Lowering the drinking age to 18: wise or foolish?

I am not generally a TV news show junkie. During baseball season I usually try to find a Washington Nationals game, or a NFL game in the fall, but during the off-seasons of those sports, I sometimes find myself watching the weekly TV news show “60 Minutes.”

This past Sunday, “60 Minutes” featured a story on a proposal to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. One of the interviewees on the show, and a proponent of this change, was the former president of Middlebury College, John McCardell.

The idea he had behind lowering the drinking age was not to give 18-20 year-olds a reason and easier access to liquor, but to try and develop drinking responsibility at a younger age, in the hope that when young adults do drink and then drink too much, that their friends can call 9-1-1 without fear of arrest for underage drinking.

Additionally though, his idea to lower the drinking age hinges upon mandatory alcohol education accompanied by a post-course exam.

When I was admitted to the University of Vermont in the spring of 1986, the state drinking age was 18. Later that summer, Vermont passed a law, which changed the drinking age to 21 with a cutoff birth date for eligibility of July 1.

I.e. – those whose birthdays made them 18 before July 1, 1986 were “grandfathered in” and thus could legally drink.

Since my birthday was after July 1, I was one of the unlucky not legally allowed to drink in Vermont when I became a freshman at UVM.

But, like approximately 50 percent of my classmates, there were still ways to get alcohol and go out drinking.

Many of the same methods that were used in my time are probably used today – fake IDs, finding bars that didn’t card, going to parties, etc.

Did it stop kids underage from drinking then? No, just like the current drinking age doesn’t stop underaged students from drinking now. So what is the solution?

Lowering the drinking age is probably supported by almost every student in almost every college in America today, yet support for lowering the drinking age among 40, 50, 60, etc. year-olds is probably nil.

Also, tell that to the parent whose kid was killed by a traffic accident where under the incidence of drinking and driving especially among younger drinkers, is sure to increase – something that is surely not popular for the average American.

With proper education and stronger penalties for drunken driving among teens, the lowering of the drinking age may have more positives than negatives.

Christopher Morin graduated from UVM in 1990. He was a former Cynic contributor and works as General Manager for Thompson Interactive at Thompson Publishing Group.