Alcohol course doesn’t teach

Story by Tommy Kishaba

I wrote this down during a court-mandated alcohol awareness class: “Note to self: DON’T SMOKE CRACK.” While this may seem like plain ol’ common sense, it is particularly ingrained into my mind after an eight-hour class in Banbury Place on the dangers of hard drugs … I mean alcohol.

This class may be familiar to many of you; it is standard fare for the police-plagued under-21s of UW-Eau Claire. The class I took (one of a few options) was, in one word: long. In two words: wait, what?

I assure you my confusion about this class was not misplaced, as I do in fact share the sentiments of many of my peers who have taken the exact same one (the woman in charge is a lively, endearing 70-something who has been at this for a while).

It was a beautiful fall Saturday dedicated to hearing testimonials from crack addicts, meth addicts, coke addicts and a single alcoholic to finish it off, with the mutual understanding that those of us in attendance will continue to drink if we really do want to, but they would do their best to make us responsible while doing it.

They were all touching stories and great cautionary tales, but it got me to thinking, largely in the form of rhetorical questions. Why is this type of class used in tandem with punishment for breaking the law? Wouldn’t this class be more helpful/meaningful/influential to those in high school or even middle school? Why is the punishment for such a stringent law so very contradictory in nature?

There are many issues I have with alcohol-related laws here in the U.S., and the ridiculously high priority our very own police department gives to doling out the tickets, but that is for another time and place (perhaps we can discuss it over a beer, yeah?).

The topic at hand, however, is just as confusing to me as abstinence-based sex “education.” When you try to repress certain instincts in children ­— or high school students or college students ­— in this case to appear more adult and enjoy what is perceived as adult beverages, you will only encourage them to do the exact opposite. (See also: teen pregnancy rates in the South.)

Law enforcement’s fixation on this law and our education system’s lack of education on the matter have been simultaneously contributing to creating a party culture, in which massive amounts of alcohol needs to be consumed in a short amount of time. That is not to say popular culture and the general angst of my generation are not also to blame, but if you want responsible young adults, you must first give us choices so that we may become responsible.

The current policy of “alcohol is inherently bad until you reach the exact age of 21” is obviously not working; high school students and people of age alike are getting their stomachs pumped every night, and still they think nothing is wrong with their method.

One speaker I particularly appreciated (and the single one that seemed pertinent) at the class was a father whose high school-age son died while driving home from a party drunk. They had a rule in their house that if he was ever out of the house and was too impaired to drive for whatever reason, his father would come and get him.

Maybe he thought he was okay to drive or just wanted his car at home with him — we’ll never know, but that is the kind of story that should be told to us from the time those decisions may start appearing in our lives.

Teachers and parents alike need to be open with today’s youth, and trying to convince middle/high school students to never touch a drop of alcohol in their lives is ludicrous. Drinking, especially in Wisconsin, is as ubiquitous an activity as shoveling the driveway come winter and learning how to drink responsibly is something people need to stop dying over in order to figure out.

No amount of underage tickets or Saturday-long classes will teach those already dead due to drunk driving or alcohol poisoning.

As for me? I’m not a frequent party-goer. I made the mistake of dropping by a friend’s “small” Valentine’s Day/housewarming party at  precisely the wrong time. One of the roughly 30 (no exaggeration there) officers dispatched to the party, however, gave me some sage advice: “These parties are busts waiting to happen. You just gotta have a beer or two with your friends and watch a movie or whatever, ya know?”

I wish my high school health teacher had told me that.

 

 

 

Tommy Kishaba is a freshman print journalism major and freelancer for The Spectator.