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Mark Squires' E-Zine on Wine

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Articles, July / August, 1998

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A Horror Story
(Please do not lend to those under 21)

    How bad can it get? How senseless can people be? The rush to lump alcohol in with "drugs" is out of hand. Apparently, our schools lack the ability to see or teach shades of gray. Instead, it seems to them useful to treat heroin, tobacco and alcohol as the same things. They teach zero tolerance for all three. They preach only dangers.

    Speaking of preaching, I have written a bit on this before, pointing out, in particular, why alcohol is different. Alcohol, for one thing, has health benefits. For another, it has not been relentlessly marketed to the underage. And for a third, particularly when we deal with wine, it is simply part of a meal, an age-old nod to civilized life that carries with it few if any risks for any normal person using it in moderation. It should not set off panic, yet it apparently does.

    The latest case in point was published a month or so ago in the Wall Street Journal. During the final meal of a week's immersion into French culture, the teacher poured the students in an 8th grade class a thimble full of wine. This led to his dismissal. He was reinstated after writing a mea culpa somewhat similar to the self-criticisms required by the Chinese Communists during the Cultural Revolution.

    This matter was discussed at length on a bulletin board, recently, and I think the commentary was superb and deserves quoting. A well known importer wrote that "when my son was in 6th grade, parents were invited in to talk about their work. I said I would come. I was told I would not be welcome. I told them that I would see them in court. They decided I could come. I went, I made my presentation, strongly stressing the difference between wine as a food at table and whiskey."

    Another participant said that "this story brings back the memory of a school trip to Italy and Greece I took between 7th and 8th grades. Before we left, each child's parents were given the opportunity to allow, in writing, the child to have small amounts of wine with meals, in order to better understand the culture. IIRC, all of the parents signed "yes," so all of us had a small glass of wine with several of the dinners. In today's society, the school the WSJ wrote up would have been well served by doing the same thing....Events like this are the natural result of the current anti-alcohol/drug programs that America's youth are being indoctrinated with. The programs allow for no middle ground, all drugs and alcohol are bad. Moderation is a foreign idea, because anyone who teaches that will be vilified for "promoting drinking by kids. Neoprohibitionist forces have managed to shift the focus from a war on alcohol abuse to a war on use.....A good example is SADD, which many people believe stands for Students against Drunk Driving, stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions. They no longer (if they ever did to begin with) target abuse of alcohol. They target use."

    Another participant chimed in that "this is another example of blind adherence to rules (no drinking by minors) superseding people's ability to think and act based on thoughtful analysis of an individual situation. No doubt the irony of educators abdicating their powers of logic is not lost on the students, who are surely savvy enough to see this sort of knee-jerk idiocy for what it is. Fools live in a world with no shades of gray. Thus, drugs and alcohol are bad, period..... The American notion seems to be that children shouldn't touch alcohol until they're 21, at which time they are packed off to the bar and expected to know how to drink in moderation. How can anyone be surprised that this strategy fails so reliably? ..... As others have mentioned, teaching children to drink responsibly at home is one of our best weapons against alcohol abuse. Astoundingly, this fact has become so buried under a tangled mass of religious, moral, and social doctrines that it is now perceived as the problem rather than the solution. So have we turned the world on its head."

    One can only wonder at our educators' collective inability to see any shades of gray. I remember the academic who, a couple of years ago, reported that his child became excited at watching him drink wine with dinner, yelling that Daddy was using drugs. If you are not convinced yet, may I say that this is an increasingly prevalent attitude, thanks to our schools' indoctrination? (Education would be a misnomer.) For example, I heard a twenty-five year old guard in a liquor store telling a co-employee that he could not comprehend wine connoisseurs and collectors. It was like saying there were acceptable drug connoisseurs, or drug collectors.

    A school system that taught my child that way would be a school system I would want to reform. Impeach board members. Fire principals and teachers. Better yet, spend time trying to get kids to forego the twinkies and other nutritionally useless snacks that are making Americans fatter and fatter every year. But don't paint in such broad brush strokes that a child will come home wondering why Daddy is doing drugs with dinner. Well, hey, at least that Lafite stuff doesn't have to be bought on the black market, right? Always a silver lining.

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Copyright Mark Squires, © 1998 all rights reserved.