Beer 101: A learner’s permit for underage drinking

UM students, allow me to introduce you to your new friend, Jennifer Wiley.

You see, while the rest of us are still recovering from our spring break hangovers, Ms. Wiley, a 20-year-old intern on the Maryland-based radio show Beer Radio, has come up with a rather interesting proposal. She believes that for teenagers to truly learn to appreciate alcohol, laws should be passed to allow underage drinking in moderation during mealtimes accompanied by adults. That’s pretty reasonable.

According to Wiley, shot-laden birthday bashes that end with the spins could be a thing of the past if the government were to lower the drinking age. The Beer Radio staff even put the pitch in writing and sent it to Maryland legislature, where it currently sits unnoticed in a dusty stack of papers between “Marijuana Legalization” and “Jet Packs for Everyone” proposals.

But the problem isn’t unique to Maryland. In fact, every state has a legal drinking age of 21. To understand the situation, I present Ben Minkus’ brief history of drinking:

1920-33: Prohibition of alcohol; Kennedy family makes its fortune bootlegging scotch; Irish-Americans everywhere rejoice.

1929: Great Depression begins, largely the result of prohibition.

1933: Prohibition ends, with legal drinking age set at 21; FDR declared greatest president ever, even before World War II.

1961: John F. Kennedy wins presidency; uses White House bathtub to concoct “JFK’s Famous Hooch Juice”; Marilyn Monroe visits frequently.

1970s: 29 states lower drinking age in response to the Vietnam draft’s 18-year-old age minimum; soon thereafter, Nixon resigns.

1970-1983: motor vehicle crashes increase among teens in areas of lowered drinking age.

1988: In response to President Reagan’s Uniform Drinking Age Act, 21 becomes the national minimum legal drinking age; Reagan informed after waking from six-hour midday nap.

1988-present: nothing’s happened.

So, to all you underage drinkers out there who think this proposal should be passed, follow in the footsteps of Wiley; take the time to write out a similar proposal to your state legislature.

And if your schedule’s too busy, just imagine how much more time we’d have to ourselves if we all had jet packs.

Ben Minkus can be contacted at