Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aug. 20: Lowering Drinking Age To 18 Will Increase Abuse Among High Schoolers

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Bravo to Donna Shalala, the former secretary of Health and Human Services and current president of the University of Miami, for not going along with the proposal by almost 100 college presidents to propose that the federal government lower the drinking age from 21 to 18.

Inexplicably, these presidents seem to believe that lowering the age would help curtail the problem of binge drinking on college campuses. One argument is that the law is like Prohibition, which was put into the Constitution but rarely enforced or followed, and was eventually repealed. What the presidents are saying is that this is a way to allow college students to actually be more responsible about drinking.


This is a cop-out by those presidents, a way of ducking responsibility on the issue of alcohol and its effects. And it would open the door to new problems, including increases in alcohol use and drunk driving not only among college students, but also high school students. If the drinking age was lowered to 18, how much easier would it be for high schoolers (and not just 18-year-old high school seniors) to get alcohol?

Granted that universities are often acting as surrogate parents for students who come from houses where responsible alcohol use is not discussed. It's a difficult role.

But instead of throwing up their hands, these university presidents should be extending a hand to community members - including local representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups that can help - to work with college students.

One of the goals of colleges and universities is to teach students responsibility. Lowering the drinking age is not the way to do it.

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