Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drinking debate

Lots of new stories floating about right now in regards to a group that wants to lower the drinking age in the US, and, of course, about those who think it's a horrible idea to do so. Here is one of the many, many articles, this one from the Washington Post:

Bid to Reconsider Drinking Age
Taps Unlikely Supporters

The entire concept of not being able to drink legally prior to the age of 21 is very strange to the majority of Europeans. It makes me wonder what some of the students from Europe and elsewhere, who attend colleges and universities in the US, think about it all.

To me, it all comes down the forbidden fruit concept. The moment something is forbidden it suddenly becomes more desired. Speaking from experience, the moment I arrived on my college campus, the idea of going out to a big party and drinking and NOT getting in trouble for it was the most exciting thing ever. I remember that first weekend on campus - we drank, we stayed up all night, and we generally felt like - "cool, this is what it feels like to be an adult". A rather naive point of view, of course, but when you spend the first 17-18 years of your life under the rules of others, you must test your limits as soon as you are able. Trust me, I was always more fearful of my parents than I was of 'the law'!

My personal opinion on this debate is, that while it may be a step in the right direction, I don't think lowering the drinking age to 18 solves everything. I grew up under the '21' rule. However, by the time I was actually 21, and could drink legally, I was over it. Drinking had lost it's appeal. It's not that I stopped drinking alcohol, it's just that it wasn't quite so exciting. Been there, done that. Perhaps if the drinking age had been 18 at the time, I would've bought a six-pack and decided it wasn't such a thrill - but it's hard to know what I 'would have' done looking back on it now.

I do believe that the European culture does raise more responsible attitudes towards alcohol. That period of testing your limits, which I think is an inevitable part of growing up, regardless of the drinking age, seems to happen a bit earlier here. Is earlier better? That I can't say, but I can say that I would rather have teenagers testing their limits under their parents supervision, than on college campuses where they are on their own for the first time in their lives. That first weekend for me, I was out running around in the streets at 4 AM and no one was wondering where I was. Had I been 16 and drunk, and still living at home, my parents would've found me long before 4 AM. A safer scenario, in my mind.

I doubt the college presidents in favor of lowering the drinking age will get their way. The puritan ideals of the US, and the influence of those who react based on emotion, rather than logic, will insure that the drinking age remains at 21. It is refreshing, however, to see that there actually are some willing to stand up and put the idea out there.


  1. I totally agree with the forbidden fruit idea...but not sure where I stand on this.

    Having been a high school principal, I have to think about the fact that lowering it would mean that kids in high school are allowed to drink their senior year.... but then again, most already are... I see the kids here doing it and it seems more common place?!? I have been really open with Jess about it and allowed her to drink with me... to the dismay of my mother... but then it makes it not so taboo that she feels like she has to sneak around to do it?! I think Danish parents would agree....the more natural you are with it, the less kids feel they have to try it on their own...

    I just don´t know?!

  2. Oooh, this is a tough one, though I do generally agree with the forbidden fruit thing. Still (and here's my teacher voice coming out), it's important to remember that they're KIDS -- not a whole lot going on in terms of maturity at 16 or 17. Green-lighting booze for teens in a country where cars are common 16-year-old birthday gifts makes me mighty nervous. What I think is the perfect solution is legal drinking at 16, legal driving at 21... Very interesting article on about the fast growth of "social alcoholism" in Denmark right now.

  3. There are definitely differences between the US and European countries that do need consideration. The plethora of cars is probably the most significant! In my neighborhood, most families have just one car so chances that the teenager is going to be driving it are slim. It's also significantly harder to actually get a driver's license here, so there are fewer youngsters driving for sure.

    There are so many factors - more than I have the energy on a Sunday to write about! :)


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