News Articles

CULTURE DIGEST: College presidents reignite debate on lowering drinking age

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More than 100 college presidents, some from top schools like Duke, Dartmouth, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins, have reignited the debate about lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, contending that allowing teenagers to drink legally might actually curb binge drinking among college students.

The group, dubbed the Amethyst Initiative after a Greek gemstone believed to ward off intoxication, noted in a statement that Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, imposing a penalty of 10 percent of a state’s highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21.

“Twenty-four years later, our experience as college and university presidents convinces us that 21 is not working,” the group of presidents and chancellors said. “A culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’ — often conducted off-campus — has developed.

“Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students,” they added. “Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer. By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.”

The group asks, “How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition?” and then calls upon elected officials to support a public debate over the drinking age, consider whether the 10 percent highway fund encourages or inhibits the debate, and offer new ideas about preparing young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.

Moana Jagasia, a student at Duke University, told the Associated Press she supports lowering the drinking age.

“There isn’t that much difference in maturity between 21 and 18,” she said. “If the age is younger, you’re getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don’t freak out when you get to campus.”

Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami, declined to sign the Amethyst Initiative statement.

“I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we’ve made some progress,” the former secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration told AP. “To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car wrecks, AP reported, and the group thinks the coalition of college presidents is looking for an easy way out of a problem they’d rather not deal with on their campuses. MADD officials, AP said, have urged parents to consider the safety of colleges whose presidents signed the statement.

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

More than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence, and AP found that 157 college-age people, 18 to 23, drank themselves to death from 1999 through 2005.

School officials sometimes aren’t setting a good example. For instance, Robert Paxton, president of Iowa Central Community College for 13 years, resigned in August after a photo published in The Des Moines Register showed him on a boat helping pour beer from a small keg into a young woman’s mouth. And a dean at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania was charged with drunken driving three times in eight days in August.

HALLMARK ADDS ‘GAY MARRIAGE’ CARDS — Hallmark, the most recognized greeting card chain in the nation, has added a line of cards celebrating “gay marriage” in light of the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow couples of the same gender to “marry.”

The cards feature two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers with best wishes inside. One says, “Two hearts. One promise.” They avoid outright use of the term “gay marriage” because it’s not legal in most states, but the point isn’t hard to get.

“When I have shopped for situations like babies or weddings for gay friends I have good luck in quirky stores,” Kathryn Hamm, president of the website gayweddings.com, told the Associated Press. “But if you are just in a generic store … the bride and groom symbol or words are in most cards. It becomes difficult to find some that are neutral but have some style.”

So Hallmark is filling that void.

“It’s our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can,” Sarah Gronberg Kolell, a Hallmark spokeswoman, told AP.

Janice Crouse, director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, expressed disappointment at the card carrier’s decision to stock cards that promote homosexuality.

“By latching onto the latest fad generated by the homosexual special interest group, Hallmark is negating its image as a wholesome company that promotes American values and pro-family principles in its products,” Crouse said in a statement.

“American businesses have a corporate responsibility to the public that buys their products,” Crouse added. “Instead of bolstering campaigns by special interest groups like the homosexual activists, corporations like Hallmark should be protecting American culture from those forces that would destroy the family and create a public environment that is detrimental to general well-being, especially children’s well-being.”

Hallmark says its stores can choose whether they want to add the “gay marriage” line.

‘STAY-AT-HOME-WIVES’ MORE POPULAR — Feminists tried hard to break free from it, but now it seems more young adult women are embracing it. According to a recent article published on CNN.com, stay-at-home-wives are the latest status symbol.

“It says, ‘We make enough money that we both don’t need to work outside the home,” said Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women.” “And especially with the recent economic pressures, a stay-at-home spouse is often an extreme and visible luxury.”

In many cases, the women don’t have children, and they don’t telecommute, the article noted. They just stay home because they enjoy homemaking and they welcome the extra time to devote to their husbands.

“We’re no longer stressed out,” said Anne Marie Davis, a 34-year-old wife in Texas. Ten years ago she was an “overwhelmed” high school English teacher, she said, and she didn’t have time for much else. Now, because she takes care of her home, she says her new lifestyle has made her happier and brought her closer to her husband.

Without a high-pressure workplace taking up most of her time, Davis now is able to pursue charity work, reading, creative writing and exploring new hobbies like sewing, the article said.

“In the past few years, many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home,” Haltzman said. He estimated that more than 10 percent of the 650 women he has interviewed who choose to stay home don’t have children, signaling a new trend toward women taking care of the home full-time without yet having the title “stay-at-home-mom.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach