College Presidents Call for Debate on Lowering the Drinking Age

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It's encouraging to see prominent educators take a stand for more sensible drug policies:

As college students gear up for annual back-to-school parties, a group of university and college presidents in California and across the country this week pushed for a national debate over whether the drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18.

The current limit ignores the reality of drinking during college years and drives it underground, making binge drinking more dangerous and students less likely to seek help in an emergency, according to a petition signed by more than 100 campus presidents. Though they don't call for an outright age rollback, the campus chiefs said they support "an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age." [LA Times]

The drug czar's office went code red, of course, and was probably more than a little displeased at having to respond to a bunch of respected college presidents who couldn't be ignored or accused of being pro-drug. With the help of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, they've compiled a list of emphatic counterpoints most of which, if true, would compel us to ban alcohol entirely for everyone. My favorite is that, "all underage drinking is unsafe drinking."

And isn't that just precisely the point here? Kids are getting bombed surreptitiously in dormrooms across America. They're being ushered into the drinking culture by the drunkest people on earth. And they're afraid to ask for help in an emergency because well-meaning morons have criminalized their behavior instead of supervising it.

Of course, beyond the practical problems with the 21 drinking age, I'm still a big fan of the old cliché that if you're old enough to fight and die for your country, you're old enough to drink a beer. That argument should've worked a long time ago, but I guess I've been fighting for drug policy reform long enough to know that being right doesn't mean politicians will do what you propose.

So instead, every American between the ages of 18 and 20 should refuse to serve in the armed forces until this is addressed, lest they should find themselves fighting in defense of a freedom they may not live long enough to taste.
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Outlaw alcohol?

Actually, if you go to MADD's full article, it seems they should outlaw college. "More than 30 percent of college students abuse alcohol and six percent are dependent on alcohol – rates much higher than for young adults who are not in college."

On another note, Donna Shalala seems to be a pretty effective lapdog for MADD; She goes exclusively for emotional appeal and is not quoted saying a single academically relevant thing, preferring statements like:

"I am old enough to remember life on our campuses before the 21 year drinking rule. It was horrible." Was it? I wasn't around, but my parents seemed to enjoy it, and they emerged unscathed. I didn't hear any horror stories from their college years growing up, but I heard plenty of stories.

I wonder why they don't have any quotes from any of the presidents who signed the petition, I bet the president of Duke University is probably a pretty intelligent fellow, probably fairly eloquent, too. But according to MADD, he obviously hasn't studied this issue and just put his name on the petition to, I guess? What reason could they have for signing this petition if they didn't truly believe that at least discussing this was a good idea?

< 21 binge drinking


Personal experience has taught me that binge drinking by high school graduates [ college bound] is not about the law. Alot of teens are restricted from the high school "party" crowd, late nights , etc.Once off to college, mums and pops ain`t around no more you see. All those party`s that were missed, the late nights out w/friends that never happened. You get the picture? A life long sober teen trying to make up for 2 years of missed out partying in a weekend is bad news by any standard. Teen angst and rebellion towards hard line parents can reveal itself in predictable ways.It`s nothing new.

Re: "...if you're old enough to fight and die for your country..

"Of course, beyond the practical problems with the 21 drinking age, I'm still a big fan of the old cliché that if you're old enough to fight and die for your country, you're old enough to drink a beer. "

Yeah, but the govt doesn't issue you a rifle to fight for your country unless you pass a comprehensive and intense basic training program. I think all people between ages 18 to 25 should be required to attend an alcohol education class annually to up to at least the age of 25. For the 18 to 20 crowd, they should be allowed to only drink in bars where their consumption can be moderated more easily.

the best way to educate people on drugs and alcohol

The best way to educate people on drugs and alcohol is to educate the users directly. That would help to create a culture of users that is keenly aware of the medical and psychological effects of their drug of choice. Any newcomers, as they are introduced to the culture of the drug, would also be introduced to all this knowledge.

One thing we do already to this effect, which we should continue to do, is to write on the label that cigarrettes are bad for you (and let's make the label on alcohol containers a little more direct. I have a bottle of rum here, it says: "consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems") I think instead of "health problems", it should say, "cirrhosis of the liver, a fatal disease. May also lead to physical addiction. Overdose can can cause death".

But anyway, that's the least of it. What I think we should start doing that we don't yet do is this: require licenced sellers (and if drugs were legal, we could do this, but since that hasn't happened yet, let's just do it with alcohol and tobacco), to give away free dvds or pamphlets to anyone who wants them that educate people on the effects, the sideeffects, and the dangers of the drug. The government should make a dvd about alcohol and one about cigarrettes. All bars, all liquor stores, all 7-11s, should carry the dvds and pamphlets to be able to give away for free to anyone who requests them. Eventually, everyone who drinks or smokes will have heard of these dvds, and many people will have watched them. Also, require licenced sellers to be able to refer buyers to rehabilitation or counseling programs if they ask for them.

It's okay at 18

I live in a Latin American country where you're allowed to drink at 18. I've travelled to the US many times to visit my sister and to visit friends who went to college there. I think it's more or less the same thing. It's probably better if you just allow them to drink at 18. (I'm 26 now, btw, in case you're wondering who this is coming from). It's not like there's mayhem here because kids are running around drunk. (I mean, I suppose there can be incidents, but you have those in the US too.) Nobody's very worried about the fact that people can drink at 18. Plus, i'd even say that the college parties I went to when I was visiting my friends in the US where somewhat crazier than the parties I went to here. I think it probably has to do with the "forbidden fruit" thing. (or perhaps it's just a cultural thing, I don't know.) I'd never heard of a beer bong until I went to the US. I still have never seen anyone in my country use a beer bong. The best thing we can do is just to tell kids not to drink and drive. That's the only real problem there could be anyway, and they'll probably be more receptive if you treat them like they're capable of being responsible for themselves.

Legalize MJ 1st

If alcohol is is be re-legalized for 18+ year olds, then so should the safer substance, marijuana, first or concurrently.

Temperance Politics

In the 70s some states experimented with lowering the drinking age limit to 18 or 19.  The drinking age was then raised back to 21 after claims were made that lowering the limit raised traffic fatalities.  Given the ever-present influence of temperance in the U.S., it’s difficult to determine the accuracy of this traffic statistic, or what the real numbers might be in today’s more drug-aware culture.

Many influences play different roles in prohibition schemes.  Prior to the 18th Amendment that banned alcohol, temperance groups convinced several states and counties to invoke semi-prohibition laws at the local level that might restrict alcohol sales between certain hours, or ban alcohol sales on Sundays, for example.

Sunday alcohol sales produced a noticeable effect compared to their prohibition.  It turned out that church attendance on Sundays would decline by as much as 30-percent if alcohol sales were allowed.  Naturally, along with Sunday alcohol sales, attendance at Sunday sporting events always went up.  Sinful behavior such as dissing church for the local bar and racetrack was a thorn in the sacred posteriors of the Christian Women’s Temperance Union, whose more mentally tweaked members sometimes reacted violently to make their point.


I think the real argument,

I think the real argument, that im very glad they brought up, is if you can VOTE and DIE for your country WHY cant you have a beer? its absolutely absurd.

Now if they could only call for a debate on marijuana laws, I know personally at the university I work at (U of M) many of the head people, and many people with Ph. D.'s smoke marijuana.

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