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st. john fisher college

Why the Drinking Age Should be Lowered to 18

Megan Baker

Posted: Feb 20th 2009 4:15PM

Filed under: St. John Fisher College, News, Advise & Dissent

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The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 changed the drinking age from 18 to the now legal age of 21. Over the past couple of years, there have been debates as to whether this makes sense anymore (see my colleague Joshua Sharp's take here). This will also be the topic of discussion on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

One of the major subjects will be Gordie Bailey, a young man who unfortunately died of alcohol poisoning during a fraternity initiation in 2004 at The University of Colorado at Boulder.

Despite tragedies like this, there has been a notable push to change the drinking age back to 18.

One of the most well known (and most recent) movements is the Amethyst Initiative, which is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. The Amethyst Initiative (which is aptly named as the word "amethyst" ii derived from a word in Ancient Greek meaning "not intoxicated") aims to educate youth on responsible drinking rather than pretend that underage drinking is a non-issue.

The initiative is actually being supported by a large number of college presidents and chancellors including President Richard Brodhead of Duke University, President James E. Wright of Dartmouth College and most notably President Emeritus John M. McCardell Jr. of Middlebury College.

In 2004, President Emeritus McCardell submitted an op-ed piece to the New York Times that brought this debate back to the forefront. In the piece he said that college students are drinking regardless of age and regardless of the law, and anybody who ignores this fact is making a huge mistake.

"To lawmakers: the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking. Campuses have become, depending on the enthusiasm of local law enforcement, either arms of the law or havens from the law," McCardell said.

Since writing this piece, McCardell has been a big advocate of Choose Responsibility, a non-profit organization that is working to educate the public on the realities of underage drinking and the sensibility of lowering the drinking age to 18.As a college student, I can only agree with lowering the drinking age.

Ask any college student out there - binge drinking goes on no matter how old you are, no matter what laws exist, and heck, no matter what day of the week it is. To be completely honest with you, I easily got a fake ID when I got to college at the age of 18 and used it to get into bars until I turned 21 my junior year. While I never went to a store and purchased alcohol with it, I was never once turned down from a bar in Rochester, NY. I went out just about every weekend.

I knew that I could get a ticket for getting caught with someone else's license, but it didn't matter to me. Several of my friends have been ticketed for using a fake ID, but all it did was inconvenience them for a few days until they were able to find another one and get right back out to the bars. Saying that the drinking age is effective on curbing drinking on college campuses is like Bristol Palin telling us abstinence is the best way to avoid teen pregnancy.

Joelle Joseph, a former student at The University of Colorado at Boulder (where Gordie Bailey passed away) admitted that while the story of Bailey remains pervasive at the college, it has not curbed drinking.

"Since that incident, the school has been stricter about sororities and fraternities. They are not allowed to have rush events involving alcohol, but a lot of the fraternities still do," Joseph said.

Joseph explained that while the sorority system is under the branch of the school, the fraternity system is not so alcohol is still very much a part of rushing despite past incidents.

"Binge drinking is still a huge part of college life there. If you are going to visit there, be ready to party because any reason they can find to drink, they take it."

But beyond the fact that underage drinking goes on anyways, let's think about all of the other things 18-year-olds are allowed to do. Once you turn 18, you can vote in elections. You can go overseas and die for your country. You are also allowed to serve on a jury. There are also plenty of Americans out there under the age of 21 who are married and have children.

So, let's re-cap. As an 18-year-old, you are mature enough to partake in some of the most important tasks as an American citizen and have another life in your hands, but you are not mature enough to have a beer. Doesn't make much sense now, does it?

Should the Drinking Age Be Changed?
Yes, It Should Be Lowered1139 (79.7%)
Yes, It Should Be Raised46 (3.2%)
No, It Should Remain at 21244 (17.1%)

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