Archive for August 19th, 2008

The Drinking Age Debate: MADD vs College Deans

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

The debate over the minimum drinking age has continued for decades, with the recent focus being on whether it makes sense to send American youth to fight and perhaps die in foreign countries – but not to drink alcohol.  Our generals have expressed strong views on the subject.  See  MADD vs USMC.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving, ever vigilant in its Prohibitionist goals (see MADD and the New Prohibition), has fought hard (and successfully) against exposing our troops to the evils of alcohol. 

A second front, long simmering, has now errupted: the drinking age for college students.  MADD, whose  "Mission Statement" was amended a few years ago from preventing drunk driving to including preventing underage drinking, is adamantly against lowering the age to 18.  But, as with their run-in with our military leaders, this powerful group has suddenly been confronted with a another formidable enemy.


College Presidents Seek Debate on Drinking Age

Associated Press, Aug. 18  - College presidents from about 100 of the nation’s best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

"It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD…

 The statement the presidents have signed avoids calling explicitly for a younger drinking age. Rather, it seeks "an informed and dispassionate debate" over the issue and the federal highway law that made 21 the de facto national drinking age by denying money to any state that bucks the trend.

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn’t working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking," and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they "are told they are not mature enough to have a beer." Furthermore, "by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."..

Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative’s Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."

(Chuck) Hurley, (CEO) of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

"They’re waving the white flag," he said.


(Thanks to Susan Sullivan and Lance Maxon.)

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