The Young and the Wasted
I was more fortunate than most. Recently, I was reunited with high school friends whom I had not seen since graduation. We all had gone to different colleges, and had lived very different lives. Our reunion was occasioned by the tragic death of a friend who had discovered heavy drinking and hard drugs after high school and had never fully recovered. The others had made better decisions eventually, but not until after losing scholarships, taking time off from college, and finally finishing, upwards of six years after they had started.
They did not express regret for their partying. They regretted having gone to college in the first place. One lamented that he would never use his major. Another wished he had learned a trade instead.
In response to Prager, Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic that the reason college students lose their faith has little to do with the liberal university and much more to do with the simple fact that students leave home. I agree with Friedersdorf. Leaving home, he explains, separates the young person from external pressures to be religious. But, I would add, it also exposes students to new pressures, including the pressures to experiment with alcohol and drugs.
This experimentation is socially encouraged. College is the place where young people are supposed to try new things and make decisions for themselves. Tom Wolfe explored this in his mostly painful, but also painfully true, novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. And my student was right to suggest that as a young adult he must wade through the temptations and make the right decisions. Along the way he will presumably make many wrong ones.
I support experimentation in college. But I live with the hope that my students will choose to experiment more with new ideas than with new mind-altering beverages and substances. At present, however, the statistics don't favor this outcome. As detailed in a recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, excessive drinking by college students is "Wasting the Best and the Brightest."
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is the managing editor of Patrolmag.com, and writes on the various manifestations of Christianity in culture. Follow him on Twitter or at his website, www.jonathandfitzgerald.com.