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Battle of the binge

Colleges that want to lower the drinking age need to first try innovative prevention.

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Do college students really like to get drunk? The question should be thrown at the nearly 100 college presidents asking government to consider lowering the legal drinking age to 18 from 21. If colleges simply assumed most young people prefer not to imbibe, they'd find ways to help them be teetotal rather than tipsy.

It's all too easy for American colleges and universities to push for a lower drinking age and avoid the hard work and innovative ways to discourage alcohol consumption, on campus or off.

Surveys reveal most incoming freshmen don't show up eager to binge or play drinking games. They don't work hard in high school to party hard at college. Their families don't pay hefty tuitions to let them get intoxicated on the weekend. Colleges must build on this early willingness to stay sober.

The arguments against lowering the drinking age remain as strong today as they were in 1984, when Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (which withholds highway funds from any state that sets a drinking age lower than 21).

The law was aimed mainly at the majority of young people who don't go to college and too often drive drunk, causing tragedy on the highways. And giving 18-year-olds easy access to liquor would only make it easier for younger teens to get it. The military knows that 18-year-olds who enter the service are mature enough to fight but not ready to handle alcohol, so it takes steps to discourage drinking.

Why can't higher education?

The college presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative challenging the current law need to first make sure they have tried all practical measures to counter alcohol use by students.

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