September 29, 2006

"They can crack down on the parties all they want, but it's not going to stop us."

Underage drinking in Madison. The quote is from a 19-year-old UW student. I think a lot of the ugliness described in the article is caused by the too-high drinking age. It's ridiculous that college students aren't allowed to go to a bar or drink at parties, but the dangerous, excessive drinking is another matter entirely.

49 comments:

tiggeril said...

I'm not sure how much the drinking age has to do with it. England is seeing the same problems with binge drinking with people well into their twenties and their drinking age is 18. I think it's more of a cultural thing where you don't drink just to hang out with your friends and relax a bit, but you drink to get hammered.

Ann Althouse said...

It's so weird. I would think you'd drink to feel good, but drinking that much has to feel awful. I can understand misjudging and drinking too fast, especially if you are inexperienced, but getting "hammered" shouldn't be regarded as anymore fun than the literal experience of being hit with a hammer.

tiggeril said...

The momentary escape is worth the hangover/stomach pumping to them, I guess.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder when they'll start cracking down on tailgating at Camp Randall. That's when I'll know they're serious -- when alumni are told to stop drinking. As it is, it just looks like harassment of the young to me. You can die for your country, get married, vote, are a legal adult...but Whoa: Step away from that Leinie's Mister!!

AJ Lynch said...

The fond rites of passage....too bad I don't remember them well.

My nephew is a freshman in college and he told me yesterday everyone at school has fake ID's and he was out the other night at what he called a "freshman bar".Certainly, I worry about him and cautioned him to take it easy but I had to chuckle to myself that college life is so organized they have "Freshman bars". I guess next year, he won't be caught dead there.

I rememember getting served at a bar when I was 17 and we all would go in and say hello to Joe, the Irish immigrant bartender who surely knew we were in high school. Years later, one of his sons became a judge and made a name for himself as the strict judge at Eagles games who doled out sentences to drunken fans.

stoqboy said...

I couldn't help but wonder how you pronounce Riseling.

Abraham said...

Madison Man: Is there really that much dangerous drinking going on while tailgating? Most of the people I know who tailgate actually do want to watch the game, and in the times I've been there, I've never seen anyone get dangerously, passing-out drunk. If they are truly concerned not with casual or social drinking, but hazardous binge-drinking, then harassing tailgaters is illogical, unless there is a lot of binge-drinking going on in the Camp Randall parking lot that I just don't know about.

Alan said...

I think the drinking age should be much lower. It wouldn't be a taboo to abuse if kids are allowed to have some wine or beer with their parents in restaurants. Get it out of their system before they're handed the keys to the car.

BJK said...

I miss "Operation Sting."

(That said, my views on the subject could be slightly skewed from having a dorm-mate busted by the Feds for making Fake ID's.)

Ann Althouse said...

Alan: Consider this:

[Bob Stutman, a former special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] said Burlington students spoke about Wisconsin law, which allows them to drink at a bar as long as a parent or guardian is present and allows it. The law also states that as long as a parent or guardian allows it, children and adults under age 21 can consume alcohol at venues or establishments for occasions such as weddings and religious ceremonies.

"The acceptance of alcohol use in Wisconsin is incredible," Stutman said. "In this state it is illegal for a parent to give their kid a cigarette, but it is not illegal for a parent to give their kid a beer. As an outsider, this is dumbfounding to me."

JohnK said...

The same people who make their kids wear helmets on their bicycles and scream about under age drinking, hand their kids the keys to a brand new 300 hp Mustang on their 16th birthday. Yeah, some kids kill themselves drinking but a whole lot more kill themselves and others driving. Lower the drinking age and raise the driving age.

Meade said...

Officer Carrie Hemming, who has paramedic training, tries to rouse the young woman, yelling close to her face and shaking her by the shoulders.

"This is the Madison Police Department," she says. "Please open your eyes."


That sent a chill up the spine of this parent of a 19 year-old college student.

Dale B said...

I've always thought that if you're mature enough to sign a contract, vote, or join the military, you should be able to drink. All or none.

The drinking until you're hammered is a fairly common american thing and not just with kids. The only other places I've seen people drink to get drunk, other than the US, are Finland, Russia, and Japan.

Balfegor said...

I would think you'd drink to feel good, but drinking that much has to feel awful. I can understand misjudging and drinking too fast, especially if you are inexperienced, but getting "hammered" shouldn't be regarded as anymore fun than the literal experience of being hit with a hammer.

Indeed. But why would the legal age limit have anything to do with it, as you suggest in the original post? Are teenagers so dumb they'll do something that brings them no pleasure simply because it is against the law?

Meade:
That sent a chill up the spine of this parent of a 19 year-old college student.

I've a sister who just started university. Within the first few weeks, her roommate apparently drank herself into a stupor. Some EMT's were sent over; they gave my sister instructions on what to do, and she spent a sleepless night checking up on her roommate.

Dale B:
The only other places I've seen people drink to get drunk, other than the US, are Finland, Russia, and Japan.

You can add South Korea to that list.

Dave said...

"The only other places I've seen people drink to get drunk, other than the US, are Finland, Russia, and Japan. "

Ireland? Germany? Australia? Italy?

Have seen them all drink to get drunk.

MadisonMan said...

It's always struck me as hypocrisy that the UW administration rails against drinking in the dorms -- but if you pay money to get into Camp Randall, you can have beer there (if you're in the luxe boxes). It seems like binge drinking and social drinking all get placed in the same category at the UW if you're not a big donor.

For all the press that hammered youth get -- I wonder how many undergrads are having a drink or two with friends and nothing happens....just like with adults.

Revenant said...

For all the press that hammered youth get -- I wonder how many undergrads are having a drink or two with friends and nothing happens

Probably very few of them. Because of the risk of punishment for drinking alcohol, students tend not to do it unless they're going to be drinking quite a bit.

Anyway, getting wasted is fun, or at least it was when I was younger and my body was more forgiving. It is just the morning after that sucks. :)

JohnK said...

"Probably very few of them. Because of the risk of punishment for drinking alcohol, students tend not to do it unless they're going to be drinking quite a bit."

Unless things have changed in the last 16 years there is very little risk of drinking in college. I drank like a fish for three years before I was 21 and never got caught or knew anyone who did. Yes, we did drink when we weren't getting drunk. A few beers at least every day after class. And never got fat. Those were the days. If it wasn't for my aging and revolting metabolism and equal revolt at being overweight, I still would do it today. God it sucks to face life sober.

Bruce Hayden said...

My memory of college 40 years ago was that we all got drunk as freshman. One favorite was Gatorade and grain. But we would just sit around the freshman men's dorm, get sick, and do stupid stuff. Then, by sophomore year, we were pretty much beyond it. I got drunk on my 21st birthday (because all of my fraternity bros. were buying) and my pledge son got so on the night he pledged (similar situation - he was the only one pledging then, and a lot of the actives bought him one drink). But that is about it for getting that drunk in college.

Possibly though, one reason is that instead of getting wasted on alcohol, a lot did so on drugs, esp. pot and hallucnigens.

I would suggest that our drinking was much more social. For example, we had our pop machine stocked with beer and pop. The profits for the pop would pay for the losses on the beer, and we broke even at, I believe, 25 cents. We also had a bar in the basement where we could buy more adult beverages. Nevertheless, with alcohol that available to college aged guys (in a fraternity), there was almost no abuse.

Finally, binge drinking is not limited to colleges. I can find you plenty of bars around Dillon, CO, some in Scottsdale, and at least two in SLC, where it is routine with the mid-20s crowd.

nina said...

Irresponsible bahvior -- excessive drinking, unprotected sex, poor driving habits -- it all happens among all age categories. Stiffer penalties against those who cause harm to themselves, to others -- I am all for that. But the legal drinking age in this country just seems bizarre to me. This is especially true since those who are otherwise adults (18 - 21) have nowhere to go to socialize. My daughters couldn't wait to turn 21 so that they could quit meeting friends at Perkins and Denny's. Cafes here close early and so there is the bar -- that's it.

I've heard that drivers licenses are handed to young people to facilitate transportation for those in rural communities who cannot get anywhere without a car. Great. So we haven't adequate public transportation, we hand over the keys to kids who are terrible drivers and we tell them to meet friends at Denny's and stuff themselves with burgers and fries. How sensible.

Bruce Hayden said...

I should revise my last post - I graduated from college only 34 years ago, so my 40 years ago post was a bit of an exageration.

Though I will admit having some good times driving up to Wisc. and drinking during that time and shortly thereafter while I still had a lot of friends on the Chicago N. Shore.

Meade said...

MadisonMan wondered: "how many undergrads are having a drink or two with friends and nothing happens....just like with adults."

I'd like to think there are at least a few (in particular).

Bruce Hayden said...

nina

I will agree about the socializing, but it is becoming quite evident from recent research that human brains don't finish maturing until approximately 25 (maybe a year earlier on average for girls, a year later for boys), and human brain maturation is lower back to front. This means that the part of our brains that matures last is the part that provides judgment.

We have always known that teenagers and shortly thereafter lacked judgment, but probably thought that that was due to lack of experience. It is also very much connected to how our brains mature.

Back to the socializing part - I am single and the best place to socialize, even at my age, is at the bars. And it is really hard to nurse one or two drinks for four or five hours on a Friday night. If I don't watch yourself carefully, I sometimes have found that I have drunk a little to much, and the more you drink, the worse your judgment about your drinking.

David said...

Future alcoholics in the making!

I broke up a rape one night in a ditch in Oregon by a guy who got the girl drunk, walked her away from the bar, ostensibly to take her home, and was in the process of disrobing her at 0100 in the morning. Her parents were not impressed!

After the bars close in any college town, the foolishness and needless deaths skyrocket.

As for parents who allow their children to drink at home there are too many tragic tales of death stemming from this stupidity. One comes to mind when a neighbor boy and a couple of his idiot friends decided to make a night water assault onto the beach of a nearby frigid mountain lake from a canoe. They were drunk and two of them survived while the neighbor boy, more drunk and younger, drowned.

All the heartfelt weeping and wailing as to the gross unfairness of life that would take such a fine young man, with his whole life ahead of him, was pitiful. Nothing was said, even by the padre, that we make choices in life and sometimes pay the price for them, good or bad!

We kill more of our own citizens in the U.S. on any given holiday weekend than in all the years we have been in Iraq! Where is the outcry against the hypocrisy! Deaths resulting from drunk driving is legal murder in the U.S.!

Talk to those of us who clean up after the bars close and the party winds down!

Meade said...

"If I don't watch yourself carefully, I sometimes have found that I have drunk a little to much, and the more you drink, the worse your judgment about your drinking."

Have you been drinking, Bruce?

JohnK said...

"We kill more of our own citizens in the U.S. on any given holiday weekend than in all the years we have been in Iraq! Where is the outcry against the hypocrisy! Deaths resulting from drunk driving is legal murder in the U.S.!"

What exactly do you think should be done about this? Freedom has a price and that price is people are sometimes going to do stupid things. Prohibition was a complete disaster. Our DUI laws have deprived us of our 4th Amendment and 5th Amendment rights. Short of making everyone criminals and starting a police state, how do you plan to prevent people like the boys in your story from doing dumb things? As the say, a free county means the right for people to do dumb things. The anti-freedom spirit in some people is just irrepressible.

Alan said...

The Wisconsin law doesn't change my opinion. After all, we know adults can imbibe a bit much at times. Familiarity doesn't preclude a person from abuse. But, IMO, makes them less likely to abuse.

I feel the same way about cigarettes. I smoked a little in high school. It was legal; the school had designated areas for the students to smoke. I didn't continue because I realized it was unhealthy. I dabbled and got it out of my system.

Meade said...

JohnK: What about your freedom to be able to walk down the street and not be run over by a driver under the influence?

Try repressing that.

Alan said...

BTW, the link didn't work.

Anonymous said...

I'll venture a guess that I have more experience observing the drinking behavior of college age persons, both before and after the change from 18 to 21, than anybody else around here.

I can assure you that the safest, most heavily supervised venue for the consumption of alcohol is in a nightclub setting. And a lot of casual drug use by teenagers is the result of the ease of getting recreational drugs, as opposed to the difficulty of getting booze that should be legal.

The prohibition against 18-21 year olds drinking is manifestly foolish and draconian, and thusly invites the average person to commit criminal activity to participate in what will shortly be behavior they will be expected to participate in, or at least countenance.

Put them back in bars where the bartenders, bouncers, their friends, strangers, and the police can supervise their activities at least somewhat.

JohnK said...

"What about your freedom to be able to walk down the street and not be run over by a driver under the influence?"

Sober drivers kill people to. Are you somehow not just as dead when that happens? The point is that bad things happen. Life is like that sometimes. Not that drunk driving shouldn't be illegal. It shoudl be. But we have to understand that there is a price to be paid for freedom and that price is people making irresponsible deciions. When do gooders like you start to try to change that fact and start talking in nonsensical terms like "people's right to be free of other's irresponsible behavior", the rest of us end up loosing our rights and our freedoms and guess what, bad things still happen you havne't accomplished anything beyond feeding your smugh self-rigousness and ruining the world for the rest of us.

Timothy said...

I would think you'd drink to feel good, but drinking that much has to feel awful. I can understand misjudging and drinking too fast, especially if you are inexperienced, but getting "hammered" shouldn't be regarded as anymore fun than the literal experience of being hit with a hammer.

Somebody sure is a square. Getting blitzed, as I tended to do four or five nights a week my last year an a half in college, can be a damn fun time. And, you know, I still graduated and got the same entry-level job everybody else got. And it makes for awesome stories, like the time I asked a cop "what do you think" when he asked if I'd been drinking (I was walking home). Or that time I drank two whole bottles of schnapps after eating an entire box of no-doz and then ran around for four hours at a party we were having.

It can be quite fun and entertaining to do that for awhile and it categorically isn't a big deal. Yeah, okay, every now and again somebody drinks too much and ends up in a world of hurt, but only one person every had to go to the hospital in my extensive career of heavy partying and that was his own stupid fault (yes, yes it was in fact me).

Now that I've been out of college for a couple of years and I have one of those there jobs where I support myself, I don't party like that anymore because I simply don't have time. But to make some big hairy deal out of a bunch of legal adults imbibing spirits is ridiculous.

Meade said...

JohnK:
Hey buddy, don't call me a do-gooder.

I can talk in nonsensical terms and accomplish nothing beyond feeding my smugh self-rigousness (?), while ruining the world, with the best/worst do-badders of you.

JohnK said...

Yes Meade. I am an absolute do-badder. I try my best to leave a sulpher smell wherever I go.

Meade said...

I'll drink in moderation to that.

Revenant said...

What about your freedom to be able to walk down the street and not be run over by a driver under the influence?

It's illegal to drive under the influence. What are you planning to do -- make it illegal twice? Make it chocolate-coated illegal with sprinkles on top and custard filling? Make it "Illegal 2: Electric Boogaloo"?

Or are you just stupid enough to think that everyone who gets hammered thinks they're still ok to drive?

JohnK said...

Revenent,

The sollution is clear; BAN CRIME. If we would just do that, all of our problems would be solved.

Hunter McDaniel said...

I remember from my first visit to Wisconsin, at age 20, that the legal drinking age there had always been 18. With Milwaukee breweries as one of the state's major industries, it was just expected that youngsters would be taught how to drink responsibly, by their PARENTS.

If Elizabeth Dole has any other "accomplishments" to her credit besides the wrong-headed nationalization of the drinking age, I'm not aware of them.

Revenant said...

The sollution is clear; BAN CRIME.

Its just crazy enough to work!

altoids1306 said...

I'm completely with the students on this one. The police have better things to do. (The standard libertarian argument, yada yada...you know the drill.)

The real problem is that there's a legal drinking age at all. It's generally a bad idea for a student's first experience with alcohol to be in the peer-pressure, hormone-addled hothouse of freshman year. Freshman year was not so long ago for me, and I can definitely remember dormmates who had no idea what alcohol was, or what their level of tolerance was, and suffered consequently.

(As for myself, I had my first taste of sweet plum rice wine at age 6 or 7, for Lunar New Years. Much better to learn about alcohol, at home, away from peers, with adult supervision.)

Meade said...

I've got it:

Ban freshman year!

AllenS said...

The brewing of beer is what started civilization. Since the wheel hadn't been invented yet, people lived near the brewery. They called these areas cities, towns or villages. Then people turned into conservatives (who worked to make the beer), and liberals (who just hung around to drink the beer). Conservatives chose the biggest animal, the elephant, as their symbol, and the liberals chose the jackass.

Ann Althouse said...

altoids: In Wisconsin, it's legal for parents to serve drinks to their own children and even for kids to be served drinks in a bar or restaurant if they are with their parents. So this idea that kids should learn to drink wine with dinner in a normal, nonabusive way can be done here. I recommend it.

Jay said...

Back when the legal age was 18, the functional limit was more like 15 or 16. 16 year old Illinoisans came across the border, got ploughed in Kenosha or Beloit, then ploughed into various moving and stationary objects while trying to get back home. At 16, my younger brother lifted my ID and bought for all his friends. He could pass for 18 or 19 and we looked enough alike for him to pass for me, but he could never have passed for 21.

s1c said...

Sounds similar to comments made at Fairfield University here in CT, when they banned kegs. Students came out and said they would just buy more cartons.

class-factotum said...

My parents are from Wisconsin. Alcohol was never a big deal in my house. My mom rubbed brandy on my gums when I was teething. If I wanted a sip of my dad's beer when I was a kid, he gave it to me.

When I got to college in Texas, all the Bible-belt kids were going nuts over alcohol, getting drunk all the time. I didn't get it. "It's just beer!" I thought.

I didn't get drunk for the first time until I was 24. I got drunk again when I was 26 and that was enough to convince me that it was no fun.

It's just beer.

Richard said...

I remember when I was 20 and the government busibodies decided to up the drinking age to 21. It tee'd me off that I was a sergeant in the US Army (with a purple heart and a silver star), a registered voter and the proud payer of a car note and these nattering nabobs had decided I wasn't competent to manage my alcohol consumption. Luckily the NCO club on post took absolutely no notice of it, and for that matter nobody that looked at my military ID card (when asking for ID) seemed care about the letter of the law either.
I'm with the opinion that it should be all or nothing. Contracts, military service, voting, driving, and drinking should all have the same threshold.
But the same yahoos that make these differences tell us that there is a "family obligation" when applying for financial aid for college as well as a "right to privacy" about the students' grades, so that the payor of the "family obligation" is not allowed to know if the money is being wasted. Also they include the step-parents income to make that determination not the absent bio parent.
Do you ever get the feeling it is all a conspiracy against family unity beginning with Social Security?

class-factotum said...

Richard, I think that on military bases, the local drinking ages don't apply. If you're old enough to be a soldier, you're old enough to drink, as far as Uncle Sam is concerned. (I'm an air force brat, so this is something from a hazy memory.)

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

It is what we got from a woman in government, Elizabeth Dole. As Transportation Secretary, she made states geting federal highway funds dependent on a 21 year age drinking limit. Maybe, Ann, you could have her as a guest lecturer. There is an ego ideal issue of a balance of allowing an impulse, a satisfaction, in part dangerous, with an ideal self. In college towns, it becomes a badge of honor to flaunt one's control, in spite of the apparent lack therof like a gyroscope righting itself, rather than to accept the dhimmitude implied in the law. Repression, in a governmental sense, appears to promote its opposite, the idealization of drunkenness. My favorite college story is of the boy who drank through college and, on his 21st birthday, went to all the bars he had been drinking at where he received free beer and celebrated being legal. On the way home he ran his vehicle into a bridge abutment and died. Not all of us have the honor, and sometimes the waste, of dieing for principle. I was relieved when my son went to the AF Academy for just the reason that he was going to be, in general, too supervised and busy to drink very much. Drinking excessively for a similar psychological reason gets transfered to pilot training where just in the last year they lost a distinguished member of his class off a country road as a passenger in the early morning hours. This kind of drinking doesn't generally occur where his age mates, now with jobs, are spread into a general population. Two principles seem to be useful and the 21 year old drinking age is at cross purposes with one of them; initial drinking should be in a social and, implied in that, at least variably supervised setting with little driving. Drinking like using drugs is limited or displaced by having something else you will attend to.