SMC Should Offer Wine Appreciation Classes

Wine is ubiquitous in art and culture. It is found in Shakespeare’s poetry, Mozart’s operas and Picasso’s paintings. Yet, on many college campuses, wine’s dangers overshadow its place in the Humanities. Students have ample opportunities to learn about the dangers of alcohol—and rightly so—but focusing solely on the perils of alcohol is not only incomplete, it is dangerous. Like a driver’s education class that only focuses on freeway accidents, an alcohol education that only focuses on abuse leaves students with a hazy picture. By teaching wine appreciation classes to students of legal-drinking-age, SMC would not only help students foster a richer understanding of the world, but it would give students the tools to foster a healthier and safer relationship with wine and alcohol as a whole.

The dangers of alcohol abuse are real. A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that “more than a third of young adults in 2017 were current binge drinkers.” SMC should continue to offer services to students, such as substance and counseling at the Psychological Services Center.

But a focus on the dangers of alcohol is incomplete and does not work. Fear-based drug and alcohol training programs fail to discourage students from using alcohol or drugs. DARE, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was once the most popular drug and alcohol prevention program in American classrooms, with as much as 75 percent of US schools participating in the program. But DARE completely changed its methodology after waves of studies showed it to be ineffective. Studies from The American Psychological Association and the American Public Health Association, to name a few, showed that DARE graduates were at least as likely to use drugs and alcohol as those who never participated in the program. A study from Indiana University found that students who attended DARE trainings had an even higher rate of trying certain drugs.

On the other hand, a Cambridge University Study reported that adolescents whose parents introduced them to tastes of alcoholic beverages were less likely to abuse alcohol as adults. The juxtaposition of these studies demonstrates that mature and informed education is far more effective than one based on fear and abstinence. Wine appreciation classes would not ignore the dangers of alcohol abuse, but they would approach them in a realistic and holistic way.

Colleges from Cornell University to the University of California, Davis offers wine appreciation classes. That is because wine is a rich and interdisciplinary subject. Students in a wine appreciation class learn about geography, history, biology, and art. They learn to see the glass as a vessel of human spirit and culture. Learning to appreciate the delicate aromas of tar and roses in a glass of Barolo is as crucial to the human condition as understanding the play of color and texture on one of Monet’s canvasses.

Students who learn this appreciation are more likely to consider wine—and by extension, other alcoholic drinks—as something to savor and ponder, rather than as something to be chugged quickly at a party. Santa Monica College should help foster such an understanding.