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Lowering drinking age has merits

Taking its name from a word literally meaning ‘not intoxicated,’ the Amethyst Initiative is taking on a very tough topic: lowering the drinking age from 21.
Generally, the assumption is that the new drinking age would be 18, at the time when most other adult responsibilities are given to that age group.
Lest the public thinks everyone in the initiative is actually 18 themselves, a list of 129 ‘ and growing ‘ college presidents or chancellors from across the U.S. has been circulated in support of the movement.
They list their views, and allow for opposing views, on the Web site, which also hosts a variety of different hot-button issues for discussion.
Not surprisingly, this debate is split down the middle. Of the numerous comments left on the site, I have to take issue with many of the reasons people who are voting ‘No’ to this initiative have.
The fallacy of nearly every argument made against the initiative comes down to two things: the implication of excess and the definition of an adult must not vary based on the purpose.
It’s understandable to think of a high school senior as being someone we must, as a society, protect. Their developing brains cannot and should not be impeded by chemically-altering substances. But that argument is completely negated by the fact that, at age 18, our boys and girls can enlist to serve and protect this country. Following the detractors’ arguments that 18-year-olds are still children, is it safe to assume we now have children protecting this country? Shouldn’t that anger us? Sicken us? Yet, it doesn’t.
There’s also the issue of tobacco usage. Since the frontal lobe, which deals with cognitive processing and, ultimately, knowing right from wrong, doesn’t stop developing until the early 20s, how can we allow our children to use an addictive drug like tobacco? Won’t the ‘dopamine-sensitive’ frontal lobe develop a need for cigarettes or other tobacco products if it is introduced to such a drug while still forming?
In both of those instances, it comes down to choice, doesn’t it? We see that it’s a choice to enlist, while knowing the opportunities and potential consequences of serving in the armed forces. It’s also a choice to light the cigarette knowing addiction is a possibility. But we’ve made 18 the age at which those choices are allowed, but the choice to drink alcohol isn’t?
It goes back to the argument of over-consumption. The Amethyst Initiative isn’t suggesting changing the age and then washing their hands of the situation, however. They want to include extensive public education of those young adults who have been given the right to consume alcohol, specifically on college campuses, where binge drinking and partying is invasive.
Overall, the argument for me is simple. Eighteen-year-olds who want to drink alcohol can get it. Because it’s illegal, it becomes illicit and tempting. It also becomes a group activity because getting it usually takes several people using their resources to purchase the goods. Also because it’s illegal ‘ so why worry about educating them on proper usage? ‘ education of the target audience doesn’t begin until too late, usually high school, when alcohol is already being consumed. I think education should be started much younger and kept going for much longer, including not only the negative affects of drinking alcohol, which are plenty, but also how to drink responsibly and with maturity. At Lindsey Wilson College, alcohol education classes were made mandatory for those who were caught with alcohol, not offered as a class for students to take and receive credit.
If it becomes legal, the allure is dramatically lessened. I’d venture a guess that most of us, after the age of 21, drank significantly less than we did before, because if it’s available all the time, what’s the point?
I also think that we’re doing an injustice to that 18-to-20-age group who are adults in some cases and children in others. If society agrees we shouldn’t lower the drinking age, I ask why those other ages are so low?
The Amethyst Initiative has sparked a heated debate on this topic, and we need to listen and engage in conversation over what and when we consider children to become adults. If age doesn’t translate, then what does? And how can we protect those we call ‘children’ from everything that might be dangerous? If we can’t, how do we pick and choose? Letting our children grow into independent adults with the capability to make their own decisions, on all fronts, is the best route. And if it involves a glass of wine with dinner, so be it.