A bad idea is a bad idea, no matter how many college presidents jump on the bandwagon. Make that the beerwagon.Over 100 supposedly-responsible prezes signed the Amethyst Initiative (Greek for "not intoxicated"), calling for a national debate on lowering all state drinking ages to 18. And their rationale, which was surely dredged up to pander to their students, is that if our boys and girls are old enough to fight and die for this country, they are, naturally, mature enough to drink responsibly. This absurdity could fill a college semester:
Not My Problem 101: What would possess college presidents to take this irrational step? An easy way out of the serious health and public-relations nightmare currently on their campuses. If drinking is legal, they no longer have in loco parentis responsibility. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we are deeply sorry that your freshman son rolled his car with a blood-alcohol level higher than his grade point average, but what could we do? He was old enough to fight in Iraq.
Been There Done That 101. During the Vietnam War, we heard exactly the same chant-old enough to die, old enough to drink. And in those trippy days, some states actually lowered the age to 18. It was a bummer, man. Fearless teens, with a sense of indestructability, make good soldiers. But those traits do not mix well with booze. Alcohol-related traffic accidents increased to the point that, in 1984, Congress voted to withhold a portion of highway funds from any state that had a drinking age under 21. All 50 complied. Not surprisingly, alcohol-related accidents decreased.
Animal House 101: It is ironic that the Amethyst Initiative chose a Greek name, because it wasn't only the ancient Greeks that held toga parties. If you don't understand, you haven't watched "Animal House." Fraternities and sororities.
Tappa Kegga Beer. Joseph A. Califano Jr., a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and director of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, issued a blistering indictment: "By failing to become part of the solution, these Pontius Pilate presidents and parents, deans, trustees and alumni have become part of the problem. Their acceptance of a status quo of rampant alcohol and other drug abuse puts the best and the brightest-and the nation's future-in harm's way."
Buck Passing 101: Changing the law doesn't make the problem go away, it just drops the issue into someone else's lap. Like the high school principals, who would be forced to deal with a student body where many seniors could legally imbibe. And, of course, no responsible senior would ever provide a six-pack, or a fifth, to an underage buddy. Would they? University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, told CNN that "to just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all."
Inconvenient Statistics 101: All studies and data say that Amethyst signers have nothing but wishful thinking. A 2007 Gallup Poll found that 77 percent of Americans oppose lowering the drinking age to 18. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, from 1975 to 2003, higher drinking ages saved 22,798 lives on America's roadways. The independent Science Daily reported "data from a survey of 43,000 U.S. adults heighten concerns that early alcohol use may contribute to the risk of developing future alcohol problems." A 2008 British government study found that their existing age-18 limit has actually encouraged even earlier drinking. Forty percent say they began drinking at 13 or younger.
Harvard's Findings 101: The underlying premise of the Amethyst Initiative is that underage students drink to flout the law, and that they would guzzle less if the behavior was "acceptable." Lest anyone think that all of academia has gone brain dead, the College Alcohol Study of 50,000 students, at 120 colleges, done by The Harvard School of Public Health, found just the opposite. According to the study, "heavy drinking behavior was more common in college environments that have a strong drinking culture, few alcohol control policies on campus or in the surrounding community, weak enforcement of existing policies, and alcohol made easily accessible through low prices, heavy marketing and special promotions. Colleges that restricted use by banning alcohol on campus or offering substance-free housing options had fewer drinkers, and as a result lower binge drinking levels."
Most Amethyst schools are small. Few are "big-name." There is only one from the Ivy League, Big 10 and Big East; none from the Big 12, PAC 10, or Southeast Conferences. And despite the "old enough to fight" mantra, none of our service academies, or private military schools, have joined in. Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD, is urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed. "It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," she has said. Locally, that includes Arcadia, Cedar Crest, Delaware Valley, Gettysburg, Lafayette, Moravian, Muhlenberg, St. Joseph's and Widener.
Richard Woldow is the owner of the Quakertown Farmer's Market. He lives in Ivyland, Bucks County. His Web site is www.woldow.com.
Around the country, there has been a recent debate over whether or not to lower the legal drinking age to 18.
As Americans, we all know that many young men and women are serving our country in the armed forces at the young age of 18. With the current state of the world, we also know that many of these men and women will be deployed overseas to fight the war in Iraq.
So these young men and women are being handed loaded weapons and taught to use them without ever having had a sip of alcohol touch their lips.
Sadly, many of these young men and women will never see American soil again. They will be killed fighting a war that many feel is not only unnecessary, but also costly for the nation.
It seems absolutely absurd to me that we trust these troops to protect us with loaded weapons but that they can't have a beer or two in a safe social setting.
How does it make sense to trust them with something that can kill them faster than any other drug, including nicotine?
At 18 years of age, these men and women are able to carry loaded weapons and pump poison into their lungs (cigarette smoke) but they can't have a glass a wine legally.
In my case, I do not own a gun and have never served in the military. I was able to purchase nicotine but not have a glass of wine to celebrate the birth of my son at the age of 19.
So I was trusted to take home a tiny four pound baby to care for and love, but wasn't able to set foot in a liquor store to purchase any alcohol.
How could a 19-year be able to take care of child on her own, purchase cigarettes and a gun, but not legally be able to have one drink?
It makes no sense to me, especially when I see the increased incidents of binge drinking on college campuses across the country.
Young people are dying because they drink too much, too fast.
So it makes me ask myself: Why are they binge drinking? If you talk to plenty of college students their answers vary, but one theme remains: they don't want to get caught with the alcohol and get an underage drinking charge resulting in the loss of their drivers' licenses. So they quickly drink it the second they have it in their dorm or apartment and systematically plan the secret disposal of the empty bottles.
Another answer to the question of why binge drinking is occurring, is because young men and women under 21 know it is illegal and they get a rush out of knowing they are doing something they legally should-n't be doing.
Some say that lowering the legal age would help to stop binge drinking. They also point out that the current law is routinely ignored by many of college age.
There are lists glorifying the "party" schools in the country and guess which school is pretty high on that list Penn State.
Law enforcement authorities know about this list and many of them ignore college student drinking, which they dismiss as a right of passage.
I know, as well as many others who hate to admit it, it's fun to push the limit.
It is exciting to break certain laws.
Breaking curfew and sneaking out to see a significant other can give someone a huge rush. Why? Because they know it is illegal or wrong.
I say, take the rush away and see how boring drinking will become.
Just look at other cultures where drinking is accepted: Do they have a high rate of alcoholism? Answer: No.
The perfect example of this is France.
In French society, young men and women are taught to drink responsibly in a social setting. A glass of wine with dinner is not a big deal.
So what would prompt them to sneak around and drink anything they can get their hands on? Nothing.
Making something illegal doesn't stop people from doing it. In fact, it makes it all the more fun and tempting. This is a result of something called "immaturity." And as we coddle and shelter our teens and young adults more and more with each generation, this only gets worse.
Keeping someone isolated from something tends to make them want it more. The excitement builds and they rebel simply for the sake of rebelling.
Let's take the fun out of it and start treating our 18-year-olds like the adults they are. We let them vote, carry guns, buy tobacco products and even have children. It's time we also let them have a drink.
As a thirty-something, I would welcome this change. I know how ridiculous 21-year-olds act because they are finally legal.
So cater to this by having establishments for 18 to 24-year-olds with drink limits. Then have places for 25-year-olds and older.
I personally would prefer to go to a bar that caters to an older crowd. Leave the craziness to the younger people.
I guarantee that many of them will realize what us older folks do. Drinking can be done responsibly if given the information needed to make a good decision.
Antoinette Colon is the editor of Community Connection, a Berks-Mont newspaper serving readers in the Reading area. She can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org