Over the Edges

It’s about time the drinking age comes up for discussion, and in the end, it should be lowered to age 18.

Some 119 heads of universities around the nation are calling for the drinking age to be lowered to 18.

They say a drinking age of 21 has created a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking, often conducted off campus.”

John McCardell, the former president of Vermont’s Middlebury College who launched the initiative, said the educators want to foster responsible drinking among young people who are getting alcohol and abusing it despite the laws.

Opponents of a lower drinking age, such as MADD and SADD, say it will encourage more underage drinking among a group of people who are already given to binge drinking and all of the problems that go with it.

They say alcohol-related deaths among youngsters are climbing and offer all sorts of doom-and-gloom predictions about even more rampant drinking among young people should the drinking age be lowered.

Realistically it will not impact the number of youthful drinkers much at all. Any of us old folks who can still remember high school will remember how widespread alcohol use and abuse is among teens. The same goes for college. It’s a fact of life, against the law or not.

In a Fox News story about a study of “extreme drinking,” 55 percnt of college students had consumed alcohol in the two weeks prior to a survey.

According to the Web site alcohol101plus.com, 72 percent of college students reported using alcohol at least once in the previous 30 days.

Search the Internet, and you’ll find pages and pages of sites concerned about so much underage drinking among college students today.

This isn’t a reason to lower the drinking age. We should never legalize something just “because everybody does it.” It just means that arguing that it will cause more young people to drink is pointless and wrong. Almost everyone is doing it already.

Those who don’t drink alcohol now are choosing not to for reasons of their own. Suddenly making it legal will not convince them to start abusing alcohol.

Given our experiences with drinkers of legal age, we can still expect young moronic drunken drivers on our streets.

It doesn’t matter too much anyway; those youngsters are even now out and about, drinking and having a “good time,” sometimes driving, just like their adult role models.

I do not condone underage drinking. I do not condone drinking among young people. In fact, I do not condone drinking by anyone – not more than a good beer or two once in awhile.

Drinking alcohol, and most especially drunkenness, is a waste of time that leads to stupid decisions and often to long-term implications on one’s life.

However, the lives of other adults are not mine to manage nor are they yours. The decision to do or not do stupid things belongs to the adult person who owns the life.

Which brings up the most critical point regarding drinking age: The most important reason for decreasing the drinking age. Either 18-year-olds are adults or they are not. Our laws treat them rather capriciously in this matter, as well handgun ownership.

At age 18, everyone acquires all the legal privileges and all the responsibilities of an adult, with two exceptions: They are not permitted to consume alcohol and they cannot own a handgun.

At age 18, young adults are permitted to smoke and chew tobacco.

They are permitted to vote, regardless of whether they have any grasp of civics or reality – something that they will probably never acquire. Their parents sure didn’t in any case, given what we currently have for elected officials in this nation.

They gain the authority to allow or deny their own medical treatment.

They do not have to face any of the restrictions even younger drivers must when they get their licenses. They can stay out past curfew.

They can move out and rent their own homes.

They’re responsible for their own bills. They can take out loans. Pretty much everywhere, they’re allowed to get married.

Their criminal records are more or less wiped clean, and they are tried as adults for their crimes.

They are given the authority to kill or be killed in a war. Were a draft in place as in the past, they could be compelled against their will to kill or be killed in a war.

In nearly every way, we treat an 18-year-old as an adult, but we deny them just a couple of choices we give to every other adult over the age of 21, regardless of how responsible they are in using alcohol.

Some might argue that based on young people’s brain chemistry, they aren’t stable enough until their early 20s.

If that’s the case, perhaps the discussion instead needs to be about raising the age on all these other adult decisions to 21.

I wouldn’t support that, but the consistency would be better than it is now.