Remember the story from last week about the high schoolers that created an anti-drunk-driving t-shirt after their classmates were killed in an accident? Well, I got a lot of comments on it. Let’s start first with the story:
Five students at Oswego (Ill.) High School died in what investigators say was an alcohol-related crash. Several students said they wanted to discourage fellow students from drinking and driving during homecoming weekend, and wore shirts to school emblazoned “Class .08” the Friday before — a double meaning of the class of 2008 and a reminder that .08 percent is the legal alcohol limit for drivers. School officials told the students to remove their shirts; all did but one. “I decided I wasn’t going to back down,” said Katie Kusnierz, 17, since their classmates’ deaths “really impacted us.” Kusnierz was thus suspended — on the grounds that the shirt’s message “could be” interpreted as promoting drinking. (Chicago Tribune) …Of course, the school administrators “could be” idiots.
I got several comments on the story like this one, from Dennis in Missouri:
Hi Randy/Marcy. Enjoy your work a great deal, however, I have to disagree with your take on the T-shirt with ‘.08′. My first reaction is that it was promoting drinking. 17-year-olds should not be drinking at all. When I was in HS two classmates were killed because of drunk driving. On Monday morning there were plenty of tears and broken hearts. On Friday night there was lots of drinking again. If the kids really wanted to make a difference they would not be encouraging their classmates to keep their BAC below .08, they would encourage them to keep it at 0. All of the above arguments do not even touch on the fact that the human brain does not mature until 20-22 years old and that studies show alcohol has a different and more dangerous impact on people under that age than it does over that age. Finally, I have taught my kids (13, 16, 18) that if someone in authority over you makes a decision that is reasonable, even if you disagree, you submit to their authority. Otherwise we simply have anarchy with each person deciding for themselves what rules they will follow. Imagine a football game where each player played by their own rules. It would be chaos. So would a high school. One may disagree that the shirt promotes underage drinking but it is not unreasonable to believe that it does. Hence, the principal made a reasonable decision that ought be followed. [But] to the students’ credit, it is clever.
While I have no idea who Marcy is, I absolutely agree that teens tend to be idiots about grown-up decisions, such as using mind-altering substances. (Hell: a good portion of adults are pretty stupid about it too.)
And I agree that school administrators tend to be right about student motivations. But they sometimes get it drastically wrong, and then tend to be asses about being stubborn, sticking to their stupid first impressions rather than admitting they made a mistake. I’m pretty good at detecting that, even from afar.
Still, to argue that “studies show alcohol has a different and more dangerous impact on people under that age” is absolutely silly: of course that’s true — no one is arguing that, especially not the kids, so you’re totally, completely, missing the entire point.
The most interesting comment about this particular story came in today — from someone who actually knows that school, Mike in Illinois:
I live [in Oswego], and several of my children attended high school there. I have been frankly rather dismayed at the community’s response to this tragedy (which happened about 9 months ago) — quite a bit of ‘Who can we blame, while ignoring our own culpabilities?’ I heartily applaud Katie’s actions. Unfortunately, you are wrong about the administrators; there’s no ‘could be’ [about them being idiots].
I’ll be interested to hear your comments about it.
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