Brown University anthropology professor Dwight Heath has broken with the decades of obscure scholarly work produced in his academic field by declaring very practically that states across America should lower the legal drinking age.
“As we look around the world and throughout history, we find that those places where people learn to drink earlier there are fewer problems with what people associate with dangerous drinking,” Heath told Providence NBC affiliate WJAR.
The Ivy League professor believes the drinking age should be 18 across the fruited plain — if not lower.
“At least down to 18, which is the age of the majority for everything else,” he told the station. “It makes no sense to have a drinking age higher than the majority. I’d be just as happy if it were five or six years.”
The scholar noted that young children typically learn to eat and drink with their families day after day at the dinner table. In such a controlled situation, he suggested, kids would be more likely to learn how to imbibe alcohol in a responsible way.
“As an anthropologist, I’m looking historically and cross-culturally,” he added.
Naturally, when the NBC affiliate turned to a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving for comment, she disagreed.
“The reason the law was enacted in the first place was because there were so many traffic fatalities, and since the law has been enacted in the past 30 years we have seen upwards of 25,000 lives saved,” MADD representative Nancy DeNuccio told WJAR.
DeNuccio wants the law to remain unchanged.
Another professor, the always-insightful Camille Paglia, has also called for the drinking age to be lowered.
“The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations, and it has pushed kids toward pills and other antisocial behavior,” Paglia recently wrote in the cyber-pages of TIME.
“It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant,” she added. “The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.”
Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in July 1984 — 30 years ago this month. The law withholds federal revenue from states that don’t fall in line by prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing alcohol.
Prior to the law, states made their own laws concerning drinking ages.