Thursday, August 21, 2008

This would have been helpful three years ago

Remember the thrill you used to get when that fake ID got you into a bar after spending an agonizing amount of minutes in line showing everyone you knew a license of Robert Lafleur from Smithton, Massachusetts, asking endlessly if people thought it looked remotely like you?

Well, apparently the Presidents of numerous high-profile universities around the country no longer want you to be worrying about such nonsense:

College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth, and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age to 18 from 21, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

I was going to post about this yesterday, but was traveling from Brooklyn to Potomac. When I first heard about this, I wasn't sure whether to be happy for people like my little brother, who is going to Penn State and hasn't even turned 18 yet, or to be pissed off that I had to go through fake ID after fake ID during college.

Turns out the news was too good to be true. A day after the Presidents' initiative went public, there's been a ton of dissent on this issue. According to the Washington Post, it seems as if many Americans take the view that it's okay to send 18-year-olds off to war, but it's somehow terrible to let them have a beer:

Safety advocates say the legal drinking age of 21 saves about 900 lives every year. And Laura Dean-Mooney, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said people look to college presidents "for their leadership role on their campuses. It just seems like they didn't do enough homework to look at the science on this."

Other critics said the university leaders are trying to avoid being held liable for enforcing the drinking age and are kicking the problem to others. "I'm an alumnus of Dickinson College and can't believe they signed on to this initiative," said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. "They are really just punting on the issue and leaving the high school principals to deal with it. Very disappointing."

Ahhh, but like a high school nerd looking to re-shape his image within the drunken realm of freshman year, there is hope:

Although polling has shown that the public strongly opposes lowering the drinking age, there has been some consideration of it this year, "way more so than in the past," said Matthew Gever, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Minnesota, Kentucky, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Vermont have considered bills. In Minnesota, a measure that would have let anyone 18 and older drink in bars and restaurants failed. In Vermont, legislators set up a committee to study the topic. The bills in Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin, also unsuccessful, were aimed at changing the rules for members of the military.

Unfortunately, in order to advance our society past the days of fake IDs, there's going to be a need for more legislation than just altering the drinking age. Back in the 70s, when Congress was in pursuit of changing the drinking age back to 21 after the Vietnam War, they decided to throw federal highway appropriations into the mix. Any state that didn't adopt a 21-and-over drinking age would be docked 10 percent of their highway money. And no state is currently going to sacrifice valuable infrastructure money just so a bunch of teenagers can get their Smirnoff Ice legally.

Here was my favorite part of the Washington Post article, though. Gotta love tidbits like this in a hard news story:

Will Porter, a 21-year-old economics major at U-Md., said that one of the favorite games in his fraternity is for 10 guys to pass around a handle of bourbon until it's gone. About a month ago, he said, he drank seven shots of whiskey and six glasses of Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola at a bar near campus. He doesn't remember much else.

We play similar games called "drink the beer" and "pass that pitcher til it's gone", which have similar ramifications to those faced by Will Porter. I would explain further, but I don't remember much else when I play those games.

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