Why Is Europe So Much Better Than Us?
Reading the news that some university presidents want to lower the drinking age
put me in mind of the many, many students of mine who have written persuasive papers to this effect. I understand it and I agree with them; the debate is nothing new.
My students would make the "old enough to fight for your country" argument and the "forbidden fruit" argument, and sometimes they even pointed out that in countries with lower drinking ages, teenagers seem to have a more balanced perspective about drinking, or at least learn how to hold their alcohol better.This article
points out that stricter laws and more public transportation options make drunk driving less of an issue in France than it is here. It isn't expected that every kid will have a car. They don't all 'need' one, and really, they don't all need one.
So what the heck? Why is Europe so much better than we are? They have pervasive public transportation!
In grad school I mentored high school age foreign exchange students, finding them host families, taking them on outings, listening to their problems, etc. But they were pretty self-sufficient; they got here two weeks before 9/11/01 and on September 12 they sat around my dining room table and talked in a balanced way about world politics and international relations. Not one of them said they were scared and wanted to go home. All of them spoke at least two languages, none of them got into trouble while they were here, and they made me look back at my own self-involved high school days with chagrin.
OK, I know they were the cream of the crop and highly motivated and had been given the lecture about being embassadors and all that. I'm sure there are some tools out there in European high schools. But seriously. Why is Europe so much better than we are? What is it about their schools that makes them so mature, so far-seeing? Or maybe it's just that--are their schools not seen as the only major preparation for society (read: workforce) and so they are better able to see things outside their own doors?
I remember reading about how adolescence is this artificially created stage, because physically we're ready to start breeding and that's how we used to do it, before advances in industry and medicine lengthened our lives and changed our priorities. So here they are in this holding pattern, not quite adults but not children anymore, and here we are building the holding pens. It's not really working.