Here’s a perfect illustration of why we desperately need alcohol education for our nation’s youth. I’m sure that neo-prohibitionists will read this story and view it as a vindication of their draconian policies of abstinence and keeping the minimum drinking age the highest in the civilized world.
Yesterday in Boulder, Colorado, a dozen college students from the University of Colorado gathered at a local residence with cheap beer and other alcoholic beverages to wile away the late summer weekend. They put up a sign on a pole facing a busy thoroughfare that read “You honk, WE DRINK.” Cars passing the group honked en masse, causing police to show up because of complaints about the noise. Their response was interesting. As one member of the group, Lauren Boyd, described what the police said, they told us. “I like your style, just be more quiet.” They were also told they were on the “edge of legality” because of their proximity to the sidewalk. The group was instructed to back up and quiet down. They complied, changing their sign from “You Honk” to “Give Us the Finger.”
The brouhaha continued another five hours with passersby flipping them off with glee the entire time. The police did not return because, in their words, “they were on private property and of legal drinking age, [so] the party was allowed to continue — sign and all.” Surprisingly enough, I’m probably in agreement with the neo-prohibitionists that this is not a responsible way to use alcohol. We part company, I suspect, on why. To me it points out the need for education about alcohol before young adults are set loose in the world, often for the first time in college. If children were allowed to sample alcohol under the supervision of their parents in the home (which in most places is illegal), with other responsible adults (ditto) or were allowed to begin legally drinking earlier, by the time they were living on their own, the taboo associated with suddenly being free would be far less likely to lead to this type of binge drinking.
Boulder is also, ironically, the home of the Brewers Association, a trade group that looks after the interests of the nation’s small brewers. For this somewhat embarrassing display of youthful exuberance to have occurred in their backyard makes it doubly clear that the current policy regarding youth and alcohol is not only not working, but is more than likely exacerbating the problem by using a foolhardy all or nothing approach and ignoring the value of education. Once kids reach college age knowing absolutely nothing about the effects of alcohol it’s easy to explain such binge behavior because they’ve never seen responsible drinking and are completely unfamiliar with it, thanks in large part to the efforts of the anti-alcohol elements of our society. A little knowledge might go a long way to raising more responsible children into adulthood but as long as that’s not permitted, we’ll continue to have college binge drinking. And not coincidentally, neo-prohibitionists will continue to have something to point to in furtherance of their agenda of keeping the minimum drinking age at 21, ignoring the likely cause that it’s their own efforts that continue to make binging a problem.