The Kids Are Alright; Adults Not so Much

1977 April 7 Roper beer two opening day

Drinking: Circa 1977
No doubt this person was of-age to purchase alcohol.

The Ledger tells me that Paul Doering, professor emeritus at the University of Florida school of Pharmacy, is a consultant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). If that’s true, it confirms everything I’ve come to believe about the DEA and the absurd drug war it helps drive.

If this guy did not exist, the Animal House writers would have to come out of retirement to invent him.

My favorite part of his presentation “to 30 to 40” victims, eerr, attendees, was this:

“Today, people don’t even go out to the clubs until 11:30 p.m.,” which would have been bedtime for Doering as a UF student in the late 1960s.

Would that be before or after 60s UF students smoked giant bales of weed, dropped acid, and had free-love orgies with each other? Maybe it wasn’t so much bedtime as naptime. Honestly, have you people forgotten what year Woodstock happened in? It was 1969.

Indeed, Lakeland’s own Homer Hooks, who graduated from high school in 1968, once told The Ledger he decided not to attend the University of Florida because of the reports of wild partying. Seriously, here’s the link. You know how easy it was to find? A single Google search for “debauchery”, “University of Florida,” and “1968”.

So spare us, emeritus.

And then there was this marvelous sequence of bullet points of naughty college student behavior, for which I’m going to do a little call and response:

Many students think a DUI infraction is a badge of honor.

Many? How many? Who? Do you have names? Do you have any sort of study in which students are asked if they consider a DUI a badge of honor? I’ve lived with teenagers — both now college age — for the better part of a decade. And never once did I get any inkling that a DUI was considered anything but a massive pain in the butt, moral issues aside. Let’s hope Doering didn’t practice pharmacy the way he does social science. Because if he applied this same level of precision to how he cut up and doled out pills over the years, there’s no wonder we have a problem with prescription drug addiction.

Fraternities now monitor the radio communications of law enforcement so they can evade a potential police raid in progress and escape drinking infractions.

Not a big fan of frat boys, generally. But props to them for catching up to what the dying news industry has done for decades — listen to cops on $60 scanners. Also NASCAR. We have the technology.

Women are just as likely as men to be found passed out at nightclubs and bars.

The horror. Young women are free to be as young and stupid as young men.

To combat a 2 a.m. drinking curfew at Gainesville night spots, there’s a growing trend in “pre-parties,” where friends get together for “a few shots” before heading out on the town.

I attended a tony, U.S. News-darling private college in Massachusetts from 1990-1994. We interrupted our elites-in-training regimen to rage at massive keg parties most Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. And more than a few Tuesdays, for that matter. Almost every time, we attended pre-parties, where friends got together for “a few shots” or, more often, a few beers. We were all underage for most of the time. So we were also criminals.


Drinking - Circa 2012
Again, perfectly legal

To quote the Drive-By Truckers again (twice in two days):

“I’d like to say I’m sorry. I’d like to say I’m sorry. I’d like to say I’m sorry. But I ain’t sorry. Cuz I lived to tell about it. I lived to tell about it. I lived to tell about it. And I’m planning on living to do a whole bunch more crazy, stupid shit.”

Of course, it’s inarguable that the behavior I described could kill you or someone else. But so could many other things. There is no such thing as safe. There is only life. Danger and fun and shame and regret are all parts of life. Negotiating your relationship with those experiences is part of growing up, a process that will not end until we die. That’s how we develop maturity, if we ever do. At its best, that’s what going off to college helps begin to happen for some people.

Thus, my only advice for kids stepping out into an emerging world that is deeply uncertain and often hostile to the young is this:

Listen to your conscience, not anyone else’s. It is your best guide. Find friends that care about you and look out for each other. That’s the best insurance policy you can have. Learn from your mistakes. Because you will make them. They will be mortifying and shaming. Embrace shame, not because some doofus emeritus professor wants to judge you, but because you have expectations for yourself. The capacity to feel shame is the core of decency in my experience. But don’t feel too much of it.

And try not to listen to all the ignorant lies told about you from people who have some perverse need to think of you as unraveling their fantasy worlds.

For instance, consider this report from Center for Disease Control.

Specifically consider its title and key finding:

Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups

The birth rate for U.S. teenagers fell 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, to 34.3, the lowest level ever reported in the seven decades for which a consistent series of rates is available.

How does that fit into the narrative of decline that’s so precious to so many adults? Once, just once, I’d like to open The Ledger or any other newspaper and see a centerpiece with some adult saying, “Wow, you know, our kids are really pretty good. They’re moving in a pretty good direction. How can we best help this continue?”

Instead, we get buffoonish pharmacists playing sociologist. And we get behavior like we’ve seen among Polk County’s school leadership, where kids are just FTE grist for the Game of Thrones that selfish adults are playing with each other about who is in charge and who gets paid. Give me underage drinking any freaking day of the week.

When I look around my country, the only people I see really trying to get better are the young. And they’re succeeding despite all the obstacles selfish adults are throwing in their way — like student loan debt, the absence of health insurance, and the constant surveillance of drug war enforcers.

And on top of that, Professor Get-off-my-Lawn accuses them of lying:

What advice would Doering give parents on the subject of underage drinking?

“Know where your kids are, who they are with, what they’re up to,” he said, “And don’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths.”

Pot and kettle, people.

Listen kids, here’s a little advice about your parents. Anytime you hear a sentence start with, “Back in my day…” or make some reference to “leadership,” everything that comes after is going to be deeply full of crap.

Good luck. I, at least, am proud of you.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local