99 bottles of beer and you

-A A +A
By The Staff

Too many people break the speed limit on the highways. The obvious solution? Raise the speed limits!

Obesity is a growing problem (no pun intended) in our elementary and middle schools. The obvious solution? Lower the price of candy bars!

The song, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” used to be a joke. I mean, seriously, who would drink 99 bottles of beer? Even the best of beers lose their flavor after your 18th bottle.

And yet, this has become the theme song for many college presidents.

I recently read an article about how nearly 100 college presidents (from well known U.S. universities) have lobbied lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age. Their logic? Uh ... lowering the drinking age will decrease the amount of binge drinking on campuses.

Each year, more than 500,000 college students suffer drinking-related injuries. As a result, about 1,700 of them die each year.

By the end of this year, approximately 14,000 people will have died from alcohol related traffic accidents. There are 1.4 million drunk driving arrests each year in this country.

Alcohol sales in the U.S. exceed $100 billion each year. Alcohol consumption for people 14 years or older averages 2.25 gallons of alcohol per adult per year.

The figures are staggering, but nowhere near as staggering as the students who binge drink their way through college.

With colleges being halls of great thinking (or is that drinking?), why are those 100 presidents calling for a decrease in the drinking age?

One argument given is that the U.S. imposes the highest drinking age in the world. Most nations have it set at 18 years, with many allowing young adults to start drinking at age 16.

Some nations don’t even impose a minimum drinking age. Given this thinking, if we let toddlers drink, fewer people would grow up to be alcoholics.

Seriously, would lowering the drinking age be any more effective at decreasing binge drinking than raising the drinking age was for preventing young adults from drinking? The logic escapes me, but then again logic has little to do with setting age limits.

Why is it OK for an 18-year old to smoke but not drink? At the tender age of 18, one can legally get married, have sex, adopt children, even get divorced.

An 18-year old can drive a car, buy a gun, get a tattoo, serve on a jury, gamble and have elective cosmestic surgery. When one turns 18, one can even enlist in the military and fight in wars (travel to exotic places, meet wonderful interesting people, kill them).

And with parental consent, one can do most of the above at much younger ages. With parental consent, one can join the military at 17 and some states allow 14-year-olds to get married or to get body piercings.

Maybe that’s the key? Parental consent? How about letting 18-year- olds drink with parental consent?

Certainly, all those kids going to college could easily get parental consent. Why else would their parents have sent them to expensive colleges in which the university presidents are encouraging younger students to drink?

Or are we looking at this the wrong way? Underage drinking is by no means limited to college students. In a survey taken in 2005, nearly 11 million young adults (between the ages of 12 and 20) reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

Over 7 million classified themselves as binge drinkers. By eighth grade, 20 percent of students report that they’ve gotten drunk. By 12th grade, that number is more than 50 percent.

So, let’s sit down with these 100 university presidents and ask them to explain their thinking. How exactly will allowing 18-year-olds to drink curb the binge drinking now infesting kids as young as 12 years old?

Perhaps they’d like to lower it further? Maybe we should run some basic arithmetic by them to make the point clearer? You know ... 100 times stupid equals stupid?

College presidents shouldn’t be theorizing on ways to mitigate their own responsibility (if the drinking age is lowered, then no one can blame the colleges for underage drinking). Instead of covering their own academic aspirations, perhaps they should be working to root out the cause of the problem.

Why are students drinking so much? Why do students choose to binge drink rather than just have a couple drinks now and then? Why is there so little effort to stop these underage drinking parties at colleges? What pressures are contributing?

OK, I’m getting nowhere with all this discussion. Maybe we could discuss this some more? Perhaps over a drink?