Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 22, 2008

Is 18 too young to drink alcohol?

As a 20-year-old college student who does not drink alcohol and has no desire to do so, I want to express my gratitude to William E. Kirwan, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and to the university presidents speaking out against, and encouraging others to reconsider, the insanity of the current drinking age of 21 ("Colleges: Drinking age 'not working,'" Aug. 19).

I am offended and appalled that at the age of 18, I am considered competent enough to vote for my elected officials, sign legally binding contracts and serve in the military, yet if I were to be found drinking a beer, I could be treated as a criminal.

While higher education is, of course, first and foremost about education, I believe university and college officials are right in seeking to reconsider this impractical and infantilizing policy because they know firsthand how idiotic it is and are often charged with enforcing policies and developing programs that try to make this unworkable law workable.

Lauren McDade, Towson

The writer will be a junior at Towson University in the fall.

Perhaps the university presidents are seeking the Pontius Pilate solution to drinking on campus: If the law is changed to allow drinking under the age of 21, they could wash their hands of responsibility for alcohol abuse on campus, sheltered by the new law.

But if they are sincere in their quest for "new ideas and new thinking" about alcohol, let's start with the bigger picture.

Let's stop promoting alcohol as the vehicle to a good time, begin eliminating advertising on campus and change zoning to keep bars and liquor stores away from college campuses. And how about alcohol-free tailgating at college sports events?

Alcohol-free tailgating could cause college sporting events to suffer at the box office, but imposing such a rule would really be a case for a university president putting his money where his mouth is to stop alcohol abuse.

As has been noted, 18-year-olds are deemed mature enough to vote, serve on juries, sign contracts and enlist in the military.

All of these responsible behaviors are conducted soberly, we hope. But how responsible do you think an 18-year-old or even a 20-year-old is under the influence of alcohol?

Research has shown that alcoholism is more likely to develop when abuse begins before the age of 21.

By lowering the drinking age, we would not only put 18- to 20-year-olds at greater risk but also make it easier for high school students to gain access to alcohol.

Caity Lovett, Bel Air

When college presidents say that the current drinking age is "not working," I think what they mean is that the current drinking age is not being enforced either by the colleges themselves or the communities in which they are located.

Terrence H. Scout, Chestertown

If the will of the people is to keep the legal drinking age at 21, that's fine with me.

However, we should also then raise voting age and the age at which men must register for the draft to 21 as well.

I simply don't see how someone can be mature enough to die for our country or help select our leaders but not be considered mature enough to drink a beer.

Galen J. White, Baltimore

It is immaterial whether the minimum drinking age for alcoholic beverages is 18 or 21. The issue is really the responsible use of these products.

If colleges wish to get a handle on alcohol abuse, they should have each student sign a conduct pledge that states that any action by a student that reflects negatively on the school could result in his or her expulsion.

Such actions would include drunken driving, rioting, etc.

Additionally, the schools could have meetings for all incoming students at which the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse are presented.

Responsible behavior based on knowledge of the consequences of one's choices will be more effective in controlling alcohol abuse than any age restrictions.

Phil Retchless, Baltimore

Whole city needs to protect youths

The abuse, death and subsequent cover-up of the handling of the case of young Javon Thompson are unbearable and devastating. But the response that insinuates that the tragedy could have been averted by the Department of Social Services is irresponsible ("Agency alerted to child at risk," Aug. 15).

Social Services should not and cannot possibly protect every child in our city. We, the adult citizens of Baltimore, must do that.

We must set a standard for caring for our young. We must give each other the right to challenge abusive behavior when we see it, and put in place public policies that support families and guide the whole city to nurture the healthy and safe development of our children.

To focus anger at one social services system not only is wrong but ensures that such atrocities will occur again - because we, the people, have yet to assume our full responsibility to see that such tragedies never happen again.

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