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Berginski: Lowering drinking age pointless

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

Since I started this weekly column series, this is one of several subjects I’ve been dancing around. (Also on the list are gun control, abortion, euthanasia, the Affordable Care Act and whether media streaming technologies will be the death of cable, in case you’re wondering.) But a few days ago I read an op-ed screaming that we, as a nation, should lower the drinking age from 21 to 19. I’ve also seen calls to lower the age to 18.

I asked this question then, and I’m asking it now: what is the point?

Currently the minimum legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. It’s mandated in the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, that states had to have a minimum drinking age of 21 (originally states could set their own drinking ages per the 21st Amendment.) or lose out on 10 percent of federal highway funding. Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving led the push for setting the drinking age in response to young persons dying in alcohol-related injuries and deaths. They picked 21 because of its roots in history, particularly English common law. In those traditions, 21 was the age someone could vote and become a knight. (Which is kind of funny considering in this country, under our laws, you can vote at 18.)

There’s been a big push by college presidents dubbed the Amethyst Initiative. Basically, it’s a push to lower the drinking age to 18 and bring alcohol out in the open on college campuses. The goal is to teach drinking responsibly.

So why am I asking what’s the point? Because we’re assuming that just because a person is a certain age, he or she is mature and responsible, when it isn’t always the case. We could change the minimum age to 18 or 19, and persons younger than that could still drink illegally, in copious amounts, and even make reckless or harmful decisions.

If we can’t drive home the point of drinking responsibly at any age, then simply lowering the minimum drinking age does nothing for the status quo.

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