by Brad Nelson 2/13/15
I was intrigued by this article by Gerald D. Skoning at The American Spectator (Prohibition on Campus: In Loco Parentis Run Amok?) about the prohibition of hard liquor on campus at Dartmouth.
Not only do I think this is a terrific idea, I would ban all alcohol. Lest we forget, the purpose of college is not a continuation of adolescence. The point is not to sort of have an extended party before the real world hits, although that’s what much of college life has turned into.
Unfortunately, the point of the prohibition does not seem to be either to forward sobriety or an attempt to refocus upon the academic. The point seems to be to try to reduce the number of sexual assault cases. In practice this means saving women from themselves (something parents, particularly fathers, used to do by reminding women to beware of men because they tend to want only one thing).
Helping save women from themselves (and men from themselves as well) isn’t a bad thing, even if this saving should have come earlier from the parents and/or the churches. Better late than never, and it would certainly be good if colleges furthered the good standards of the family rather than actively working to undermine them, as has been much of the point of a “Progressive” college education since at least the 1920’s.
But from what I gather from this article, not only is the idea of refocusing on academics not the point, but the idea of reigning in sexual abandon isn’t the point either of this hard alcohol ban. As framed by Skoning, this appears to be a factor of “growing pressure from the federal government under Title IX to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related student misbehavior.”
So as much as I might want to read into this the return of the adult on campus, the return of sobriety, and the return of a focus on academics, it could be a case of same-old, same-old: reacting to the gorilla in the living room (the Federal government) in an effort to keep the dollars flowing.
One hopes for a certain amount of wisdom from adults, but reading some of the comments underneath that article, one wonders if that is possible anymore. The reigning thought seems to be “There’s no use banning anything because people will find a way around it.” I guess when I was young and dumb, I likely mouthed the same juvenile words — words devoid of any wisdom and full of rationalizations.
But we don’t get rid of laws because people break them. Laws are there as an expression of society’s standards based upon (hopefully) wisdom. It’s true that if you ban hard liquor (or all liquor) from campus that some students will find a way around it. But that’s beside the point. To have that standard sends a clear signal about what the point of university is. And, more importantly, it gives moral and intellectual weight to the students who do not want to take part in Bacchanalian ways just to fit in. We owe it to our children to do no less, despite whatever goof-ball rationalizations that libertarians and other types will come up with.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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