There are positives and negatives to both. Coming from somewhere where the drinking age is 18, I have experienced both sides. By having the drinking age at 18, I believe that students do start to experiment earlier with alcohol than if it were at 21. The positive thought is that by the time these students are in college, they have usually learned proper social drinking etiquette and have become “safe” drinkers, drinking sociably rather than to become drunk. I believe the drinking age should be 18 so that people can learn from their mistakes early, when there is usually not the same amount of alcohol present as on a college campus and when most people don’t have cars to get in to while intoxicated and choose to drive home in. Whether it be at 18 or 21, there will be strong arguments for both sides. It is more important to educate the youth about the dangers of drinking than to debate over what the legal age should be.
–Dave Mackasey ’10
I’m torn about the drinking age issue, but one point influences my vote in the direction of lowering it; if it were legal to start drinking earlier, people might learn to be responsible. Also, in my experience, teenage drinking is most disastrous when people don’t ask for help out of the fear of getting in trouble. At DA, we’re blessed with the Sanctuary Policy, but when any of my friends at home have gone to the hospital, almost everyone else involved has had to deal with the police. If the drinking age were lowered to 18, I think it’s feasible that we would see a drop in alcohol-related deaths on college campuses in the long run. It would also take a little of the edge off that drinking currently has as an illegal activity. You’re not a bad**s anymore if it’s legal. On the other hand, the first few years under a lowered drinking-age law might yield higher rates of drunk driving accidents, and there are neurological arguments against drinking before the brain is fully developed.
–Ellicott Dandy ’09
I support the current legal drinking age of 21, primarily because of the cultural reality of America’s obsession with cars and driving. For so many teenagers, turning 16 and earning a driver’s license is the first rite of passage into adulthood. At the same time, a preponderance of the automobile accidents that occur each year involve teenage drivers. Adding alcohol to that equation increases the danger exponentially.
Currently, though the legal drinking age is 21, the effective drinking age is closer to 18—basically the age at which most young people finish high school and begin college. (Note, I don’t believe this is the age when most teenagers first have a drink; rather, it is around the age of 18 when most young people begin drinking with some regularity and become more likely to be able to purchase alcohol with a fake I.D.)
Even with the effective drinking age closer to 18 or 19, it remains relatively challenging for a 16-year-old—think: new driver—to obtain or drink alcohol. Lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would push that effective drinking age much closer, if not below, the legal driving age of 16.
I am not naïve; I understand that 15 and 16-year-olds are drinking now, despite the legal age of 21. However, I do not subscribe to the myth that it is easy for those teens to obtain alcohol and consume it unnoticed. They may be drinking, but doing so is difficult and risky, thanks mainly to the current legal age. Now imagine a mature 15 or 16-year-old being able to pass for 18—we have some here at Deerfield who fit that description—and being able to “legally” buy alcohol and get in a car.
Unfortunately, America is also a culture of overindulgence, and we are simply not equipped with the self-restraint to allow people that young to consume alcohol responsibly. Simply put, lowering the drinking age to 18 would not realistically affect the social lives of high school seniors or undergraduates, but it would pose a new and great public safety risk that is in no one’s best interest.
I don’t think that there should be a drinking age. It would be much better if there was no drinking age because children would learn how to drink responsibly at a younger age instead of sneaking around, binge drinking, and running into trouble. If there had to be a drinking age, I think people should be able to drink before they are able to drive. The drinking age could be 16 and the age at which a person can receive a license is 18. That way a 16-year-old could learn how to drink and the dangers that go along with it before he or she takes on the responsibilities of driving.
–Hallie Robbie ’09
The legal age to buy alcohol should be lowered to 18. If Americans are legally considered an adult citizen at 18, and are granted the right to vote, they should be allowed to drink. If Americans at 18 can legally purchase tobacco, a product proven to cause more deaths each year than alcohol, then they should be allowed to drink. The fact that an eighteen-year-old American can be drafted and sent to fight and die for their country, while not legally being able to enjoy alcoholic beverages in the country they die for is twisted and immoral.
The change in drinking age would potentially bring both positive and negative impacts on the American youth. The change would give only two years difference between the legal drinking age and driving age in Massachusetts, and as a result, the number of DUI cases and auto accidents possibly could increase. However, by legally exposing teenagers to alcohol at 18 rather than 21, they are less likely to head down the path towards dependency and alcoholism.
If the drinking age was changed, the American government would have to offer more and better health classes to public schools across the country to ensure that the American youth is aware of all the terrible dangers alcohol can cause. To discourage any potential rise in DUI cases amongst teens, the punishments for drinking under the influence would have to be increased dramatically, especially when the offender is a young adult.
If 18-year-old Americans are by law considered adult citizens, and can legally fight, vote, and be tried as an adult in court in their country, they clearly should be granted the right to drink alcohol. To impose the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood upon the 18-20 year olds of our country, while denying them the right to indulge in the most common way for Americans to relax is incomprehensible. For these reasons, the legal age to drink in the U.S. should be 18.
–David Haviland ’11
I don’t think the drinking age should be 21; I honestly don’t think there should be a drinking age. The problem with teen drinking is they think they are being cool by doing something illegal, so they sneak around and try to get as much alcohol as possible, with leads to the binge drinking and habits that are hazardous to teen health. But if you look at many European countries that don’t hype up alcohol and drinking, they are taught responsible drinking habits from very early ages and don’t have the same problem with teens over-drinking. At first of course people would go rampant with drinking if the age limit was lifted, but after the first year, people would realize, it’s not a big deal.
-Mia Fowler ’11
I believe absolutely that the drinking age should be lowered to 18: the age one can vote, enlist, marry, etc. It seems absurd that one can die for one’s country and not be allowed a beer––or that one can get married and not be allowed a champagne toast at his/her own wedding. On the other hand, insurance companies tell us that the death rate resulting from underage drinking has decreased since raising the drinking age to 21. So I think that if you lower the drinking age you need to raise the driving age, requiring drivers education for all––with training that includes alcohol education. (I also think that parents [and boarding schools in loco parentis] should be able to teach their children to drink responsibly, beginning around 16 or so. [The Greer Tavern? Bar Louis?])