Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Family Policy (page 2 / 2)

I brake for babies, but they don't brake for me

Kid in Car
Above: A child exhibiting suspicious behavior.

Proponents of raising the U.S.'s minimum age for legal drivers are having a good week, as recent news stories seemingly lend credence to their dire warnings that today's U.S. drivers are simply too young for the responsibility of being behind the wheel.

Reports of a 4-year old in Wisconsin crashing his parents' SUV into their garage might be easily enough dismissed; after all, SUVs are very famously large vehicles, and even your Minorthoughts.com correspondent's father once dented his Baeur-designed beauty trying to park in his basement's limited space. But now we are told that an 11-year old boy has led Louisiana's state police on a high-speed chase, after an officer of the law tried to ticket him for going 20MPH over the highway speed limit (it was 60; he was doing 80).

One can't blame this egregious violation of road rules on simple lack of driving experience. According to police, the child had been driving without incident for a good six months prior to the time of the incident.

March 2, 2005's edition of USA Today pegs the issue as simply one of brain development:

"For years, researchers suspected that inexperience — the bane of any new driver — was mostly to blame for deadly crashes involving teens. When trouble arose, the theory went, the young driver simply made the wrong move. But in recent years, safety researchers have noticed a pattern emerge — one that seems to stem more from immaturity than from inexperience."

Will the age-uppers finally make some headway? They've got opposition; even some parents, traditionally the party-pooping nemeses of teens everywhere, oppose new laws regarding driving ages. After all, children who can drive themselves around are more useful. The previously-mentioned 11-year old boy was dropping off his disabled father at the hospital and heading over to pick up his mother from work when police noticed him.

This entry was tagged. Family Policy Humor

Why I'll Give My Kids Alcohol

A Toast to Mom and Dad -- The family that wines together, shines together.

Observant Jews, for example, traditionally serve children small glasses of wine during Friday night Sabbath ceremonies. Other cultures also begin socializing children into drinking at an early age--including Mediterranean societies such as Italy, Greece and Turkey (and non-Mediterranean societies such as China).

As for the second, two international surveys--one conducted by the World Health Organization--revealed that these Mediterranean countries and Israel had the lowest binge drinking rates among European adolescents.

Several studies have shown that the younger kids are when they start to drink, the more likely they are to develop severe drinking problems. But the kind of drinking these studies mean--drinking in the woods to get bombed or at unattended homes--is particularly high risk.

Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2004 found that adolescents whose parents permitted them to attend unchaperoned parties where drinking occurred had twice the average binge-drinking rate. But the study also had another, more arresting conclusion: Children whose parents introduced drinking to the children at home were one-third as likely to binge.

What is Marriage?

An Iowa judge recently ruled that Iowa's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. That makes an older article by Francis Beckwith relevant once again.

I believe, however, that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ "street theatre" in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here's the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of "unions" that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of "numberism," the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary "wife-swap lease," a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a "marital ensemble," etc., etc. Let's see if the mayor will give these people "marriage" licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why?

This is the sort of public philosophical interrogation that has to occur if the social conservatives really want to win. All their legal and social-science posturing -- i. e., their appeal to what the majority of citizens want, etc. -- will be for naught unless they can press the other side to account for their point of view. For this is not a dispute about "policy." It is a battle over the nature of who and what we are and whether we can know it. It is philosophical combat over metaphysical turf with no Switzerland to which one can flee for asylum.

What if We Abolished Teenagers?

Psycologist Robert Epstein doesn't like adolescence.

Psychologist Robert Epstein argues in a provocative book, "The Case Against Adolescence," that teens are far more competent than we assume, and most of their problems stem from restrictions placed on them.

The whole culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood, primarily through the school system and restrictions on labor. The two systems evolved together in the late 19th-century; the advocates of compulsory-education laws also pushed for child-labor laws, restricting the ways young people could work, in part to protect them from the abuses of the new factories. The juvenile justice system came into being at the same time. All of these systems isolate teens from adults, often in problematic ways.

The factory system doesn't work in the modern world, because two years after graduation, whatever you learned is out of date. We need education spread over a lifetime, not jammed into the early years"”except for such basics as reading, writing, and perhaps citizenship. Past puberty, education needs to be combined in interesting and creative ways with work. The factory school system no longer makes sense.

Imagine what it would feel like--or think back to what it felt like--when your body and mind are telling you you're an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you're a child. This infantilization makes many young people angry or depressed, with their distress carrying over into their families and contributing to our high divorce rate. It's hard to keep a marriage together when there is constant conflict with teens.

We have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture. We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other "children." In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil. Many cultures do not even have a term for adolescence. But we not only created this stage of life: We declared it inevitable. In 1904, American psychologist G. Stanley Hall said it was programmed by evolution. He was wrong.

He has me convinced. My own experiences reflect this. My parents homeschooled me. By my early teen years, I was ready to get out of the house and start doing more. A mutual friend taught me about relational databases, then offered me a job working for his web startup company. I remember being totally astonished that I had to get permission from City Hall (literally), in order to work at age 15. (Actually, I couldn't work at age 15. I had to wait until I was officially 15½.)

Even at such a young age that policy angered me -- I wanted to work, I wanted to do more, and my parents were supportive of that. The state, however, assumed that I was incompetent and that my parents were exploitative. Thankfully, the waiver was easy to obtain. But it shouldn't even be necessary any longer. Factories no longer thrive on grunt labor. American factories require workers with lots of skill and expertise. Our economy is fundamentally different than it was in 1900. Repealing the overly restrictive child-labor laws would not lead to an increase in child labor -- except in those situations where young adults are hungry for a chance to work.

Ironically, because minors have only limited property rights, they don't have complete control over what they have bought. Think how bizarre that is. If you, as an adult, spend money and bring home a toy, it's your toy and no one can take it away from you. But with a 14-year-old, it's not really his or her toy. Young people can't own things, can't sign contracts, and they can't do anything meaningful without parental permission"”permission that can be withdrawn at any time. They can't marry, can't have sex, can't legally drink. The list goes on. They are restricted and infantilized to an extraordinary extent.

I was also frustrated, as a teenager, by the banking restrictions. I learned to manage my money at a young age. I'm fairly certain that my parents opened my first account when I was 13. Again, I was surprised to find that I wasn't allowed to have my own bank account (my parents were co-signers on the account) or credit card until age 18. I was reasonably mature, I was capable of handling my finances, and I didn't understand why the State insisted on treating me as a child.

If my daughter matures as quickly as my wife and I did, I intend to do everything I possibly can to help her skirt these ridiculous laws and regulations. I'll help her open a bank account, I'll help her get work permits, I'll probably even put her on my credit account -- there's no sense in treating her like a child if she acts like an adult.

Wisconsin Marriage Amendment

Several weeks ago, the Isthmus interviewed my pastor, Chris Dolson, about the Wisconsin Marriage Amendment. The Amendment reads:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state and a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."

Here is the portion of the article that referenced him:

What about the evangelicals?

A survey released last month by Baylor University shows that evangelical Christians are far more likely than Catholics or mainline Protestants to have politically conservative views. But not all evangelicals lean to the right.

On one end of the evangelical spectrum is Ron Dobie, pastor of Stoughton's Christ the King Community Church and president of the Dane County Association of Evangelicals. With Appling, he serves on the advisory council of the Wisconsin Coalition for Traditional Marriage, a group of religious, community and business leaders working to promote the amendment.

"I support marriage," he says. "When we went to no-fault divorce, we saw the divorce rate go up and the marriage rate go down, because it devalued marriage. This is another thing that says marriage is not important."

Dobie also condemns homosexuality. "The homosexual lifestyle is not a healthy lifestyle," he says. "Homosexuality has never been accepted by any society that I know of. [Gay marriage] would be a huge step away from what traditionally has been true. If we do that, I don't think we have any basis to say polygamy is wrong, or bestiality is wrong."

In principal, Dobie agrees it is healthier for gay people to be in committed relationships, as opposed to not, but says society benefits from the traditional definition of marriage. "Emphasizing marriage between one man and one woman is the best way to go," he says. "We should be promoting that, not doing anything to diminish it."

On the other end of the spectrum is Chris Dolson, senior pastor of Blackhawk Church, a west-side "mega-church" that packs in more than 3,000 worshippers each week. While he affirms that the Bible says the only appropriate sexual relationships are between married men and women, he says the amendment has not come up in his conversations, and he will not preach about it.

Like a growing number of evangelical preachers, Dolson believes church is not an appropriate place to discuss politics. "It's not an issue of this or that amendment," he says. "What's more important, following Christ, or following our Legislature?"

But Dolson encourages churchgoers to consider Christian ethics as they ponder the amendment's possible effects on the gay community. "Put yourselves in their shoes," he says. "Do you think it would be beneficial to them? The whole thing about people not being able to see their dying spouse because they're not married, to me that's not fair."

Marrying in College

Getting married in college is something that most people are advised against. It's an advisement that comes with good reason: school work is uniquely stressful, the first year of marriage is uniquely stressful, and finances (one of the biggest drivers of divorce) are stretched doubly tight. Still, some people do decide to get married while in college.

The Wisconsin State Journal ran a nice article about this, yesterday.

After about one and a half years of marriage, UW-Madison student Claire Hanschke and her husband, Tim, a recent graduate, finish each other's sentences like a seasoned married couple.

Both are comfortable in their new roles and say they have benefited from marriage. But being a student and a spouse can be difficult, others say.

"I've learned a lot about myself after getting married. I've really started to think about why I do the things I do," said Tim Hanschke, who says he doesn't feel as though he missed out on single life in the dorms.

Alexandra Hambright Solomon, a couples therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said maturity is key in determining whether a couple is ready to marry.

Students such as Janisch, who marry at a much younger age than the national average, may be ready for it if they're psychologically prepared for the challenge.

For the past six years, Northwestern has offered a "Marriage 101" course, which Solomon teaches with other couples therapists. Their goal is to teach students how to create healthy, long-lasting relationships.

Similar classes, including one at Edgewood, called "The Psychology of Intimate Relationships," are popping up across the country, many aimed at reducing the divorce rate.

I'm glad to see that some people are choosing to get married at a younger age. Frankly, waiting for "the right time" can often be an exercise in futility. There is always a pressing reason why marriage should be put off. But if it's put off too long and too often, it may never come to pass. I'm even happier to see that colleges are starting to offer marriage preparation courses. While I still recommend pre-marital counseling through a local church, it is good to see colleges truly preparing students for the real world.

This entry was tagged. Family Policy Marriage