A Letter to The Editor, published by the New York Times on October 7, 1997.


Walter Kirn  (Op-Ed, October 3) in his piece, "Drinking to Belong" presents a jaded view of a world that he seems to be holding a grudge against, attributing drinking to "Campus Bullies" - (fraternity and sorority associations).

The first issue I have trouble with is that Mr. Kirn seems to think that our college-aged drinking problems would go away if fraternities and sororities were dissolved and banned from colleges and universities across the nation.

The United States, for all its posturing, has still not understood the basics of education in this realm, opting to impose laws to limit access to alcohol to some  indiscriminate age.  The basics of teenage rebellion show that the more you restrict something, the more desirable it becomes. (Need I remind Mr. Kirn that grown, responsible, adults contributed to the creation of the most powerful mobster in U.S. history just so they could whet their whistle?)

Education on the proper use, as opposed to abuse, of alcohol should be first and foremost in our eyes right now.  Western European age limits hover at 16 years, and wine is a staple on the family dinner table. Binge drinking is not an issue in these countries.  When parents educate their children, and society as a whole accepts the proper use of alcohol while looking down on its abuse, perhaps our teenagers and college aged children will understand what most of us have; binge drinking was fun only when it wasn't allowed.

This is important to note, as once a behavior like binge drinking is learned, it can continue after that person has reached the "age of responsibility."  As they grow, these binge drinkers continue along a path that has become completely natural to them - and destructive. Our children are obviously intelligent and talented.  Still, the government has chosen totalitarianism over education.  We need to set them on the right path through open and intelligent means, not more bans and wrist slaps.

My second issue with Mr. Kirn is his coloring of fraternities and sororities as little more than beer houses that exist to "prey on the insecurities of young adults."  As social organizations, fraternities, sororities, and other social clubs such as Spirit are there for exactly the opposite; for the support and friendships needed in any society, be it an Elks Lodge in Hoboken, NJ or a fraternity in the university the size of a city.  These social clubs also contribute massively to social programs, from Adopt-a-Highway to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

Mr. Kirn may misinterpret a fraternity member's pride in the rich history of many of these organizations as being elitist, because he is still upset "no club wanted me." But he should not blame an ill of society on a club formed from that society.


---> Page Last Modified on October 27, 1997<---