Big news on the college front. The Amethyst Initiative, a group formed by presidents and other high-ranking officials from a number of prominent U.S. colleges and universities (including big names such as Duke, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Syracuse, et al.), has begun its call for a reevaluation of the 21 year old federal drinking age. It appears they have noticed not only the injustice of such a law, but also the very real and dangerous culture of secrecy that the need for underage drinking breeds. According to the Staten Island Advance article, :
[T]he statement makes clear the signers believe the current law isn’t working, citing a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking,” and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they “are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.” Furthermore, “by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.”
Of course, even at the group’s earliest stages, there are dissenters. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has already expressed concerns that a lower drinking age will lead to more drunk driving incidents. I’m not sure of the exact statistics on this, but they claim in the Advance article that a number of peer-reviewed studies indicate that a higher drinking age is necessary to decrease drunk driving offenses.
Personally, I am inclined to go with a movement that addresses both issues. My high school health teacher always said we should raise the driving age and lower the drinking age. As a 15 year-old that seemed totally bizarre, but it doesn’t sound too crazy as a 22 year-old. Teenagers cause the most accidents because they’re young and have the brain function that causes them to take too many risks anyway, not necessarily because they’re drinking. Moreover, I think anyone can attest to the fact that many, many (if not most) people start drinking in their adolescence regardless of the 21 law. And as many of us know, binge drinking on college campuses is indeed a huge problem.
I tend to think a lot of the drinking problems that young adults have, however, are in part caused by the secrecy and stigma that American culture attaches to drinking. We live in a fear-based society, and are seemingly always taught that ALCOHOL IS BAD, when in reality, yeah a lot of the time it is bad, but also, having a glass of wine with dinner or a beer or two after work isn’t going to kill you. The real problem is teaching kids to drink responsibly and with moderation. And frankly, that isn’t something you can do if you are first saying they can’t drink AT ALL. I think a lower drinking age would help adolescents learn to drink responsibly at a younger age, and hopefully ward off some of those I-just-left-home-and-want-to-go-crazy freshman year of college puking-on-the-bathroom-floor antics.
Any thoughts on this? I know it’s a hot topic for people our age especially. Let it loose, folks!