I must admit, I don't even remember the rules to "Thumper" - I was more of a "Quarters" kind of gal, myself, and by the time I went off to college, I had plenty of drinking experience and wasn't at all bothered by the quaint little dormitory rules governing the use of alcohol. Neither was anybody else. To be honest, the number of wild parties kind of dwindled after the first quarter and were replaced by wine-and-Joan-Armatrading "talk-ins". What can I say? I went to UC Santa Cruz.
Now that my daughter is a high school senior, though, I find myself having a rather odd reaction to tales of wild, drunken college parties; I am mildly horrified!
In my youth, such tales would have meant an automatic check in the "plus" column for a school.
(OK, so I was a bit of a dumb-ass - can I help it that movies like Animal House and Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out when they did? I couldn't wait to go to my first Toga Party! TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!)
Now I wonder to myself just how badly I would stick out if I went off to college with my daughter -this time to chaperon, not plan the parties. OK, Scratch that.
A recent article in the LA Times caught my attention: "College leaders hope to renew debate on a lower drinking age" It seems that kids under the age of 21 are drinking alcohol even though they are not supposed to! You don't say! And in order to get away with it, they are doing it on the sly which causes them at times to get really, really drunk. So drunk, in fact, that occasionally one or two drop dead. This upsets the college leaders. It upsets me. It would probably really upset the kids involved were they not dead.
Is lowering the drinking age to 18 the answer? I am not sure how I feel about this myself yet.
On the pro side, dealing with reality is usually better than wishful thinking -the drinking age has been 21 now for eons and the problem does seem to be getting worse.
In Germany you can buy beer and wine at age 16 and the hard stuff at 18 and while it is quite common to have alcohol at parties or a few beers at the disco it is not at all common for kids to get stinking-staggering-fall-down drunk. That is viewed as just plain TACKY. It also strikes me that they are also much less willing to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking - of course they actually have viable alternate means of transportation in the form of subways, street cars, trains, buses and taxis. The US is just not there yet.
On the con side, just because it works for the Germans, though, doesn't mean it'll work for us. (Some) Kids here seem to think drinking till you drop is just fine and dandy - a right of passage even. Making it easier for them to get their grubby little hands on booze will surely lead to more drinking, will it not? More girls than ever will down pitchers of margaritas and then think it is a good idea to flash the dork with the video camera! (A bit of advice - whatever you do when drinking - don't let anybody videotape you! That is really, really, really stupid.)
But then I can't help but thinking that since drinking is such a potentially hazardous endeavor, shouldn't parents be able to legally take a stab at teaching their kids responsible drinking - instead of say, horny frat boy?
Sign me betwixt and between on this one,
September 2008 Update: My daughter tells me that the son of one of her school's beloved teachers nearly died of alcohol poisoning - on his 21st birthday. Seems they found out at 11:00 that morning that his condition had stabilized and that he was expected to live. The doctors were not so optimistic the night before. All the teachers had the same message for the kids: "If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone" - see he's a really good kid - smart - bright future - and absolutely no experience drinking.