Well, this could get interesting.

College presidents from about 100 of the nation’s best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus. …

“This is a law that is routinely evaded,” said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. “It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory.”

Kind of a strange way to make the case, but fair enough.  Plenty of people, myself included, think a lot of the most dangerous kinds of binge drinking would be curtailed by kids’ showing up to school with more, not less, experience with alcohol.

MADD, however, recommends that we let the good times roll.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

“It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses,” said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

Sigh.   Thank you for arguing like a  5-year-old.

McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn’t working.

But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.

In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

If drunk-driving deaths were the only toll inflicted by abuse of alcohol, Hurley might have a point.  But the costs of our dysfunctional drinking culture of course extend far beyond that, into the realm of cirrhosis and obesity and the psychological torture of alcoholism.  To me, building a healthier drinking culture requires education, and education requires teaching kids about alcohol when they’re young enough to be taught.

Anything else to add, responsible adults?

Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

“They’re waving the white flag,” he said.

Well, alcohol is winning, if that’s what he means.

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