College Presidents Call For Lowering Of Drinking Age To 18

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Frat house binge drinkers have an unlikely ally when it comes to supporting their habit. A group of college presidents are calling for a national discussion on lowering the drinking age to 18.

But, as some would see this news, the reasons for changing the drinking age from 21 to 18 has nothing to do with promoting alcoholism. Rather, the college presidents are acknowledging the obvious: students do drink and by forcing them to do so behind closed doors, current law could be contributing to the problem of irresponsible drinking.

Lowering The National Drinking Age To 18

binge drinkingThe move to a lower drinking age is called the Amethyst Initiative, the former word meaning “not intoxicated” in the Greek language. As many as 129 college presidents have signed on, recognizing that setting the drinking age at 21 isn’t working. Specifically, the Amethyst Initiative recognizes:

  • A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed.
  • Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.
  • Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.
  • By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.

Using Prohibition As An Example

The college presidents point to the failed policy of Prohibition, the 1920s era temperance policy that resulted in underground drinking. Appealed in 1933, the 18th amendment to the US Constitution was replaced by alcohol regulations for producers while allowing states and local governments to establish laws curtailing availability. In 1984, as part of the federal government’s initiative to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21, the National Minimum Age Drinking Act forced states to comply with the law or risk losing as much as ten percent of their highway funding.

As part of the Amethyst Initiative, college presidents are calling on legislators to:

  • To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.
  • To consider whether the 10% highway fund “incentive” encourages or inhibits that debate.
  • To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.
  • We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.

Signing The Pledge, Opposition From MADD

College presidents and chancellors are being urged to download a *pdf document of the pledge, sign it, and ship it to Middlebury, VT where Amethyst Initiative representatives are building a case they hope to bring to our elected officials.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), whose mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking, is opposing the Amethyst Initiative, believing that some universities are shirking their responsibility to curb underage drinking. MADD representatives are being very vocal in their opposition, claiming that as many as 25,000 lives have been saved since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act became law.

The timing of the initiative and MADD’s vocal opposition are especially notable as the law will be up for review in 2009.

(Source: Amethyst Initiative)


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