By ANTHONY GUENZA
PETALUMA HIGH SCHOOL, 17, SENIOR

Throughout one’s life, it means next to nothing. Yet at a few crucial times, three years can mean everything.
When you ask a 15-year-old what three years might mean to him, you could get a variety of answers: Three years until he can smoke tobacco. Three years until he can buy a lottery ticket. Less thought of, but equally as important are taxes, enlisting for the draft if male and being an adult in the eyes of the law.
All of these make turning 18 truly stepping into adulthood. So why is this humble adult looked upon as a criminal if he or she so much as has a sip of wine with dinner?
There are many things in life that we must be careful of and much that we should protect our youth from. Adults have a moral responsibility to protect their youthful charges from physical and emotional violence and, most importantly, to teach them. The teaching a parent does differs greatly from that of an academic teacher or professor. A parent teaches values, morals and, more importantly, how to make rational decisions based on these things.
Far too often, “contraband” is just kept out of sight and out of mind. Too many young children being influenced by video games? The solution must be to make them harder to get. That way no one impressionable will play them — right? As far as video games, I have always strongly believed that it falls on the parents, not on the rating commissions, to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. It’s their responsibility to make their children mature enough to handle it. This is a concept I believe is just as applicable to alcohol and “underage” drinking.
Teens are going to drink regardless of age limits. It falls to the parent to instill values and morals in their children, with which they can make educated, logical decisions concerning substances that they will doubtlessly encounter.
We, as a society, have come to the conclusion that at 18, people are old enough to decide for themselves on a number of huge, life-altering concepts. One can choose to forgo an education for the rest of their life. One can fly overseas to fight and die for his/her ideals. R-rated movies and lottery tickets are incredibly small in comparison, and so is alcohol. All of these things require a knowledge of one’s self or a mature level of self-control. There is no reason why the legal decision to drink alcohol should be put off another three years.
For the sake of efficiency, it also should be considered. Our jails are overpopulated to the point of bursting, and people committing offenses of this nature, which generally harm no one but themselves, make up a large portion of the inmates. These criminals, convicted of nonviolent, victimless, status offenses, are costing us as a nation huge sums of money.
The United States has one of the highest drinking ages among “modern” nations. The United States has the highest drinking age in all of the Americas, as well as Europe. In many countries, the drinking age is 18 for spirits and 16 for beer. Although in quite a few cases it is just 16, it can easily be said that the vast majority fall between ages 16 to 18.
America always has prided itself on being a modern nation. We, as a people, like to believe that we are at the forefront of technological and societal advancement. On this matter, however, we are falling far behind.
Whether it is because politicians need an easy scapegoat or because we need a serious improvement in parenting skills, drinking is not something adults can do. It has created an illogical legal hierarchy as far as the legal age of majority.
When someone turns 18, they can step out of the door and face the world. The choices they make can and will change the rest of their lives — and make the choice to drink alcohol look silly. Why don’t we put it all on the same level?