s like “don’t sell donuts to someone who is fat” — honored more in the breach than the observance.

    Reply
  3. cathie

    i was in college when the DC drinking age went from 18 to 21 (i was, fortunately, grandfathered in) and i can say from experience, that the effect on campus was dramatic, and not in a good way.
    in fact, incidents of alcohol poisoning at the campus hospital after the change were 10 times what they were before. also, serious drug use was not much of a problem before the age changed, but skyrocketed after (drugs being much easier to hide in the dorm than alcohol, and whatever, now they were both illegal)
    my freshman year, everyone hung out at the campus pub and had one or two drinks at a party. after, everyone stayed behind closed doors getting plastered before going out.
    it is about time we came to our senses….

    Reply
  4. Chuck B

    Like Cathie, I was in DC when the law changed, but I just missed being grandfathered in. In fact, my freshman class was the first class that was not allowed to drink at Georgetown. While we watched the sophomores, juniors and seniors do what they wanted out in public, we hid in our dorm room chugging grain punch and shotgunning beers before going out. Then, we would try to sneak into the on-campus pub and hang out with the older kids. On my floor of 100 guys, we had 5 people taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning in the first semester of freshman year. All of the upperclassmen would just shake their heads and bemoan the lost culture.

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  5. Schultz

    Does the drinking age really matter?
    I was the youngest person in my class. I didn’t get my license until my junior year in HS. I didn’t turn 21 until my senior year at Carolina.
    Alcohol was available anywhere and everywhere. I think I drank a lot of alcohol even though I was…..gasp…..under the legal drinking age.
    I remember going to visit my sister at UNC when the drinking age was 18. She bought beer her freshman year but then got caught in the age change and couldn’t legally buy again until her junior year. It was the ultimate tease!!!

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  6. Sarah

    During my sophomore year, I specifically remember doing shots of Jack Daniels in my dorm room before sorority parties. They were strict about who could drink at the parties, and we wanted to have a good buzz going since we couldn’t drink there. I also remember another underage girl who got sent home from a party for being completely wasted, and she somehow rode her bike back.
    Would lowering the drinking age keep us from pre-partying? Probably not, but I don’t think I would’ve been pounding shots in order to have a buzz 3 hours later.

    Reply
  7. sam

    As an employee of Dook, around students every day, and with a nephew who went to Dook and a niece and nephew at UNC now, I can say with some accuracy that kids are drinking way more liquor than we did at UNC two decades ago. These kids will go out and buy a half gallon for the weekend. We went for the Stroh’s 30-pack.

    Reply
  8. GFWD

    It matters not what age you allow them to drink. I tend to agree that a lowered age will take away the mystique of alcohol and maybe teach kids to be moderate in their consumption.
    In the end, however, some girl is still gonna climb to the top of Phillips Annex and try to fly.
    Some idiot is still gonna ignore his friends’ pleas and still go driving.
    Some intrepid souls are still gonna break into Woolen Gym and go skinny dipping before stealing kickboards . . . ain’t that right, Zel M.?
    You just have to hope that the “Darwinites” on their way to certain early death don’t take out too many good kids along the way. And that the rest of them learn the correlation between too much alcohol and hurling up a lung in the bathroom in between naps on those cool, tile floors.

    Reply
  9. Ian

    The pertinent fact is that drinking in general has gone down, and was going down WAY before the 1987 age limit went into effect. The problem is that those who DO drink now are engaging in binge behavior, and doing so somewhere that frequently necessitates a car.
    I just don’t buy that universities want to change the age because they’re lazy and don’t like carding. There’s no way they’d sully their reputations by calling for something that looks “irresponsible” to the ninny set unless they saw a real problem with the way things are – why risk losing their “in loco parentis” status for such a losing issue?

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  10. LFMD

    Yes, I agree and all that, but I am still caught up in my crush on Michael Phelps. I am sending a shout out to kjf. . . . I am on vacation and a day late in my blog reading. I am missing all my Baltimore Sun coverage as well. Drats! I posted a note yesterday for you. I work in Canton and you are (I presume) a Canton Hipster. If you happen to see MP out and about, will you let us know? Kind of like a Gawker Stalker sighting? Ian, you don’t mind me using your blog for such purposes, do you?
    P.S.: I can hop from the Insurance Job to any Fells Point hot spot within minutes!

    Reply
  11. LFMD

    Matt – I agree. All I have to say is “Amanda Beard WHO???” As if she is all that. You know?
    Thanks, Ian. I will be looking for him!

    Reply

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