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My proposed research topic focuses on the relationship between the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) and problem of binge drinking among college students. My own experiences as a college student in America have not only piqued my interest in this topic, but have also exposed me to the depth and breadth of drinking problems in American colleges, especially among under-age students. Over the last few years, I have seen many friends and classmates engage in binge drinking, and unfortunately know a few people who have lost their lives because of reckless alcohol abuse. Having friends from other cultures, I am well aware of the fact that drinking laws are much more relaxed in other parts of the world such as Europe, for example, and there seems to be less of a drinking problem among their youth. This creates the question I intend to solve in my research paper that is will lowering the minimum legal drinking age reduce the instances of binge drinking among U.S. college students?
As a student with my own set of cultural beliefs, I may be somewhat biased towards this topic; however, I also think that my personal opinion about the nature of this research question can help guide my study in a meaningful, resourceful, and insightful manner. In addition to the body of scholarly research available to me, I can also use personal investigation to determine my views on this topic. Thus, I can, for example, make observations on campus and interview students in order to supplement my research with specific examples of what the statistics, the proponents and the naysayers claim. My bias as a fellow college student also gives me a vested interest in this topic. For me, the research is not only about statistics and facts, it is about classmates and peers. And as my preliminary research shows, the statistics and facts about my peers’ drinking habits are startling.
In all 50 states, the minimum drinking age is 21 (ProCon.org). Yet, many teens enter college straight after high school at the age of 18 or 19 that is several years prior to the age they will be legally able to have their first drink. As immortalized in movies like Animal House and television specials MTV’s Spring Break over the years, college and drinking go hand-in-hand almost synonymously. But as news reports and other fact-reporting have shown, the amount of drinking done at college parties is often dangerous, and sometimes, deadly. The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism reports that “more than 80 percent of American youth consume alcohol before their 21st birthday.” Furthermore “data from several national surveys indicate that about four in five college students drink” and that “about half of college student drinkers engage in heavy episodic consumption” known as binge drinking. The NIAAA defines binge drinking as having four or five drinks in a row (for women and men, respectively) and regards this practice as a “highly dangerous form of alcohol consumption” (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
There is a great number of college students, many of them are under-age, engage in such dangerous social drinking practices and they do understand why this phenomenon is so widespread throughout U.S. campuses. To determine how to combat this “major public health problem” is of vital importance to America’s young adults (NIAAA.org).
Many voices have been taken into account concerning this topic over recent years as the problem has come to light with some people suggesting that there is a direct correlation between college students’ binge drinking and the minimum legal drinking age. Others suppose that the problem would only be worse if the drinking age were lowered. For my study, I aim to include as many of these opinions as possible so that a clear, fair, and insightful rhetorical perspective can emerge. I will investigate recent news articles from a variety of trusted media sources, such as Morris E. Chafetz’s social commentary titled “The 21-Year-Old Drinking Age: I Voted for It; It Doesn't Work” and John M. McCardell’s similar CNN article, “Drinking Age of 21 Doesn’t Work.” I will also take into account information from ProCon.org, which presents a body of literature both in favor of and against lowering the legal drinking age. I will explore the research in order to support a sound argument about the relationship between binge drinking and the drinking age to emerge.
Although I suspect that lowering the legal drinking age will help abate college binge drinking problems, I intend to also inform my study with voices that offer the counter position, such as Toben F. Nelson, Traci L. Toomey and co-authors’ CNN commentary titled “Drinking Age of 21 Saves Lives” and study findings that may also support the current drinking age as reported on the NIAAA website. Lastly, I will also explore statistical data and direct observations or interviews in order to supplement the arguments with hard facts and pattern behaviors as witnessed directly by me for the purposes of this study. All in all, I hope that these news articles, scholarly essays, popular commentaries, statistical data, and personal observations will be a well-rounded, multifaceted research investigation with undeniable implications in the end.
My working thesis is that, as previously suggested, there is a direct relationship with the high legal drinking age and the high instances of binge drinking among college students. According to my preliminary research, lowering the drinking age would make alcohol less of a tempting taboo, which would decrease the “thrill” of underage students feel when consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol. Also, if alcohol was more easily available to younger students, they may be less likely to fall overboard with drinks when being at a party or other event where alcohol is served. In addition, it does not seem fair that 18-year-old person is legally an adult, yet still cannot make drinking decisions for oneself. Perhaps, if this responsibility was given to students when they turn 18, they could make mature decisions about their own drinking habits instead of accessing alcohol illegally and dangerously when presented with the opportunity to do so.
Despite these initial findings, there are several important questions framing my overall claim that must still be considered for a successful research investigation. In my research, I hope to answer to the following question, is binge drinking more common among underage college students or is it only prevalent in 21-and-over crowd? Is there a relationship between binge drinking and gender? Is binge drinking dangerous in itself because of the amount of alcohol consumed, or does it pave the way for other dangerous behavior, such as unprotected sex or drunk driving? Do countries with lower or no minimum legal drinking ages report similar problems on binge drinking? What facts and claims do the proponents of the current drinking age point toward in support of the current age? What about those who wish to lower the drinking age? I aim to use the answers to these questions to support my working thesis and result in a strong, sophisticated analysis that satisfies the question of what the relationship is between the current legal drinking age and binge drinking among college students.