In his September 11, 2008 column, (A toast to Amethyst, 09/11/08), now-Interfraternity Council President Ari Parritz, discussed the merits of the The Amethyst Initiative, which “wants us to take a closer look at the efficacy of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.”
Having spent close to a month studying at Oxford University in the United Kingdom where the drinking age is 18, I feel compelled to emphasize this issue.
I will not waste your time making the usual arguments for lowering the drinking age: reversing the “forbidden fruit” temptation or we can go to war, vote and get the death penalty but can’t drink, etc. Instead, I implore you to consider the link between a positive drinking culture and healthy socio-cultural development. One only needs to spend a few weeks mingling with international students to realize that American youths are rapidly falling behind our international counterparts in terms of our depth and breadth of knowledge, intellectual curiosity, sense of collective responsibility and general ability to conduct positive, daily social interactions.
American university culture revolves around drinking. English university culture revolves around conversation while drinking. Can you think of the last time you pounded back five shots of Grey Goose and proceeded to have stimulating conversation about the latest technological innovations in microprocessing chips, the international political climate, the theater or a good book? Since American students are not allowed to drink at a bar, we drink in our rooms, with music blasting and the TV on. Drinking has become as selfish as it is social.
Alternatively, what if on a Friday late-afternoon after classes, a group of freshmen wandered into the Brown Jug, ordered a pitcher of beer, sat face-to-face and interacted? Would they get drunk? Yes, quite possibly. But they would simultaneously strengthen their friendships in uniquely positive ways and help to perpetuate the deep bonds that are integral to any society. Pub drinking is a highly pleasant experience that I was deprived of growing up in the U.S., only to realize its priceless value now that I am abroad. Not just because I may enjoy a tasty ale but also because I enjoy interacting with people.