Recently, presidents of 100 universities signed a statement asking that the legal drinking age be lowered from 21 to 18. They say the current law encourages binge drinking on college campuses and promotes problems among younger students. As a person only a couple of years removed from college, I wanted to share my thoughts and observations, and invite you to do the same!
Lowering the drinking age will not curb binge drinking. If college students want to drink, they're going to drink, regardless of whether the drinking age is 18 or 21. I reject the notion that underage kids go binge drinking because they're underage. I think a lot of underage college students drink because it's viewed as a "normal" part of the college experience. Lowering the drinking age to 18 isn't going to change that perception; it's just going to make it easier for students to buy alcohol.
Lowering the drinking age will shift the problem to high schools. When you're underage and want to drink, you need someone who is of age to buy alcohol (i.e. an upperclassman). I think that’s part of the reason underage drinking is so prevalent in college: there's an adequate supply of alcohol, or at least of people capable of buying the alcohol. Drinking in high school, while a problem in some areas, is not a problem as universal as college drinking. If the drinking age is lowered to 18, you'll then have a new group of high school students capable of buying alcohol for their underage friends. I think we'd see an increase in high school binge drinking as a result.
There's a big difference in maturity from age 18 to 21. Granted, I've known lots of mature 18 year olds. And granted, I know plenty of immature 21 year olds. But in general, I think there's a big leap in maturity from age 18 to 21. If the drinking age is lowered to 18, I think there's a far greater chance of putting alcohol into the hands of someone who is immature, and therefore less capable of making intelligent decisions about drinking. Granted, you take that risk at ANY age, but I think the odds of finding a mature adult are far better at age 21.
I think there are valid points on the other side of this debate. Most notably, proponents of lowering the drinking age argue that if you're old enough to be drafted into service to fight and die for this country, you should be considered old enough to buy alcohol. That makes a lot of sense to me, but so do the arguments to keep the drinking age at 21. What do you think? Which side are you on? I encourage your comments!