Empty Debate Chairs

Debate season is upon us. As Clinton, Obama, McCain and other candidates continue to display oratory prowess, we are reminded of the importance of engaging each other in a discussion of the problems plaguing our nation. Organized debates and panels help equip both representatives and everyday citizens with the facts necessary to shape informed public policy. While we may not always agree on the end goal or the policy proposals leading us there, we find commonality in our desire to improve conditions for millions of Americans.

What would the public say if a presidential candidate refused to debate his or her opponent? Beyond reflecting poorly on the candidate, it would withhold from the American public an important point of view. It is therefore not a surprise that we rarely see candidates decline debate invitations. Why, then, has Mothers Against Drunk Driving repeatedly refused to represent its position in drinking age panels across the country? Surely, all other points of view are represented there — from Choose Responsibility to alcohol counselors, enforcement agents, students and educators.

Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young adults, and the drinking age is an issue that affects millions of Americans. No policy represents a “settled question” immune from questioning and debate– especially when a hefty body of evidence points to the fact that conditions may have worsened under present law. Therefore, MADD’s absence needs to be explained. We encourage MADD to reverse its debate policy and provide much needed answers to the American public. If all evidence is on one side of the question, they should have nothing to fear.

Update: It should be noted that while we applaud MADD CEO Chuck Hurley for debating John McCardell last week at Dickinson College, this post was motivated by feedback from many organizations who are currently planning events featuring the drinking age debate.  Among the groups who have contacted MADD for a representative to appear on an upcoming panel, only to have the invitation declined are The New Jersey Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources, Greenwich, CT community organizers, St. Michael’s College, and TIPS (Training forIntervention Procedures–Responsible service training organization).

6 Responses to “Empty Debate Chairs”

  1. John Searles Says:

    Well, now this IS a bit disingenuous given your comments during the live chat that you could not understand why MADD would agree to ANY debates and give you an opportunity to present your position! You appeared almost gleeful that you were scheduled to debate MADD CEO Chuck Hurley in early March. Apparently they took your advice and that didn’t suit your agenda.

  2. Julie Says:

    Hello. I’m a 38 year old women with two children, one 17 and the other 11. I support dropping the age to buy alcohol. Why you might ask? Because I had the pleasure of living in Germany for a few years. As you probably know, Germany is pretty laid back about kids drinking. I can’t tell you how often I saw teenagers go into the local gausthous and get a beer after school with their friends. They would have a single beer and head home. To them, stopping to have a beer was about as normal as our teenagers stopping to have a pepsi.
    Now most of you know that Germany has some of the best beer in the world and everyone drinks it. But the rates of drunk driving there are VERY low, as are most of the other problems associated with alcohol abuse. Why? Because it is not a “forbidden fruit” there. Kids are given an education from both the schools and their parents as to “how to drink right” and they grow up with that knowledge. Their “culture” of drinking is much different. They drink with their meals or when out with friends. They know how to handle it appropriately and not in excess.
    So here is my problem. It is illegal right now for either of my children to sit down and have a beer with dinner, even in my own home under adult supervision. This means they are not being educated correctly, which makes alcohol for them dangerous. Odd… because in Germany, people would be looking at me strange if I didn’t let my kids drink with dinner. Believe me, the Germans have it right. It’s time for our kids to learn how to drink responsibly. Our alcohol laws are causing more problems then they are solving them.

  3. John Searles Says:

    Here are the actual data on German youths for Julie from the European School Project on Alcohol and Drugs:

    “Almost all students in Germany had used alcohol during the last 12 months (93%), which is higher than the average (83%). Also the proportion of students who had been drunk during the last 12 months is higher (61%) than the average (53%). More students than the average had been smoking in lifetime (77 compared to 66%) and the tendency is the same about the proportion that have smoked during the last 30 days (45 compared to 35%).”

  4. Leo Says:

    I have researched the drinking age issue myself and boy,when we raised the age back in the 80’s,drunk driving fatalities dropped among 18 to 20 year olds however,they went up among 21 to 22 year olds.as for that one person that says that german kids have mor drunk problems,he has to go over there and see it for himself. I totally agree with julie, the drinking age needs to come down so that kids can be more responsible.

  5. Aaron Says:

    I’ve been staying away from this debate since moving back to Canada from the US, largely as a result of being tired of the rampant disrespect towards young adults in the US.

    However, it bears pointing out the basic statistical errors in Mr. Searles post. First of all, 61% of 93% who drink is nearly the same as 53% of 83% – well within the margin of error, I imagine.

    Secondly, this is all European data – he presents no comparative figures for the US. I’m just guessing, but I bet we would find a much lower percentage of students who drink at all in the US (the logical result of fanatical prohibitionist culture), offset by a large percentage of the drinking population who are drunk every time they drink. For example, let’s pretend 60% of US students drink, and 45% of US students have been drunk in the last year. Mr. Searles logic would present this as an improvement over European statistics. What it actually means is that 75% of the US student population who drink were drunk in the last year. Of course, if one’s belief is that all alcohol is eveil and abstention is the ultimate goal, then one could argue this as an improvement I suppose.

    Also, drunk once in 12 months? 25 times in 12 months? Who knows? Is there any data about how many times students are drunk per week or month? There’s no use inflating statistics like this. It would be more useful to know if a student is a habitual overdrinker – not if they were drunk some time in the last decade 🙂

    This is one of those issues that is so obvious to all of us in other countries, and to Americans who have been outside their bubble, that we don’t even really give it much serious credence. It’s only when you’re trapped living in America for a few years that you realize the actual cultural effect of these laws.

    It’s also one of those issues that everyone understands, anecdotally. Yet somehow, all these statistics exist that say the exact oppposite of what you experience living in the US for even a couple months. Statistics are very easy to manipulate. The only explanation for these statistics that claim modern Prohibition has led to a rosy, happpy, Norman Rockwell painting America is that they are being manipulated somehow. I’m sure there were alot of statistics during the 1920’s that proved how well things were going then too. You either have to look REALLY carefully at the statistics for possible flaws, or just open your eyes to see what’s going on in day to day life.

  6. Mclovin' Says:

    the drinking age should not be raised it is canadian tradition and is somewhat healthy for the greater population to drink 1 or 2 glasses of red wine a week. Not only that but if the drinking age is raised to 21 the percentage of underaged drinkers would raise from 61% to what i predict to be 82%. Our economy would aslo suffer a great loss due to the loss of bussines in local bars and liquor stores, they would lose bussiness when their 19-20 year olds cant come in on friday nights to drink. Other statistics i found showed that 12 percent of teenaged drivers in Ontario have been behind the wheel with 1 or 2 more drink in at least one hour of drinking them. European countries such as Amsterdam are managing their society with no drinking age at all. They have their drinking and driving laws very strict and enforce them with the majority of their police. Than there is the question of weather or not this new drinking age can even be enforced through with all of the upgrades in technology in our society making fake I.D’s is becoming easier and easier. Also so we really want our police to be out there on fridays burning away at our taxpayers dollars. People who are legal age to drink now might see this raise as a step towards prohibition and may be motivated to drink more to show their dissaproval to the government. dalton Mcguinty believes that the parents/guardians of our youth would do a better job of restricting their children and allowing them to drink but in moderation with supervision.Other measures that may be taken in to consideration are the lowering of the legal amount of blood alcohol from 0.08 down to 0.05 whcih is just another reason not to lower the drinking age. Than last of all there is my opinion a 15 year old male in Ontario Canada. I believe that the drinking age should not be raised because my friends and family drink and have fun doing it while i sit there alone and bored. If anyone took the time to read this i really appreciate it thank you. 🙂 😛