Thursday, December 10, 2009

Amethyst Intiative

The Amethyst Initiative is a group of college presidents and chancellors who feel that the current drinking age of 21 should be reconsidered along with other related drinking laws. John McCardell, the founder of Choose Responsibility, started this movement; the Initiative is a project of Choose Responsibility. Currently 135 college presidents/chancellors have signed their support for the project by signing a statement saying, “It’s time to rethink the drinking age”. The name Amethyst comes from Greek and Roman mythology, supposedly amethyst protects its owners from drunkenness. The initiative was started because of the amount of college students that binge drink, and this is supposed to help to curb that and to protect the students. The Amethyst Initiative states that, in their experience as university presidents, they have observed, "Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students," and therefore they urge lawmakers "to invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol" (

Critics of this movement claim that by allowing these kids to drink, there will be a greater number of drunk driving incidences. It is also believed that a greater number of fatalities resulting from car accidents will occur as a direct result of lowering the drinking age. Many groups are against the initiative such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the American Medical Association, and the National Transportation Board.

Those are the facts about the movement, now I am going to explain why I feel this movement should be brought forth to Congress, and why the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 should be repealed. As of now when students go on to their first year of college they cannot go to bars and legal places to drink so instead they go to frat parties or other sorts of illegal parties. At these parties people binge drink, they want to get as drunk as they possibly can. These kinds of parties are not normally the sorts of places where people causally have a drink or two with their friends, instead people go to get extremely drunk and act upon impulse. There is no one there to protect them, to tell him or her when they have had to much, since all the people have been dinking just as much as they have. The only indicator that is accepted for when someone has drank too much is when they throw up, at that point someone will normally say something or tell that person to leave. There is nothing to protect the people going to these parties from having more than they can handle. Whereas if we had a drinking age that allowed people to legally drink once they are 18, everything that I wrote above would not happen in most instances. Instead people would go to a local bar to hang out with friends; there they have a bartender who is keeping some sort of attention on how drunk each person is. There is also more effort and attention would be put into each time you have to get a new drink. Instead a night would go more like this; two or three friends would meet up at a nearby pub. They would each get a drink talk for a while, slowly drink their first drink. If they get into a deep enough conservation, they may even sip on these drinks for an hour. Once they are ready and have a chance they will get their second drinks, and repeat what they did with their first ones. In a night lasting three or fours hours at a bar, going by the time chart I have set people could have 4 or 5 drinks, compared to the 10 or more drinks they could consume at a party in a single hour or two.

Europe should also be brought into the discussion when talking about lowering the drinking age. I have been to London where the drinking age is very confusing, but to give a very simple explanation of it if you’re over 16 and your eating a meal with an adult you can drink wine, beer, or cider, and if you are over 18 you can drink whatever, wherever, whenever. In England you do not see nearly as much binge drinking from people, especially from people in the 18-21 categories. While in London I was able to sit at a pub order a beer and watch a rugby match, whereas here I could not do that, I did not sit down with the intention to get drunk, I just wanted a nice cold beer to enjoy as I watched rugby. To give another anecdote about the differences between the legal drinking that occurs in the U.K. to the illegal drinking that occurs here, my good friends from high school goes to Edinburg University in Scotland. There it is completely legal for him and friends to go the bar and drink, or to drink in their dorms We have spoken about whether binge drinking occurs or not amongst him and his friends, and from talking to him and comparing it to what I have seen here at Lehigh it seems that the amount of binge occurs that there is way less than the amount that occurs here. No one he knows has had to go to the hospital from drinking, and I have known two people who have had to the hospital as a result from drinking too much. The current drinking age we have in America is not working, too many kids have the ability to get alcohol, but they do not respect it and understand the consequences from drinking too much. This causes a ton of binge drinking to occur, and it causes a lot of these kids to get sick from the amount they drink. By lowering the drinking age to 18, I think it would help to teach people to be more responsible with the way they drink, and my peers and I would not binge drink and do many of the stupid acts we do when drunk.

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