Last week, about 100 college presidents (including some from the most prestigious universities) recommended that the U.S. lower the drinking age to 18. Their reasoning? They say dropping the legal age would lessen the appeal and underground culture of college drinking. They believe it also would reduce binge drinking and prompt 18- to 20-year-olds to be more moderate in their alcohol consumption. Are they joking?! Do they also suppose that fraternity parties will turn into tea-sipping study sessions?
Leading the pack with this so-called Amethyst Initiative is John McCardell, who challenged Vermont in 2005 by saying in The New York Times, "The 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law." McCardell recently added, "All the data show that by the time (students) go to college, they have already experienced alcohol, so how can anyone say the law is working?" So is the remedy lowering the drinking age to accommodate juvenile jugging? Do we really think giving young people, who are eager to experience life outside the boundaries and rules of home, the right to drink would aid their and society's progress?
For the record, the drinking age was established at 21 in 1933, after Prohibition was repealed. In 1971, when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18, several states reduced the drinking age, too. In 1984, however, with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, all U.S. states were required to return the drinking age to 21. Ever since, alcohol-related fatalities have dropped 56 percent (except for a spike during the past decade). And now 100 college presidents want to raise those lethal statistics again? As it is, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,700 college students die annually from alcohol-related incidents, not including the non-drinking victims also killed in those occurrences.