Sunday, August 24, 2008

Budweiser High School MADDness

(Apologies to The Firesign Theatre)

The national controversy brewing about lowering the drinking age took a decidedly
local flavor when Mesa State President Tim Foster signed his name to a statement issued by The Amethyst Initiative. This statement says, in part:

A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed.

Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.

Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.

By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.

The statement further calls for elected officials "to support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age". It's important to note that the statement that President Foster and 128 other college presidents signed does not call for the wholesale reduction in the drinking age; it merely calls for examination and dialogue, two essential components of education, parenting, and effective leadership and governance.

Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving reacted predictably. The Daily Sentinel called them on the carpet for their reactionary approach to the mere mention of any type of discourse on the issue, and I'm in full agreement with the Sentinel on this one.

Leslie and I had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the week. She told me that for someone with such a strong disdain for alcohol such as myself, it's surprising that I would support even the consideration of making it legally available to 18 year olds.

She's right, of course. I tend to be very judgmental when it comes to the abuse of alcohol, and those who imbibe and behave irresponsibly. To be honest, I have little tolerance for stupid drunks. It's a character flaw that I need to work on.

I've written before about my own internal debate regarding this issue. One the one hand, I believe that with additional responsibilities should come additional privileges, and that dovetails with the premise that the responsibility to vote in elections and die for one's country should bring with it the right to have a drink if one chooses.

On the other side of the coin, I have to question the maturity level of many of our young adults who are about to turn 18. Consequently I have to question the habits of many parents and other role models who have raised or mentored these children in a manner that allows them to glamorize and trivialize the consequences of alcohol consumption, particularly in excess.

I realize that a line has to be drawn somewhere. Regardless of where we draw it there will be those who are denied what their responsibilities and maturity level should afford them, as well as those who need to do some serious growing up.

I found some very interesting web resources while looking further into the Amethyst Initiative.
This new effort to organize university presidents is part of a larger campaign called Choose Responsibility. Led by a university President, CR's stated mission is "to promote informed public debate and support a fresh approach to the problem of reckless and excessive drinking, especially by young people".

This organization, funded wholly by philanthropy, offers many tools to begin reasonable discourse on these issues. They will be featured as part of an upcoming 60 Minutes story on alcohol and drinking ages.

As personally conflicted as I am about alcohol consumption by our young adults, I cannot condone a refusal to sit down at the table and discuss the issue honestly and openly. This issue for me represents a big part of what is right and wrong with America. We need to get serious and get to work.

Hastings Tribune
Aug 22, 2008

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