Education Notebook

Frequent Binge Drinking Rising at U.S. Colleges

REUTERS, March 14 — Despite stepped-up prevention programs on campuses, the percentage of frequent binge drinkers at American colleges rose by 14% between 1993 and 1999, according to a study released on March 14, reported Reuters news service.

A binge drinker is defined as a man who had five or more drinks in a row, or a woman who had four or more consecutive drinks, at least once in the two weeks before completing a questionnaire. Frequent binge drinkers consumed those amounts at least three times in the previous two weeks.

“I really don't know why it's grown, and it's disturbing that it has,” Henry Wechsler, director of the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, told Reuters. “It does show you that education itself (about the dangers of excessive drinking) doesn't do it.”

The study found that the share of students who drank on 10 or more occasions in the previous month had risen to 22% from 18% in 1993, and the rate of those who drank to get drunk surged to 47% from 40% in 1993.

But the study also found continuing evidence of a backlash against binge drinking on campus, with 19% of respondents abstaining from drinking altogether — the same rate as in 1997, but an increase from 15% in 1993.

Frequent binge drinkers consume two-thirds of all the alcohol drunk by college students, and account for the majority of serious alcohol-related problems on campuses, such as vandalism, drunk driving and injuries, the report said.

Florida Judge Stops Voucher Program

CATHOLIC LEAGUE, March 14 — A state judge in Florida on March 14 declared the state's voucher program unconstitutional.

The program, designed to assist the poorest students in Florida, would give parents $3,389 to send their children to the school of their choice, including religious schools.

The ruling by L. Ralph Smith Jr. of the state's circuit court focused on a provision of the Florida state constitution that declares education a “fundamental value” of the state and says it is a “paramount duty” to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, criticized the decision. “The ironies are macabre: those who champion the right of the poor are pro-choice on abortion but anti-choice on education,” he said. “That's because they are so concerned over the fate of unwanted children that they'd rather see them dead than alive. This is called the humanitarian thing to do.

“Those that live, however, are not entitled to go to quality schools and must be forced to attend schools that breed poverty and ignorance. Then the cycle begins all over again. This is called the humanitarian thing to do. Anyone for inhumanity?”