from the Daily Barometer
Underage drinking is not a problem. The problematic situation here is over-consumption — a result of our society’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Overconsumption can be seen everywhere in today’s America and drinking is but one of the areas where we see one of its greatest manifestations.
Other Western democracies have long had a more lenient attitude toward alcohol. Many have set the drinking age at 16 or 18, sometimes even lower or non-existent.
In those countries, parents often serve small amounts of wine or beer to their children during meals, and while it is legal for a child to drink with his parents in the United States, it is often frowned upon by a majority of society.
A factor mitigating the problems tied to underage drinking is that in those countries drinking is legal well before driving and other major life milestones.
By the time young Europeans are allowed to drive they have been consuming alcohol with or without their parents for several years, enabling them to better judge its adverse effects on judgement and general motor skills.
In the United States, people who drink are demonized to younger children and only portrayed in a bad light. Instead of showing that the activity can be done responsibly, children are exposed to gruesome pictures and horror stories of drinking for the sake of “education.” This notion only furthers a rebellious teenager’s plight to rail against the norm — why stay away from something that looks so exciting?
Because of this, the consumption of alcohol is often seen as a goal in itself. Binge drinking is a direct result of the necessity for underage drinkers to consume alcohol before they go out.
In order to change this trend we need to educate ourselves and our children about the proper consumption of alcohol.
Quality matters, too. Having a couple microbrews in a social setting is appropriate. Drinking a case or downing a bottle of hard liquor is stupid whether you are 16, 33 or 45 years old.
We as a society need to drop this remnant of prohibition era puritanism and stop regarding alcohol consumption as evil.
The same way parents educate their children about safe sex, they should teach them about proper alcohol consumption.
We need to re-evaluate our standards for what is acceptable for which age group. Why is a person allowed to give his life for the freedom of his country before we allow him to go out with friends for a pint?
Why do we trust young adults to choose the future leaders of our nation before we allow them to make a choice on what they can drink with their friends?
Originally appeared as a staff editorial in the Daily Barometer, October 17, 2005. Posted by permission of the editor.