We Could Treat Them Like Adults

This Washington Post editorial from Sunday is discouraging in its call for authoritarianism:

SOME THINGS only seem like a good idea at 3 a.m. Increasingly, the Amethyst Letter, which more than 100 college presidents and chancellors signed last year to advocate rethinking the drinking age, looks like one of them. A study just published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that binge drinking has decreased nationwide with the increased drinking age — everywhere but on college campuses.

Because of an obvious flaw, my response is something akin to “yeah, so?”. College students are overwhelmingly not children and adolescents. This is a critical point, soon to be ignored without justification by the Post. But first:

Those on college campuses who favor a lower drinking age point out that students will decide to drink regardless of the law, and forcing them to do so in secret and illegally will make behaviors such as binge drinking harder to monitor. …

Probably, but that’s not the only – or best – justification for lowering the drinking age to 18.

… But outside college campuses, where underage drinking is clearly prohibited, young people more often have made the decision not to drink.

So let’s prohibit college, if drinking is that appalling. Or we could maybe consider whether a lower drinking age, and perhaps the supervised assimilation of those under 18 into responsible alcohol consumption, will reduce binge drinking. The Post doesn’t bother to consider it here. Why?

… This, in turn, has helped drive down drunk driving, assault and other unsafe behaviors. …

Citation for the causal link, please.

… For further proof, college administrators should consider their drug policies; the perception that drug use will not be tolerated can and does influence students’ choices.

Have the Post’s editors ever experienced college in America?

All that is to establish credibility for the call to increase control.

The journal’s study drives home the fact that, when young people know that the law will be upheld, they adjust their behavior. It’s time for college administrators to stop passing the buck to the drinking age and start taking their in loco parentis role more seriously. Instead of complaining about the drinking age, they should try enforcing it.

College students are overwhelmingly not children and adolescents. They are legally adults. They (presumably) attend college to learn. They are not at college to replace one parent with another.

More importantly, again I must wonder if the Post’s editors have ever experienced college. During my time at Virginia Tech, administrators, via the campus police, enforced the drinking age. Of course this wasn’t effective at stopping binge (or non-binge) drinking. It merely drove it behind closed doors. This is predictable. The only way to further enforce drinking laws would require invasions of privacy not currently accepted. CCTV in all dorm rooms, anyone? Breathalyzers installed in any car registered for campus parking? Is this what the Post wants, because it is the only way to achieve what it advocates here? How far is too far for in loco parentis?

Or we could treat college students like adults capable of making decisions. Regardless of whether we approve of their decisions, until they harm someone, those decisions are rightfully theirs.

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