Dionysus and the Amethyst Initiative
If I were given a magic wand to change the laws regarding alcohol, here's what I would do:This is perhaps the most rational reflection on youth and alcohol I've read. boyd's points on alcohol as a marker of status and abstinence education are right on the money about why so many of our alcohol, drug, AND sex education programs in our country are failing. Driving is both dangerous and a marker of status as well, so a graduated licensing program for alcohol similar to one most states have for driving makes sense in a way. The bigger problem that boyd points out is the culture of colleges and universities, and the way this removes young people from models of moderate alcohol consumption. This almost suggests the need for adults in the community to visibly monitor and give feedback on a youth's alcohol consumption at a much younger age than the law gives allowance for right now. Instead, we leave them on their own to figure it out once they're away from home.
1) Children may drink alcohol in private residences at any age when their parent or guardian is present.
2) Youth may apply for an alcohol permit starting at the age of 16. A mandatory education course and test (perhaps online) is required for getting this ID. With this ID, youth 16-17 can purchase alcohol in public when accompanied by an adult 21+ and those 18-20 can purchase alcohol in public by themselves.
3) No one under-21 can drive with even one iota of alcohol in their system. Consequences include fine, community service, permanent loss of alcohol permit, and multiple year license suspension.
Unfortunately, the legal drinking age is tied up with federal highway funds. I don't really see the government overlooking raw numbers on young people and the incidence of fatal accidents in favor of potentially changing the rate of alcohol abuse in young people.