The battle lines are being drawn again around the issue of drinking by those under the age of 21.
For years, this issue was decided by the states — I remember living in Georgia when the drinking age was 19. But then the federal government — in a solid attempt to do away with the whole constitutional concept of states’ rights — decided the drinking age should be 21. Starting in 1984, the feds blackmailed the states into accepting this new age limit by threatening to withhold transportation funding if they didn’t comply.
Now, the Amethyst Initiative is underway to look at whether the drinking age should be lowered. What may be a shocker to some people is that the group is being led and promoted by chancellors and presidents from universities across the United States.
The group has said it’s incorrectly being billed as an organization looking to lower the drinking age to 18. In actuality, the group is calling for an open discussion about what the correct drinking age should be. But lots of folks will always equate the change back to 18 — the age when people legally become adults, the age when they can vote, the age when they can sit on a jury and the age when they can join the military to fight and die protecting their country. The age at which we still think they can’t buy a beer and be responsible.
The argument by the Amethyst Initiative is simple. They are suggesting that if we allowed a lower drinking age then college kids would be out in public drinking where they could be held to a higher level of responsibility for themselves. As it stands now, college kids under age 21 are drinking, a lot in some cases, and they are doing so while hiding out at parties both off campus and on.
MADD is one of the organizations opposed to lowering the drinking age, with spokespeople arguing it will lead to more binge drinking and more drunk driving. A fellow also recently wrote to my local newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, arguing the drinking age should be increased to 25.
It’s a philosophical argument we’ll be hearing about for some time as it gets debated and politicians fret over which way they should lean to garner more votes in their next election.
Regardless of the outcome, I applaud the university presidents willing to stand up and say, “This isn’t working, let’s talk about how to fix it.” I appreciate that they are willing to risk their own reputations in doing so — because there are far too many times in history when people in positions of authority chose to do nothing when they could have made a tremendous difference in people’s lives.
What do you think? Old enough for war, old enough to drink?