One of my favorite parts of writing this blog is the opportunity to communicate with students who are directly affected by MLDA 21. Answering emails about term papers and speaking to people who express concern also provides the opportunity to challenge a student’s understanding of Choose Responsibility, American drinking culture, and MLDA 21.
To this end, I find that people really don’t always understand Choose Responsibility’s proposal. Sure, we aim to promote responsible consumption by lowering the drinking age in the United States. But our proposed changes do not stop with a quick drop from 21 to 18. Changing only the legal age would not likely provide the desired outcome.
The age at which people are allowed to drink is important, but the opportunity to learn to drink responsibly–especially from parents–is even more important. No one would dream of letting a 16 year old take the keys to the family car without ever having learned to drive with a learner’s permit. Yet, this is what we do with alcohol. Laws in the United States currently allow parents to teach their children to handle a car yet prevent parents from teaching their children to handle alcohol. Consequently, Choose Responsibility supports a series of changes to treat 18, 19, and 20 year-olds as the young adults the law otherwise says they are. Current drinking laws infantilize young adults. We should not be surprised, then, by infantile behavior from otherwise responsible adults. This series of changes would allow 18-20 year olds to purchase, consume, and process alcoholic beverages.
We propose a multi-faceted approach that combines education, certification, and provisional licensing for 18-20 year-old high school graduates who choose to consume alcohol. We envision an overarching program that combines appropriate incentive and reward for responsible, lawful behavior by adolescents, and punitive measures for illegal, irresponsible behavior. In creating a unique approach to alcohol in the United States, we hope to shift the culture towards one where education and responsible behavior are valued by young adults.
You can read more about our proposal, especially the “drinking license” here.