Archive for the 'Age of Majority' Category

Washington State University loses student to alcohol

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

We extend our condolences to the Washington State University community and the family of Kenneth Hummel, who died this weekend from alcohol poisoning.

The 18-year old Hummel had a blood alcohol reading of 0.40 when he died early Saturday morning. Police found him unconscious in his dorm room, after his peers had called the police.

In the wake of campus alcohol courses, peer intervention groups, extended campus counseling, and more, it is sometimes difficult to understand how nearly 2,000 students die annually from alcohol related injuries. Within the next week, we will begin posting testimonials from college students that answer the questions, “What is the single largest determinant in your drinking? And what most deters you from drinking to excess?”

Cornell President on Student Health

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Cornell President David J. Skorton recently wrote a candid synopsis for the Huffington Post regarding the ways in which colleges can improve the health and wellbeing on their charges. Skorton’s essay focuses on four problem areas for students: high risk drinking, hazing, mental health problems, and concussions (primarily in athletes). Hazing and mental health problems, one could argue, are also linked to high risk drinking.

Skorton claims that although curfews and dress codes have gone by the wayside, colleges must maintain their responsibility to give students freedom within a framework. That is, they must hold students accountable for their actions yet allow students to make their own choices. The problem areas Skorton discusses are fodder for debate on the age of majority and the age in which students can reasonably make their own choices.

Drinking to fit in?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

A recent study published by the American Sociology Association (ASA) claims that college students who binge drink feel more socially accepted. 1,600 students at a Northeastern liberal arts college were surveyed for the study. In particular, findings indicated that students who feel marginalized on their campus achieve greater social satisfaction from drinking,

Many students responding to the survey reported they did not want to binge drink but felt in necessary to fit in on campus. Minority and LGBT students felt less welcome on campuses with a white, heterosexual culture, and reported they had a better social experience in college when they participated in binge drinking.

This ASA study (click here for more information) indicates that the pervasiveness of binge drinking on college campuses forces students who might choose responsibility to reevaluate their positive decisions in favor of fitting in.

Why lower the drinking age now?

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

In the more than two decades that have passed since its implementation, the 21 year-old drinking age has created a climate in which terms like “binge” and “pregame” have come describe young peoples’ choices about alcohol; in which the law is habitually and thoughtlessly ignored by adolescents and adults alike; in which colleges and communities across the nation are plagued with out-of-control parties, property damage, and belligerent drunks; in which emergency rooms and campus health centers are faced with an alarming number of sometimes fatal cases of alcohol poisoning and overdose on weekend nights; and in which the role of parents in teaching responsible behavior around alcohol has been marginalized and the family disenfranchised. Maintaining status quo in America today is not an option.

We are faced with a law that is out of step with our cultural attitudes towards alcohol, one which encourages violation and breeds disrespect. Historically, we know that during the Vietnam War the 26th Amendment in 1971 provided 18 year-olds the right to vote, the age at which one could be drafted to fight in the war. This constitutional recognition of 18 year-olds as consenting adults was fundamental for guaranteeing the right for 18 year-olds to drink. Again, a quarter century later, we are engaged in a war where many of the soldiers currently serving abroad are under the legal drinking age of 21. And while that historical parallel itself does not provide justification for changing the drinking age, it makes strikingly clear the poor logic behind the assumption that at the age of 18 one is too immature to consume alcohol. If the drinking age were lowered, it would signal a transformation in the relationship our society has with its young adults. Besides engendering greater respect for the law, a lower and more easily enforced drinking age would offer alternative choices for parents and college campuses around the country in shaping responsible drinking behaviors and encouraging informed decisions about alcohol use.

The op-ed that started it all…

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

If you’re new to the Choose Responsibility blog, you may not have read former CR president John McCardell’s New York Times op-ed that led to the founding of Choose Responsibility. The entire article can be found here, but an excerpt on MLDA 21 is included below. If you’re new to the blog, please let us know your thoughts in the “comments” section.

To lawmakers: the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking. Campuses have become, depending on the enthusiasm of local law enforcement, either arms of the law or havens from the law.

Neither state is desirable. State legislators, many of whom will admit the law is bad, are held hostage by the denial of federal highway funds if they reduce the drinking age. Our latter-day prohibitionists have driven drinking behind closed doors and underground. This is the hard lesson of prohibition that each generation must relearn. No college president will say that drinking has become less of a problem in the years since the age was raised. Would we expect a student who has been denied access to oil paint to graduate with an ability to paint a portrait in oil? Colleges should be given the chance to educate students, who in all other respects are adults, in the appropriate use of alcohol, within campus boundaries and out in the open.

And please – hold your fire about drunken driving. I am a charter member of Presidents Against Drunk Driving. This has nothing to do with drunken driving. If it did, we’d raise the driving age to 21. That would surely solve the problem.


Thursday, June 14th, 2012

It is wise to never take a stance on the limitations of science, since the argument will inevitably become outdated and sound ludicrous.  But I have a hunch that there is some serious overstatement occurring presently in the field of adolescent neurology.  An Op-ed in the NYTimes by Mike Males provides the painful details:

Commentators brand teenagers as stupid, crazy, reckless, immature, irrational and even alien, then advocate tough curbs on youthful freedoms. Jay Giedd, who heads the brain imaging project at the National Institutes of Health, argues that the voting and drinking ages should be raised to 25. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, asks whether we should allow teenagers to be lifeguards or to enlist in the military. And state legislators around the country have proposed raising driving ages.  But the handful of experts and officials making these claims are themselves guilty of reckless overstatement. More responsible brain researchers — like Daniel Siegel of the University of California at Los Angeles and Kurt Fischer at Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education Program — caution that scientists are just beginning to identify how systems in the brain work.

With regards to alcohol and adolescents (if that’s what we want to call 18-20 year-olds), there is neurological evidence that alcohol has more pronounced effects on younger brains than older brains in laboratory settings.  Where researchers are diverting from the trail of science, is when they begin to attribute real world behavioral differences strictly to neurological differences.  This may very well be the case, but the current research is presently incapable of assessing these behavioral connections.  Sadly, certain individuals in the field of neurology are potentially exaggerating the magnitude of adolescent/adult differences, and using the alleged behavioral evidence as an excuse to enact ever more stringent restrictions on young adults.

Guest Post: Bad Policy, Bad Outcomes

Monday, June 11th, 2012
Eric Wilson, a political strategist in Washington, D.C., interviewed former [CR] president John McCardell last week. Today he offers CR’s readers his thoughts on the legal policy surrounding the drinking age.
Drinking Age 21: Bad Policy, Bad Outcomes

The primary argument in support of adjusting the drinking age are well-known, and Dr. McCardell, founder of Choose Responsibility, sums it up in his recent New York Times op-ed:
Although our laws acknowledge that at age 18 young adults possess sufficient maturity and judgment to operate a motor vehicle, serve in the military, perform jury duty or sign a contract, those same laws deny 18-year-olds the right to purchase, possess or consume alcohol.

Dr. McCardell also points out that the law is routinely evaded by those under 21. From my own experience, as a proctor during my undergraduate years, charged with enforcing drinking rules, I can say that administrators, like Dr. McCardell, are placed in the unenviable — and unsustainable — position of enforcing two different sets of rules.
In fact, administrators are stretched in two, opposite directions: on one hand you have a legal responsibility to enforce a law that says no one under the age of 21 may consume alcohol at any time. You also have the responsibility of ensuring that your students, who, despite the law, decide to drink — just like the vast majority of their peers under the age of 21 — are doing so safely.So why would anyone oppose the return to a drinking age aligned with the age of majority in this country?Critics of a more reasonable drinking age point to the success of Age 21 in lowering alcohol-related traffic fatalities, but a closer look at the statistics show that fatalities are down across the board. By making the practice of drunk driving, and not the drinking itself, taboo, safe driving advocates have succeeded in preventing countless deaths and injuries.

Drinking Age 21, however, does nothing to prepare young adults for that day when they do turn 21 and are able to drink alcohol legally. Dr. McCardell proposes a license that would allow young adults under 21 to drink legally, if they complete a course of education, much like we do with driving.

I had the opportunity to discuss this licensing proposal in a recent video chat with Dr. McCardell, which you can watch by clicking here.

The conversation in the public square is an important one to have, but we have to follow it up with action. The drinking age is set by the individual states, but federal law imposes severe penalties with respect to transportation funding, if they don’t meet the national of Age 21.

The states, long-envisioned as the laboratories of our Democracy, should be free to explore alternatives, like a licensing system, without fear of being punished by the federal government. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), make it impossible for lawmakers to have a reasonable discussion about Drinking Age 21 as a failed public policy that needs to be changed, but Americans — especially my generation — are learning to recognize and support bold leadership that isn’t afraid to make much needed reforms.

Lawmakers should be most concerned about the impact of the failed drinking age policy on young adults’ views of our legal system. As Dr. McCardell notes, young adults “know that a law perceived as unjust, a law routinely violated, can over time breed disrespect for law in general.”


Young Adults, Iraq, and the Drinking Age

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

On Monday, Chuck Goudie of the Chicago-area Daily Herald noted that 1/3 of the soldiers who have been killed in Iraq are members of the 18-21 age group. To date, approximately 4,200 US soldiers have died, meaning about 1,400 of them were 21 or younger. Additionally, according to a 2005 report on US Army demographics, over 16% of active-duty service members are under the age of 21. Young adults serve the country in large numbers every day, and some of them sacrifice their lives in doing so – why does prohibition make sense for them?

Read the rest of Goudie’s column here.

Montana Democrats Support a Lower Drinking Age

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

On Saturday, the Montana Democratic Party passed a resolution in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18, thereby adding reconsidering the drinking age to their official platform.  Many of their arguments in favor of lowering the drinking age are remarkably similar to ours; read more about it here.

Teenage Air Traffic Controllers?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced that it would award $100,000 bonuses to people willing to take jobs as air traffic controllers, in an effort to lure workers to understaffed control centers in New York. The FAA has targeted people as young as 18 in their search for new air traffic controllers by recruiting at high schools and on youth-friendly websites such as MySpace and Craigslist. While training can take at least a year and a half, recruiting employees right out of high school means that we will soon have people as young as 19 and 20 patrolling our skies and looking after our safety.


Ironically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the FAA are both federal agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation. While the NHTSA’s take on alcohol-related traffic fatalities promotes a minimum legal drinking age of 21 and claims that under-agers cannot be trusted to drink responsibly, the FAA’s recent recruitment policies seem to say that people as young as 18 can, in fact, be trusted to act with maturity and responsibility.


In other words, the government has determined that 18 year olds are responsible enough to make split-second decisions affecting the safety and lives of millions; however, they are not responsible enough to drink a beer. It doesn’t really make sense to us; be sure to watch this CNN clip and let us know what you think.