August 25, 2008
Texas colleges and the drinking age

Boy, where was all this back in 1986 when the drinking age was being raised to 21?

UT says maybe. Texas A&M says not now. And a West Texas school says sign it up.

Colleges in Texas are debating whether to join a national lobbying effort that believes the minimum drinking age of 21 is not working and needs to be re-evaluated.

The campaign, known as the Amethyst Initiative, is composed of college presidents from more than 100 universities, including two Texas schools, who say the current drinking age has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on campuses. The presidents are calling on lawmakers to consider new policies, which could include lowering the drinking age to 18.

University of Texas spokesman Don Hale said the school's president received a letter about the effort last week.

"We're going to have a meeting of the vice president's council next Thursday, and we're going to talk about it," Hale said. "We're going to pull in some of the people on campus who really are familiar with the issues."

The catalyst behind this is the Amethyst Initiative, about which you can read more here. As I suspected, this grew out of a study that was written up in Inside Higher Ed last February (link via Chad Orzel). I like the approach they want to take, which is to grant a "drinking license" to those between the ages of 18 and 21 who first pass a class in alcohol awareness and safety. Among other things, I believe treating these folks like adults and giving them straight factual information so they can make their own decisions is much more likely to be effective than the same old scare-and-punish tactics. I also think Grits is onto something when he talks about "broad cultural changes", such as the rise of the "designated driver", as a factor that reduces the effect a lower drinking age has on auto accident rates. In any event, it's an idea that I think deserves more discussion. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 25, 2008 to Society and cultcha

It's always seemed a bit strange to me that at the age of 18, you can vote for your political leaders, you can volunteer to fight and possibly die for your country - hell, depending on what's happening in the world, you could even be DRAFTED to fight and possibly die for your country - but you can't legally have a beer.

But, as someone who has lost loved ones to drunk driving, I've always had mixed feelings about just lowering the age. So this moderated, cool-headed approach makes sense to me. I'd be interested to see what happens.

I also believe that there is something to sending young people off to be adults in college but telling them they can't drink that leads to rebellious, binge-style drinking. If it weren't taboo, I wonder if it would be as much fun?

Posted by: Amy on August 25, 2008 9:15 AM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)