Former College President Calls for Lower Drinking Age

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

The former president of prestigious Middlebury College says the 21-year-old drinking age is causing unnecessary drinking problems on college campuses. In his New York Times article, Dr. John McCardell points out that

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 take the form of binge drinking.

Of course, the same phenomenon occurred during national Prohibition (1920-1933). Citizens denied the right to drink legally were driven underground to consume alcohol, which they did in heavy, episodic fashion. That has become a common pattern among young adult collegians who cannot legally drink -- they often engage in so-called binge drinking.

Dr. McCardell observes that

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 . . . 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.

The college leader notes that drinking by college students has nothing to do with drunken driving. “If it did, we’d raise the driving age to 21.”

Many other college presidents privately express the same frustration with the counterproductive consequences of the age 21 minimum drinking age law. However, they cannot publicly state their opposition to the law for fear their institutions will suffer negative repercussions.

 

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