I support Choose Responsibility, a national movement to create drinking licenses for 18, 19, and 20 year olds. It was the brainchild of John McCardell, President Emeritus of Middlebury College. Last year McCardell was invited to speak to the group of liberal arts college presidents that includes Middlebury about the CR idea. What came of this discussion was the Amethyst Initiative, a call by some 130 college presidents to rethink the drinking age. CR promotes the Amethyst idea.
The news stories about the Amethyst Initiative have said it calls to end the 21 drinking age, shifting back to 18, as many states used to do. This requires federal action, because Congress tied every state's highway funds to setting the drinking age to 21.
I think it would be a bad idea to simply reduce the drinking age. I expect that McCardell saw the Amethyst idea as "half a loaf," a way to get his peer presidents to at least talk about the idea publicly. I worry, though, that a half-hearted and sluggish effort to simply reduce the drinking age, without getting something in return, will doom the drinking license idea.
The 21 drinking age has failed spectacularly and relentlessly. This is true on college campuses and off. Alcohol has always been part of human society since it was first discovered, and always will be. Our best shot at civilizing alcohol is to have the adults teach the kids how to drink in moderation. Hence, drinking licenses.
Clear away the Amethyst Initiative. On with the real debate.