The legal drinking age has been a continuously debated subject in the United States since its establishment. The national legal drinking age of twenty-one years old was placed in 1984 and still holds to the present, but many have begun questioning whether twenty-one is still an appropriate age for our current society. Much of this debate starts with college campuses and binge drinking. As a senior in high school, and soon-to-be freshman in college, I began wondering if the drinking age is still suitable for present times, and if it should be altered.
According to University of Michigan, approximately 80% of high school students have tried alcohol before graduating, and 60% have gotten drunk. With these statistics, it seems evident that the legal drinking age is not efficiently doing its job, and should be reviewed. So the question arises: Should the legal drinking age be changed? I started my research with “Repeal the Drinking Age,” by Jeffrey Tucker, Publisher and Executive Editor of Laissez Faire Books, from his own Mises Daily blog.
In his article, Tucker begins his blog by discussing how most countries’ legal drinking ages are eighteen, but in the “land of the free,” the limit is set at twenty-one, even though the nation knows it is not working. Tucker relates the current drinking age to Prohibition, stating that the twenty-one age limit is rather liberal, and that putting restrictions on alcohol, like during Prohibition, only results in bigger problems. He then concludes that the drinking age is based on “one overarching argument: driving,” where we simply do not want drunken teens on the road.
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Tucker also states that the data on drunk driving “cannot be statistically attributed to the national minimum drinking-age law. ” Tucker concludes by saying if we are serious about a “free society,” the nation needs to repeal the minimum drinking-age law. When exploring Tucker’s article, I have to agree that Prohibition was a terrible attempt by the United States to help fix social issues, but relating the drinking age to Prohibition is a bit of a stretch. I also agree that the decrease in fatalities involved with drunk driving definitely cannot be awarded solely to lowering the drinking age.
Numerous other sources, such as a better understanding of risks with alcohol through schooling, much safer cars, and an increase in legal punishment, also play a major role in the decrease of drunk driving and fatalities. But relating the issue to what our founding fathers would say, and the ruining of a “free society” by not eliminating the drinking age, seems a little outlandish. Although the article did take the issue a little out of proportion, Tucker makes a good point about the current restriction obviously not working, colleges accepting this fact, and ignoring it.
The article is a good base for an opinion about abolishing the drinking age completely, but I would also like to explore an opinion of simply lowering the drinking age. The next article I read was “Why the Drinking Age Should be Lowered,” an article in a scholarly journal written by Professor Ruth Engs associated with Indiana University. Professor Engs starts her article saying that the legal drinking age should be lowered to eighteen or nineteen years old, and that she has come to this conclusion after over twenty years of researching college youth and the history of drinking.
Engs continues by stating that people under the age of twenty-one are more likely to be binge drinkers, consuming over five drinks at least once a week, and that 22% of students under twenty-one are binge drinkers, compared to 18% of legal drinkers. Engs then goes on telling other statistics about an increase in problems related to irresponsible drinking. Such problems include excessive drinking, getting into fights, and missing class, blaming the issues on “underground drinking” by underage drinkers.
The article is concluded by Engs saying that the drinking age “is not working, and is counterproductive,” and that the minimum age should be lowered to help teach responsible drinking and decrease alcohol abuse. Professor Engs makes a very compelling argument in her article by not only discussing why the drinking age should be lowered, but also the issues with having the current age limit. I agree with Professor Engs’ description of underage drinking as an “enticing forbidden fruit,” a “badge of rebellion against authority,” and a symbol of adulthood.
These comparisons actually sound realistic and show how underage drinking is a problem in the first place. Engs also uses statistics to support her opinion, proving that underage drinking is a serious problem. In my opinion though, Engs fails to consider the possible issues that could arise from lowering the drinking age. It is difficult to expect eighteen year olds to learn responsible drinking from their parents and peers, when in reality the exact opposite could be happening from alcoholic parents or irresponsible friends.
With this article I learned numerous statistics about binge drinking and problems associated with underage drinking. The source seems very valid, and serves as a great opinion supporting why the drinking age should be lowered. While the article creates a persuasive argument on lowering the drinking age, I would also like to explore ideas behind increasing the drinking age. My final article, “Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Raised to 25 to Eliminate Deadly College Partying? ” is written by Stephenson Billings, an investigative journalist for christwire. com.
Billings takes a very strong opinion on the subject of the drinking age, thinking that it should be raised immediately, along with the banning of all alcohol on college campuses. Billings writes of alcohol being a “foul liquid” that keeps students from maturing into adulthood, and corrupts their ethics. He also writes about alcohol turning women into “lusting wolves,” and compares underage drinking to the most extreme of alcoholics who only care about alcohol throughout their lives. The author mentions the problem of legal drinkers buying alcohol for minors, openly allowing them to drink illegally and irresponsibly.
Billings ends with the “straightforward” resolution of ending illegal drinking by raising the drinking age to twenty-five years old and eliminating alcohol from educational premises. Even though the article is put to the extreme, Billings does make a few good points. Billings’ views on drinking in college are over exaggerated, but are accurate in some cases. Extreme binge drinking does take place among colleges in America, and such colleges need to create strict penalties for such occasions, possibly banning alcohol from certain fraternities or even the college altogether.
Billings also makes a good point about older students turning younger ones “onto the party” by buying them alcohol illegally, allowing them to drink irresponsibly. But the rest of Billings’ article is sent so over the top that I felt almost annoyed by his constant attacking of alcohol in general. A great example, I have driven around town past midnight before, but definitely was not drinking or using drugs. The stereotypes he uses to describe those who drink illegally are overstated and outlandish.
The article gave me a totally different aspect on the drinking age and added to my growing opinion that the current drinking age is not quite working. Although the article did create another aspect for me to consider, the extremeness of it made it unlikely for me to base any decisions upon it. As I sum up the research for my exploratory essay, I still have more articles to read, aspects to understand, and statistics to find, but I believe I have come up with a good conclusion to the drinking age debate.
Clearly the twenty-one year old age limit is not effective, and is blatantly being broken. Underage drinking is happening more than ever, while taking place irresponsibly and encouraging binge drinking. With the rise in binge drinking comes the obvious rise of problems associated with it, such as drinking too much, skipping class, and starting fights. Although the drinking age has helped lower the number of fatalities from drunk driving, other factors have also assisted in the decrease.
If we as a nation can emphasize alcohol education in our schools, teaching responsible drinking and wise decision making, I believe lowering the drinking age can help save lives, and even increase the maturity of current underage drinkers. A drinking age of nineteen seems more appropriate for teens maturing, hopefully creating safer drinking in college, while keeping it mainly out of high school. Before making any rash decisions though, and agreeing to make an actual constitutional change for the subject, I think I need to do more research and look into more aspects of the topic.