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John McCardell makes a push for his Choose Responsibility campaign in the current issue of The Atlantic, urging the United States to relax the 21-year drinking age and let lawmakers try more nuanced education efforts. McCardell, a professor at Middlebury College and formerly its president, writes that American states, freed of the federal age minimum:

might license 18-year-olds—adults in the eyes of the law—to drink, provided they’ve completed high school, attended an alcohol-education course (that consists of more than temperance lectures and scare tactics), and kept a clean record. They might even mandate alcohol education at a young age. And they might also adopt zero-tolerance laws for drunk drivers of all ages, and require ignition interlocks on their cars. Such initiatives, modeled on driver’s education, might finally reverse the trend of consumption by young people at ever earlier ages.

The Choose Responsibility Web site goes into further detail on a number of points, but McCardell’s three paragraphs in The Atlantic (it’s the “Ideas Issue”) are a better introduction to the issue precisely because he treads lightly. The point here is that the current law is constricting, and we need more discourse and fleshed-out ideas before we can solve it.

Photo by jwheare, Creative Commons Attribution License