Friday, April 20, 2007


I was reading a story today that suggested lowering the legal drinking age would possibly lower the troubles we are seeing with alcohol among teens. From the story:

McCardell, 57, president emeritus of Middlebury College in Vermont and professor of history there, says alcohol is and always will be a reality in the lives of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds. Studies indicate that the number of college students who drink is slightly smaller than it was 10 years ago, largely because of increased interest in healthy living. But in the majority who choose to drink, there have been increases of binge drinking and other excesses. Hospitalizations of 18- to 20-year-olds for alcohol poisoning have risen in those 10 years. This, McCardell believes, is partly because the drinking age of 21 has moved drinking to settings away from parental instruction and supervision. Among college students, drinking has gone off campus and underground, increasing risks while decreasing institutions abilities to manage the risks.

I think that what Mr. McCardell has forgotten, or completely failed to realize, is that age is not important when it comes to responsible behavior. Either a person has the self-will and self-control to drink responsibly, or a person doesn't. Unfortunately, just as there are vast numbers of 18-year-olds that can't handle drinking responsibly, there are also vast numbers of 25-year-olds who can't handle it either. Not to mention the 35-year-olds. And the 45-year-olds.

If you haven't outgrown getting drunk by the time you're 35, then you're an alcoholic.

Setting an arbitrary number for inclusion into adult activities (entering a contract, drinking, entering the military, smoking, voting, renting a car) is foolish. It would be wiser for a society to allow individuals willing to conform to what is considered responsible behavior to somehow prove themselves able - at whatever age they can.

Perhaps we should take a page from the Australian Aborigines and their "walkabouts." At the age of thirteen they walk in the wilderness for six months as a rite of passage. They trace the passage of their ancestors, following their routes and re-enacting their heroic acts. Once this is done, they are accepted as an adult into their society.

The ancient greeks also had a good coming of age rite - the Dokimasia. When a young Athenian came of age to vote in Athens, he was brought before an assembly in his district and put to the question. His life and actions up to that point were brought up, talked about and examined. If a valid objection to his inclusion into adult society was found, the candidate had to find a way to overcome that objection and convince others that he could be treated as an adult.

These are unrealistic ideas for a society that is focused on handouts.

I'm going to go play with my kids now.