President L. Baird Tipson of Washington College Favors Legal Drinking Age of 18

Dr. Tipson presents arguments in support of setting the minimum legal drinking age at 18:

Setting the legal age at which people may purchase and consume alcohol at age eighteen simply makes good sense. If arguments are needed, these seem to me the most compelling.

  1. Young people old enough to fight and vote are old enough to consume alcohol responsibly. Does anyone actually believe that none of our soldiers is drinking alcohol during military service until she or he reaches 21?
  2. When our students study abroad, they discover not only that their host countries ordinarily have no law restricting consumption of alcohol to those over 21 but also that drinking is treated as part of a broader range of socializing, not as an end in itself. Because it is a forbidden pleasure, underage drinking in the United States has a seductive mystique that it would lack if responsible consumption of alcohol were simply accepted as part of ordinary behavior.
  3. How often has a family with children between 18 and 21 found itself in a restaurant where wine or beer is served with dinner? The awkwardness of asking those children to drink sparkling water while the others share alcohol -- in effect creating an artificial boundary between them and the adults, or conversely of pretending that the underage children are actually 21 and of legal age to drink -- emphasizes the unnaturalness of our present laws.
  4. Whether we like it or not, alcohol is part of student socializing. A large majority of our underage students drink, drink often, and believe they have a right to drink. To them the law is hypocritical, and its existence undermines the respect that all citizens ought to have for any law.
  5. The 21-year old drinking age has created a dangerous student culture of clandestine drinking. Because they will be disciplined if they are caught consuming alcohol, students drink heavily in private at the beginning of the evening rather than gradually in public throughout the evening. Drinking too many "shots" at the beginning of the evening can cause alcohol poisoning; it can also cause the drinker not to be aware of how the alcohol is gradually infiltrating his or her system and impairing his or her judgment.
  6. The 21-year old drinking age prevents us from modeling responsible drinking. Because the majority of students at liberal arts colleges are under 21, we cannot sponsor social events that involve alcohol without taking all sorts of invasive measures -- armbands, frequent ID checks, and the like -- which serve to separate students into haves and have-nots; so for the most part there are few campus events where students can observe how consumption of alcohol becomes subordinate to, not determinate of, the kind of social intercourse we would like them to grow into.

President Tipson is the embodiment of true leadership.


  • Amethyst Iniative. Why I Signed.

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