Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Learning to drink?

There was a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune recently in which a 17 y/o voiced his opinion that the “legal drinking age” should be lowered from 21 to18. A significant basis for this seemed to be that it would allow the teen to “learn how to drink”. That is “appropriately” without binging and other harmful behaviors that can accompany someone’s drinking who doesn’t know the right way to drink.

I disagree.

Having the drinking age at 21 offers the improved (longer) opportunity for an individual to develop the character traits necessary to drink responsibly. (I am not including alcoholism in this discussion. It is a disease with symptomatic alcohol abuse and over-use that is a problem of a whole different sort, not a character problem.) Also, I know and acknowledge the “Peter Pan Syndrome” exists in many forms and some individuals never grow up and act responsibly. And, yes, the drinking age was 18 when I was young and I may have begun drinking before I reached my majority.

Nonetheless, to drink responsibly and individual doesn’t need to “learn to drink” they need to learn certain life skills, develop certain character traits, at least to a reasonable degree. Certainly an individual may limit themselves to 1 or 2 drinks in a controlled setting, but these life skills are required in situations where the only brakes are your self-control (e.g. a free kegger). That self-control, it seems to me at least, is acquired along with the ability to delay gratification. Many of the lessons that instill the latter feed the former. An individual must become able to take responsibility for one’s own actions (the devil didn’t make me do it). They must be able to make many different types of responsible (and we thought out) choices. They must be able to resist peer pressure, in all its prevalent forms, as well as other pressures (e.g. marketing that a product will make you popular, sexy, etc.).

None of these life skills/character traits require practice/learning with alcohol. Life affords many training options. Learn from life.

You can drink from 21 to the end of your life; you don’t need 3 extra years before that.

Think, make good choices, don’t take chances, develop “good” life skills (good = life preserving, useful for society or getting along in society).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This principle only works if the drinking limit is widely respected. A ban at 21 just means three more years in which drinking is illicit and therefore appealing to just the people likely to have problems with it - and illicit drinking will be done without adult supervision, rather than in a social context.

-- Firedrake