August 31 2008

Unversity Presidents Want Drinking Age Lowered

Well, it seems I’m not the only one who still thinks the drinking age needs to be lowered.

I have visited this subject twice before, but my Should the legal drinking age be lowered? post from last August sparked the most feedback.  I won’t rehash everything I said there, but I still stand by it.  There was one thing I did not take into account was the angle of binge drinking, and that is the angle that is most concerning the 129 presidents of colleges and universities who have signed a letter, known as the Amethyst Initiative, asking for the legal age to be re-examined.

This story is about a week old now, but I wanted to think on it some before I went off on it again, and I think I have an even stronger feeling now that the age should be lowered than before.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of binge drinking, this is the act of people drinking mass quantities of alcohol in a short period of time.  This has become quite popular with college students as they will have someone buy them alcohol and they drink it (commonly called “pregaming”) before they head out to clubs were they won’t be able to drink.  This leads to cases of alcohol poisoning, car accidents and all of the problems related to extreme drinking.

As I have said before I don’t get why the United States has the oldest legal drinking age in the world.  Especially in this day and age it has become a bigger and bigger joke that anyone actually thinks this age actually acts as a deterrent to people drinking to begin with.  Either you have older people buying alcohol for you or you have a fake ID, but alcohol is easily had by just about anyone who wants it.  My parents now know that I had as much alcohol as I wanted as a teen, and it was not so much as I actually wanted it as I have always enjoyed finding ways around rules and systems. As I said last year, I think most people indulge in alcohol while under age for the taboo factor.

I personally think the majority of the problem falls on parents with so many other factors in this day and age.  How many times have I talked about no one needs to tell you watch to watch on television as you have the ultimate control with your remote?  How many times have I said parents wouldn’t have to worry about sexual predators getting their children on the computer if they would simply move the computers to a common room of the house and take more responsability?  The same applies to drinking.

There is a very telling quote from a woman named Toni Chippi of Grand Blanc, MI.  While dropping off her 18-year-old daughter at Michigan State University told the Detroit News:

“They drink anyway, but I don’t think they need a ticket to drink any sooner. It just starts the problems sooner.”

That seems to be the general consensus of people that they drink anyway, but oh well, we’re legally keeping them from it.

If parents would take the time to actually talk to their children as opposed to expecting the world to safe-guard them, you would be amazed what would happen with a lot of today’s “problems”.  They aren’t problems in the traditional sense, they are problems in the sense of lazy parenting.  I always like to point to the UK law that says 16-year-olds may drink in restaurants at meals with their parents or guardians present.  Perhaps 16 is too young, but what a concept of breaking people into the world of alcohol as opposed to going, “Hey, you’re 21 now, have at it!” or, dropping your kid off at school and saying, “behave”.

So why does lowering the age appeal to so many college presidents?  It will allow them to tackle alcohol education more directly.  If the legal age is 21, their hands are pretty much tied in talking to the incoming classes of freshman who are 18 about drinking.  Wouldn’t that seem pretty silly since they aren’t technically allowed to drink?  By lowering the age you would be able to include alcohol education in the orientation information and you would also see a reduction in the number of binge drinking related problems.  The Los Angeles Times has a good list of the pros and cons of a younger drinking age, and I like it as it contradicts itself, truly showing you both sides of the argument.

Is there a perfect solution?  No.  Do I think the age should be lowered?  Well, honestly, it has already been, just not legally or safely.  You would be hard pressed to find people who have gone off to college and not picked up drinking under the age of 21.  By it being driven underground, it is being handled in an even more unsafe manner by all parties involved.

I don’t think the age will get lowered, but I certainly hope it at least gets looked at, and until someone can give me concrete reasons as to why we should have the highest legal drinking age in the world, I will continue to say that this is not only not working, but is dangerous.

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