More Jackson County Opinions...

June 6, 2001

By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
June 6, 2001

Change outlook on drinking
Nineteen-year-old Jeana Bush has been arrested twice in as many months for drinking underage and many people are calling for an example to be made of her. For a stiff penalty and maybe even jail time. Yet I think we need to look at why Jeana was drinking when she was underage.
I was told countless times that just because "Suzy" was doing it didn't mean that I should do it, too. But when Suzy, Jon, Michelle, Billy, Erica, Zach, Dan, Mike, Jennifer and every other college student is doing it, maybe we should re-evaluate what is right and what is wrong.
Don't drink until you're 21. That's the law. That's three years after you can vote to elect the president. Three years after you're eligible to be drafted into war.
The age was lowered during the height of the Vietnam War amid protests that men were dying for their country, but were unable to walk into a bar and order a beer. It was raised again after an outbreak of alcohol-related accidents. Obviously, 18-year-olds were too immature to understand the seriousness of drinking alcohol.
In many European countries, teenagers can drink at 16 when their parent or guardian is present and at 18 without their parents. But Europe has fewer alcohol-related accidents than the United States, according to data released in 1996. I think the reason alcohol-related accidents increased in the U.S. after the drinking age was raised was a matter of outlook. The way Americans view drinking versus the way Europeans view drinking.
In Europe, wine is just another beverage and is commonly drunk with dinner or lunch. Children are given watered-down wine and drinking alcohol is just another part of dinner. It's a family affair. But parents in America generally don't teach their children how to drink responsibly. They just tell their teenagers don't do it. Kids may see that their parents drink only one glass of wine or only on special occasions, but they also see their parents wearing outdated fashions and listening to Barry White. Once teenagers are away from their parents' watchful eyes and in a college setting, alcohol becomes the necessary ingredient for a good time. Drinking because white wine brings out the flavor of chicken is not even heard of. Drinking because you want to get drunk, that's the general idea. And kids aren't waiting until they're 21. They just aren't getting caught at it. They're not the president's daughter.
Americans need to talk with their kids about alcohol use. Bring it to the dinner table before 18-year-olds go off to college and get the wrong idea. What could it hurt? Wine has redemptive qualities for the heart and blood system. Make a glass of wine every week or so part of a special family dinner. Water it down if you don't want your 17-year-old drinking it straight. You just might alter your child's thinking so that when she gets to college, drinking isn't all her peers make it out to be.
(You might want to know what my qualifications are for offering this advice. In May of 2000, I graduated from Agnes Scott College, a school voted "stone cold sober" by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during my stint there. There was a much more moderate crowd there than at the University of Georgia, yet we still learned the words to "Beer, beer, beer for old Agnes Scott" before our first year was over.)

Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers.

By Tim Thomas
The Jackson Herald
June 6, 2001

Reclassification again exposes GHSA putridity
Last year, the Georgia High School Association showed the entire state just how badly it wanted to play political games with House Speaker Tom Murphy over his demand for reclassification of private schools.
If the reclassification of 2000 left any doubt as to that fact, the proposed 2002-04 classifications received by member schools last week should remove that doubt.
The GHSA will no doubt claim its hands are tied and say something on the order of "that's just how the numbers worked out." That's at least partially true; the latest reclassification follows the same guidelines set up for last year's. The problem is that those guidelines were flawed.
The one-year five-classification experiment seems to have worked in most areas, but certainly not in Class A football. A system which allows 12 Class A football teams to qualify for the state tournament without having to win a single game is nothing short of moronic.
Aside from a handful of teams in other sports reaching the playoffs when they probably shouldn't, the system otherwise worked well, in spite of itself.
Unless some significant changes are made within the next year, don't expect that to happen during the 2002-03 school year. The competition pool that dropped last year will be nearly drained by then.
The best solution is to do away with the one-fifth in each classification rule, as Commerce head football coach Steve Savage proposed this week. That would still keep most private schools out, and increase the number of sports-active schools in Class A.
In fact, the smallest 17 schools in the proposed Class AA could be moved back to Class A, with only two private schools (Providence and Walker) included in that number. And guess what - 15 of the 17 will have full-time football programs this year. The other two? Providence and Walker.
Under the current proposal, only 47 schools in Class A will have full-fledged football programs in 2001. Two of those will petition to move into Class AA. That leaves 45. Adding 15 back would make 60. Any idiot can see that's a better situation.
The other classifications could be easily modified in accordance, with the difference either split among the other four or completely made up in Class AAAAA, where virtually every member school has a full athletic slate.
So why isn't the GHSA doing such a thing? Simple. Tom Murphy had to have his way, and the GHSA complied. And although they could make some minor adjustments to the system to make it work, they're too petty to do so. It's all a political game, and both Murphy and the GHSA want to win, even if high school athletes and sports fans lose.


Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald. He may be reached at the sports desk at 367-2348, or via email at


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