College is often marketed to incoming freshmen as leaving the nest. It is presented as a chance to take one’s first steps unassisted, cord cut. This is an exaggeration of course. The problems of tuition, room and board, as well as dental and health insurance are taken care of by our parents for all but the most independent students.
But 18-year-olds entering college do get a slew of new freedoms: the right to vote, sign contracts, serve on juries and serve in the military, to name a few. But a lot of 18-year-olds never partake in any of those freedoms. What a lot of 18-year do partake in is illegal underage drinking.
Now the Amethyst Initiative is circulating a statement asking college presidents to rethink the drinking age. Perhaps, 100 college presidents who have signed the statements are saying, 18-year-olds should be allowed to drink.
Changing the law to allow kids to do something they are already doing seems like a logical step, but it the change effected would be nominal at best. Underage kids will go from beer-swilling criminals to beer-swilling upstanding citizens.
Changing the law will affect whether kids will go to the club with the ID they got from Chinatown or the ID they got from the DMV.
Not every 21-year-old is ready to drink. Not every 18-year-old at a party is risking his life. Age is hardly a perfect measure of maturity. But it’s as good as we’ve got. Three years doesn’t seem like a lot, but ask the seniors graduating this year how much they’ve changed in that time.
It may not be true across the board, but the thought process that goes into making a smart decision is a lot different at 18 than it is at 21. There may be three years of hangovers, blackouts and nights spent holding the toilet to consider for a 21-year-old.
President Gitenstein is right to hold off before deciding whether to sign the Initiative’s statement. Lowering the legal age would remove a lot of the romance and rebelliousness of underage drinking, but it would also lower a lot of barriers that many 18-year-olds may not be ready to cross.
– Myles Ma