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Beware the Amethyst

January 31, 2009 1:45 pm Published by 1 Comment

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 is up for renewal next year and there is a movement currently in the works to lower the drinking age back to 18 years old.

The Amethyst Initiative was created by John McCardell, a former president of Middlebury College in Vermont, and has been signed, at last count, by 130 chancellors and presidents of colleges and universities who claim that the current drinking age has actually led to an increase in binge drinking among college students.

They believe that the only way to battle this “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking” is to lower the drinking age. The argument often provided along with this line of thinking is that 18 is the age when “adult status” is otherwise reached. The line of reasoning is “They can legally vote, drive, and defend their country…why not allow them to drink as well?”

The tricky thing here is that the Amethyst Initiative itself is not specifically stating that the drinking age should be lowered. Instead, it is calling for an educated national discussion on the effectiveness of the 21 year-old drinking age. It is important to note, however, that all 130 supporters of the initiative feel that “21 is not working.”

Read more about the initiative here.

Other national organizations such as MADD and SADD, as well as individual parents and educators nationwide, oppose the initiative, and research has shown that alcohol-related deaths and accidents went down significantly once the drinking age was raised to 21. Many psychologists agree that at age 18, the human brain is still developing and is not as mature sociologically. Therefore, decisions made at that age — even sober ones — may not always be in the decision maker’s best interest, due to the sheer lack of life experience both personally and socially

Lowering the drinking age will not “take away the taboo element” that causes underage binge drinking. It will just cause more unnecessary deaths and possibly expose even younger kids to that “taboo element,” introducing them to alcohol at an earlier age.

Shawn McMaster is a project coordinator for Straight Up Ventura County.