21. It’s a fantastic number for people who like blackjack, Adele’s second album, and the century we live in. It is not, however, a suitable minimum drinking age. It’s no secret that a significant part of the college experience in the United States has nothing to do with what goes on in a classroom, but what happens on the weekends (and in some cases, weeknights). It seems that once someone steps foot on collegiate grounds for the first time, and are no longer under the watchful eyes of their parents, all hell breaks loose. “But my perfect overachieving angel would never do that!” Wrong. Many parents who vehemently deny that their child would ever drink underaged are living in woeful ignorance. Studies show that 1 in 6 teens binge drink, while only 1 in 100 parents think their child binge drinks.
When my parents lived in Europe for the past year and a half, I would spend my summers there. I did, in fact, have alcohol on more than one occasion. However, the drinking culture in other countries is considerably different. Yes, alcohol is present at parties over there, but not for the sole purpose of getting everyone in the vicinity plastered (unless you’re British and have just received your A-level scores – then there’s no telling what will happen). In the UK, I was actually asked at a party with people my age if I could “explain the stupidity of the American drinking laws” by someone who was casually sipping a drink. Oh, the irony.
If the minimum drinking age was lowered so that drinking could begin while teens were still under their parents’ roofs, it would take away the taboo and the thrill on which so much of the college drinking culture is based. I also believe it would drastically reduce the number of teen car crashes, the leading killer of teens, a quarter of which are caused by intoxication. Many of these deaths happen when teens are at parties they shouldn’t go to, drinking things they’re not supposed to be consuming, and driving home to avoid getting in trouble. I’m sure the parents in these situations would have preferred a phone call from their child saying, “I can’t drive home right now” to one saying, “Please come identify this body.”
Consider this: when a person turns 16 and can operate a vehicle, they are responsible for pedestrians and other people on the road. On a person’s 17th birthday, they can join the military with parental consent and die for their country.
Upon turning 18, we are supposedly legal adults and are responsible for our actions as such. Why is it, then, that we can’t make the choice to consume alcohol? This suggests that we aren’t fully adults until reaching the age of 21, if it’s not until then that we have complete control over what happens to our bodies. I know the Shakespeare quote goes something like “Love and reason keep little company nowadays” but I’d like to tweak that just a bit: “Logic and politics keep little company. Ever.”
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.
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