Last week police in Plainville, Massachusetts, detained what Boston Globe reporter John M. Guilfoil describes as "dozens of underage partygoers." Did you know there was a minimum age for going to a party? Evidently there is in Massachusetts, provided alcohol is served at the party, even if you don't drink any. Police said the party's host was Tyler Rowley—who, at 19, is considered a legal adult in pretty much every respect except beer drinking. The attendees reportedly ranged from 15 to 22, but most were 17 or older. "All 53 partygoers," Michael Tracey notes, "were arrested, loaded into vans, and processed as criminals." He adds that "MyFoxBoston.com courageously posted the names of everyone who was arrested, including several minors." Guilfoil, the Globe reporter, says "the case was especially alarming because it involved some young people from the same school district as 17-year-old Taylor Meyer of Plainville, who wandered away from a Norfolk house party in 2008 and drowned in a swampy area." Janet Wu, a local TV reporter, agrees that "what makes this case most disturbing is the tragic history this town has with these kinds of parties." Tracey comments:
To recap, here's the logic: Anytime anyone between the ages of 15 and 22 drinks at a party in Plainville, Massachusetts, it should be considered an affront to the memory of Taylor Meyer.
Without minimizing the dangers of drinking too much or in the wrong context (it really can kill you!), it should be noted that alcohol consumption is normal among high school and college students and has been for as long as the government has been collecting data on it. So normal that it's a good bet Guilfoil and Wu, who shake their heads in disbelief at the very idea of people drinking before they reach the magical age of 21, had a sip or two back in the day. Instead of treating every "underage" drink as a crime, perhaps adults should be trying to minimize the damage by teaching teenagers the difference between responsible and reckless consumption. The prohibition regime that prevails for Americans younger than 21 is not conducive to this goal.