Reactions to yesterday’s NYT essay

John McCardell’s essay¬†spurred quite a conversation in cyberspace–and surely face-to-face– yesterday. Supporters and dissenters of a lower drinking age, albeit with a license, made their voices heard by commenting on the New York Times¬†page, on our Facebook page, and through our Twitter feed.

We often receive emails from high school students interested in lowering the drinking age, and this is not surprising. These students perceive an intrinsic benefit in lowering the drinking age. So it was interesting that most of our commenters on the NYT page yesterday were, according to the information they provided, middle-aged people with young adult children. These people are not fighting for a lower age because they seek the freedom. Instead, based on their comments, this demographic favors a lower drinking age to enable a greater sense of responsibility in their children. The opinion of adults who can drink on their own yet do not have the opportunity to teach their children to do so demonstrates the disparity in the intention of the law and in the outcome of the law.

One particularly pertinent comment is included below. And readers, we’d love to hear what you think about Dr. McCardell’s essay. Go ahead and provide your insight in the comment section below.

From “A Cranky Alumna” in Ohio:

As the parent of two young adults, I was shocked at the ways their college experiences differed from mine regarding alcohol. At a small liberal arts college in the 70s, when the drinking age was 18, alcohol was an integrated and thus controlled and, indeed, educational aspect of college life. Wine and beer were served at college-sponsored functions; security was generally informed of larger student parties, loosely monitoring them not in search of violations but to ensure safety; it was a treat and an achievement to be invited to a professor’s home for an evening that might well include a tutorial on the fine points of a special apertif. In short, responsible, intelligent drinking was seen as an aspect of responsible, intelligent adulthood, something to which we all aspired.

By contrast, when my children attended a similar college 30 years later, the official position was that there was no drinking on campus. There was, of course: students drank as much as possible, as fast as possible, as surreptitiously as possible. There was no occasion for drinking with any objective other than to get drunk, and most frightening of all, students were so intimidated by the zero-tolerance policy that they refused to call security when problems–ranging from alcohol poisoning to drug overdose to sexual assault–inevitably ensued.

You tell me which strategy is most likely to result in healthy, responsible young adults.


One Response to “Reactions to yesterday’s NYT essay”

  1. Edwin Bonilla Says:

    “Crazy Alumna” is right about the different behavior regarding alcohol and is many times heard. It was better in the 1970s and the situation in the 21st century is bad and must be changed. Enforcing the current drinking age will not change the behavior of university students about alcohol because the behavior is still there. The behavior will remain because universities have gone in the deep-end with zero-tolerance rules and because young women and young men have been introduced to the responsible rules of alcohol consumption. At the least, medical amnesty should be popular with universities so that students will send for help if there are serious problems at parties. The drinking age should be lowered to 18 and with many laws and rules in place that are not age discriminatory, behavior towards alcohol will significantly change.