- Since the legal age for drinking was raised to 18, alcohol abuse on college campuses has, if anything, grown.
- Since underage undergrads can't drink legally, they drink "in the shadows," away from the social structures and pressures that could restrain their excesses.
McCardell criticizes the argument that teenage traffic deaths have declined since the drinking age has been raised, noting that cars and highways are simply safer than they used to be.
We say good for McCardell to note the flaw in the post hoc argument that illogically asserts that because a drop in traffic deaths followed the raising of the drinking age, the latter must have caused the former. We also stipulate the fact of rampant alcohol abuse in the shadows of America's colleges.
We say bad for McCardell that his own reasoning is post hoc: that raising the drinking age must have caused the increase in alcohol abuse on campuses, so judiciously lowering it will decrease abuse. We also grieve the fact that we have heard similar flawed reasoning from other officials at other prestigious colleges.
We agree instead with what is reported in the article of Drew Hunter, president of the Bacchus Network, a national group that helps colleges discourage alcohol abuse. Hunter insists that late adolescents who want to drink mostly want to drink to excess, and that they will do so regardless of the law.
Everything we know about this issue suggests that Hunter is exactly right and McCardell is deluded. Undergrads who drink aren't connoisseurs. They drink cheap, tasteless beer or cheap, high-proof liquor to get drunk as quickly as possible. We'll leave it to others more familiar with the human psyche to explore the layers of social unease and sexual maladjustment that seem to drive these behaviors. But there's no question that moderation does not play a significant role in the alcohol consumption of most underage drinkers.
Let's not kid ourselves about kids who drink. Alcohol use is fraught with danger for adults. Undergrads aren't adults. And we don't apologize for that statement.