the knee jerk culture

imagesWhen I was in college the drinking age changed from 18 to 21, state by state, literally over a few month period.  I remember hoping that the state of Massachusetts wouldn’t move in that direction too but alas it did.  So instead of going off to college where I could legally drink I was pushed to party in private or at least hold on to my fake ID.

Fast forward, these laws have been in effect for over 30 years.  It began with MADD and then the Federal Government decided that in order to push states in the direction of changing the drinking age was to withhold federal highway funds for their state if they did not change the law to 18.  This was all a knee jerk reaction to drunken driving fatalities.

It is easier to just force legislation quickly instead of a long term education about drunken driving.  Think about how successful the campaign against smoking has been.  Education came and the fatalities have ebbed.  Now we have another fatality hitting our streets, text driving.  There will always be something and it always comes down to education.

This week I heard about a kid that went to sleep and never woke up.  This is not the first time I have heard this.  It is a tragedy that is so incredibly upsetting and tragic that it is hard to even wrap your head around.  A young person just starting out in their life.  Each time it has been a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol.

I had been thinking about the agreement that UVA made with fraternities this past week.  There must be at least 3 sober fraternity members at each fraternity party to monitor behavior.  Alcohol punches and beer in kegs will be banned.  Guest lists will be enforced.  A monitor will hold the keys to bedrooms to guard against sexual assaults.  Is this educating people or just a knee jerk reaction to the sexual assaults tied to bad boy behavior and excessive drinking?

The binge drinking, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs do not take place in Europe to the degree that they do in the US.  Drinking a glass of wine at dinner is part of their culture.  It isn’t about letting it rip.

In the last few decades the rise of pharmaceutical drugs have taken the college campuses by storm.  They are easy to get and abuse.  The cocktail of pills, alcohol and weed is deadly.  What will be the knee jerk reaction to that?  Are we creating a culture where it is not OK to do anything until you are 21?  Do we really believe that if you prolong drinking until that age that perhaps you will be more mature to have a glass of wine?  I honestly do not get it.  You can vote and be drafted to go to war but you can’t have a glass of wine.  Do legislators realize by doing this that the reaction is if we can’t drink we can at least get high on a pill. Again, it is all about education that should be early just like sex ed.

We are finally making gay marriage legal.  We are slowly regulating weed by state.  On college campuses we are returning to something that I can only compare to prohibition.  I hope UVA realizes that the partying will just start to happen somewhere else.  The social world will leave the fraternities, plain and simple.  Kid who are in college will drink.  Kids in college will smoke weed.  Kids in college will take drugs.  Nobody knows when someone takes a pharmaceutical pill and that will be impossible to monitor.

It all comes down to education.  UVA is one of the best universities in the world.  It might be in a primarily conservative state but this latest policy is a total knee jerk reaction to recreational abuse.  At what point will a Dean of a University of  Senator or a Governor start thinking about the long term.  How do we teach young adults to engage in recreational activities responsibly vs. holding the keys to the castle.  Guess what…there is always a castle without a key.