One benefit to a lower drinking age: fewer alcohol emergencies

As college students and alcohol researchers, we were dismayed to read Robert Voas's Jan. 12 Opinion piece, "There's no benefit to lowering the drinking age," and felt compelled to respond.

Mr. Voas raises the valuable point of including parents in the process of learning about alcohol. Yet under the current law, parents' hands are tied. Instead of being able to introduce their children to responsible alcohol use in the home, they are forced to leave initial exposure to the child's first drinking experiences to college, the military, or elsewhere. More likely than not, these experiences expose young people to drinking behaviors that are risky, reckless, and, worst of all, unsupervised.

And what are the resulting realities on college campuses? Dartmouth College, with 4,400 undergraduates, admits on average about 200 alcohol emergencies a year to their campus health center. Middlebury, with 2,300 students, averages about 100. McGill University - located in Montreal where the drinking age is 18 - with 20,000 undergrads reported only 12 emergencies in the 2002-03 academic year.

These statistics point to the stark realities of the type of alcohol use promoted by the current law. If we are serious about engaging the issue of alcohol consumption, we must move beyond rhetoric and begin to consider proactive ways of teaching young adults about responsible drinking - something that cannot be done effectively with a legal drinking age of 21.
Scott Guenther, Jay Harbison, Grace Kronenberg, and J. Conor Stinson
Middlebury, Vt.

Remember the lessons of the '93 flood

Regarding the Jan. 13 article, "Big Easy: Who can rebuild?": New Orleans is not the first place to face the question of what to rebuild and what not to rebuild after a major natural disaster.

As homeowners and governmental agencies sort out the difficult issues, it would be instructive to review the aftermath of the great flood of 1993 along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Wholesale destruction of the bottomlands prompted many to ask why they should rebuild on the vulnerable flood plains. Two small towns that were utterly wiped out, Valmeyer, Ill., and Rhineland, Mo., were abandoned and relocated, intact, to higher ground. Residents are now quite pleased with the result.

However, at Cedar City, Mo., the population was dispersed and their sense of community destroyed. The question in New Orleans, of course, is complicated by concerns of sensitive, fair treatment of a minority population.
Walter A. Schroeder
Columbia, Mo.

Koranic duels could help India

I read the Feb. 4, 2005 article, "Koranic duels ease terror." I am an Indian police service officer in Kashmir and have been engaged in fighting terror in my homeland for the past 15 years or so - during the course of which I not only have been injured but have seen my colleagues laying down their lives in the line of duty.

I have seen terrorists dying in a hopeless cause, achieving nothing. But I have also had to watch innocent civilians being killed by such misled young men. I think half-baked mullahs and self-styled scholars preaching out of context are solely responsible for creating such "Frankensteins" in our midst.

We in India need more learned scholars - like those in Yemen - who can argue on the strength of pure Islamic beliefs to cleanse the polluted minds of those who would commit acts of terror.
Farooq Ahmad
Srinagar, India

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