Could Be Idiots

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:

Critical Thinking

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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30 Comments on “Could Be Idiots

  1. Dennis is right, his children should be taught to not question authority and more importantly to not do it when they themselves don’t agree with the authority.

    As long as they do that my children will have a much easier time leading them when they grow up to be free thinking individuals (here’s hoping that my children don’t grow up to be fanatical fascists or anything…cause you know, there won’t be that many around to question them when they go wrong and even if there are, it’ll all probably seem reasonable at the time even if you don’t quite agree).

    The inherent problem here is the small minds of the authority figures involved. It doesn’t matter if you, as an authority figure over these children, agree with the message or not; what you should be embracing here is the initiative where one kid sees a problem and tries do do something about it (using her own, albeit still limited, experience and references).

    If you don’t like the execution, then talk to the kids and explain why you think there may be a problem here and then try to help them do it better the next time. This way there won’t be a next time.

    Or maybe it’s just me who isn’t thinking straight when I believe that the kids that drink will drink regardless of whether someone wears a T-shirt with .08 printed on it or not but that maybe, just maybe one or two of them won’t get into a car afterwards because they saw someone in that party they just left, wearing a T-shirt with .08 printed on it, reminding them of their friends that died in a car crash a while ago.

  2. I think Dennis is missing the point a bit. In the town involved, everyone would know the story and understand the meaning of the shirt.

    In Australia, wherever a car fatality occurs, the family is encouraged to put a white cross at that part of the road. Everyone knows what it means and it reminds everyone to drive carefully.
    In this case, the shirts were fulfilling the same purpose – reminding viewers that 5 people died specifically because of drink driving.

    You say that the students should be encouraging each other not to drink. You’re right. And if this was a perfect world, no one under 25 would drink alcohol and there would be NO drink driving in any age group. But this isn’t a perfect world.

    Human beings tend to have short memories, so surely we should support anything that reminds people of the dangers of drinking and driving.

  3. I would be interested to hear from law enforcement. I took a course offered by my local police department that covered everything from investigations to traffic stops. What I learned was that .08 is not a gold standard. You can still be ticketed a driving while impaired under that limit. The penalties change at .08, but if you fail a field sobriety test, you will be charged with DUI. Again, I may have the terms wrong, but it was apparent to me during my class that .08 is not the *legal* limit, but a point at which penalties are stiffer.

    As far as the shirt, the students were clever. To me it reads, “we are going to drink anyway, so just remember don’t go over .08”. When it is read that way, I agree with the administration. The reaction could have been different. How about coming up with a way to reduce underage drinking or promote safety at parties?

    Here in Illinois, a family was convicted for having alcohol available for an underage party.
    Education and frank discussion about the consequences is needed. If the shirt helps that, then great. There has to be a better way to get the message across to the kids. Where I grew up, we had at least one fatal crash involving teen drinking and driving while I was in high school. We had an assembly before graduation that reminded us that the two do not mix. Did it help? We didn’t have any incidents that year. Did students drink and drive? I would bet they did.

    The kids’ hearts are in the right place, doing what they can to keep kids from dying is a good thing. I’m not sold on the message on the shirt.

  4. I usually agree with your anti-zero-tolerance, and even question the wisdom of a 21- vs 18-year drinking age. But as the law now stands, the legal limit for those under 21, whether drivers or not, is .00– not .08. The .08 implies that .07 is ok. It’s actually illegal. The .08 limit has no bearing for a high school student, until the law is changed.

    And I doubt it will be. -rc

  5. I have never personally been, nor known, a teenager who would explain to an adult or any other person in authority that what they are saying means exactly the opposite of what they are saying (yes, I meant to say it that way, and yes, I am being facetious). If I were the person in charge I would have made the same assumption, that the message was pro-alcohol and not against drinking. If it had said “Let’s NOT be known as the Class of .08”, then its alleged intent would have been much clearer and more to the intended point.

  6. I’m 17 myself and graduating in “.08”. The idea of such a t-shirt, in my mind, is a great one. The message isn’t targeting kids to go and get drunk, it’s targeting the ones that already drink and tell them to stay safe. I see no reason for the administrators to give punishment as such was given (partly because I’m a rebellious teen, partly because of the “no could-be’s”).

    In all honesty, talking to the kids about how the shirt maybe misinterpreted is a much more effective way to tell them than to suspend them. If it was me, I would have worn the shirt the same way as Katie did. We may be kids, but we have just as much a mind to express our feelings and wants as everyone else, and with that in mind, showing it on a t-shirt with a witty comment of “Class .08” is an expression that should be commemorated, not shot down.

    Luck to Katie and everyone out there that feels the same.

  7. In Texas, the definition of intoxication has three parts, only one of which need be true: a blood or breath alcohol test showing a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher; not having the normal use of physical faculties; OR not having the normal use of mental faculties. Certainly, it’s easiest to prove 0.08% BAC, but my sister prosecutes DWI cases all the time in which she is able to prove intoxication even in the absence of a blood or breath test.

    (Incidentally, Texas law says that physical or mental faculties can be impaired by ANY drug or medication, not just alcohol. It’s a pretty broad statute — and I’m glad!)

  8. Frankly, I’m surprised nobody else has questioned or pointed this out before. Nowhere in the story as written/edited by Randy does it suggest that one or more of the teens had been drinking – there is not enough information given to make that assumption credible. The first sentence reads “Five students at Oswego (Ill.) High School died in what investigators say was an alcohol-related crash.” It does NOT say it was a one vehicle crash. It certainly could have been caused by some 30+, 40+, or 50+ year-old drunk driver in another or even the same vehicle, and that scenario can also fit the story as presented.

    Even if we go with the assumption that it was one of the teens who was drinking & driving, I fail to see how adding a decimal point in front of the two digit year of graduation is promoting underage drinking. It appears to me to be a creative way of the students getting their peers to THINK about what they’re doing – and/or to get supposedly responsible adults to think about what they’re doing.

    If this alcohol-related crash was based on a teen’s drinking, then I would suspect that if that teen’s BAC was .08 or less, it would more likely not have happened at all. Then again, teens (especially young drivers) do plenty of other things to cause distractions, causing tragic results. Cell phones (talking or texting), eating, having five (even sober) teens in the same vehicle, all have a profound effect on any driver.

    Although I disagree with Colorado on many things, their revamping of the juvenile driving laws to limit the number of teens in a vehicle when a teen is driving was a smart choice. If Illinois had such a restriction and it was enforced (by parents as well as law enforcement), this tragedy would/could have been slightly less, and possibly even avoided.

    Back to the “Class of .08”, I see no way that it is promoting drinking; its sole purpose is (I think) to make people think. The administrators are using the worst or stupidest form of censorship I’ve ever seen.

  9. “Class of .08” is short and snappy and fits on a t-shirt; “Let’s NOT be known as the Class of .08” isn’t and doesn’t. The comments from Dennis and Phil are just as poorly thought out as the action of the school administrators, and violate a basic principle of American justice — Ms. Kusnierz should not have been suspended just because someone thinks she might have misrepresented the meaning of her shirt — which, frankly, isn’t very logical or plausible. I’m with Randy that people are being donkey’s behinds in their treatment of and attitude toward Ms. Kusnierz.

  10. To be honest, I`ve been quite puzzled, when I read the story.

    IMHO, if teenagers have an opinion on matter strong enough to procure specially-printed t-shirts just to show that opinion as group, and openly admit their agenda… In that case, claiming their message is directly opposite to what they say is more then stupid.

    Maybe it’s just my paranoia speaking, but from my angle, it looks like school authorities had been specifically attempting to hammer down the point, that students can not trust them under any circumstances.

    To be honest, recent zero tolerance antics make me puzzled more and more often.

    I would be willing to put down each separate of them as simply incompetence and stupidity, granted.

    As Napoleon said – “Never attribute to malice what could be sufficiently explained by ineptitude.”

    But honestly – there is a definite pattern to all the occurrences. It looks more and more like the point of zero tolerance is to upbring the current generation of students as a culture of disgruntled iconoclastic anarchists.

    I’ll just comment on one part. Napoleon?! I’ve never heard that quote attributed to him, but rather Nick Diamos. And it’s “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” (example attribution) -rc

  11. Treen (of Queensland, Australia) notes the Australian practice of placing crosses at the site of fatal accidents. It’s still not enough, even though the annual road toll tends to fall. In New South Wales, Australia, the state government has introduced legislation that mandates a ZERO blood alcohol content for learner and provisional license holders (provisional status exists for the first three years of holding a license). It’s too early to say whether the legislation itself has helped reduce road carnage, but I can’t see a downside to this law. Perhaps the students whose friends were killed might consider agitating for similar in their legislation? Or agitating amongst their friends for a voluntary code?

    Most, if not all, U.S. states already have such a law. -rc

  12. Kids are getting enough messages about the dangers of drinking, and more often than not, the ones who drink will drink to excess. A message of moderation from peers is not lost on me. Yes, you don’t want them drinking at all, but if they are already ignored the first message of “Don’t drink”, I’d rather have a second message there saying “If you’ve decided to be stupid, be smart about it.” Maybe it’s a conflicting message, but my order of preference in teen drivers on the road works like this:

    1. Totally Sober
    2. Has had a very limited amount to drink
    3. Blitzed out of their mind.

    Really, I’d rather not see any teen drivers, and certainly none that have been drinking at all. But the danger represented by a teen who has been binge drinking and then hitting the road is far too great. Teens already have a problem with impulse control, add in the effects of alcohol and the filter between their thoughts and actions is practically none existent.

    And to Dennis in Missouri: Teach your kids to respect authority, yes, but question it, too. You say that if someone in authority makes a reasonable decision they must submit to it. Now, you’ve already placed the onus of determining whether a decision is reasonable upon them, so clearly you want them to question it. But what constrictions do they have about what is reasonable? If these stories from This is True have taught us nothing else, it’s taught us that people in authority make some really stupid decisions about what is reasonable.

    I think if you find the Zero Tolerance page you’ll find some stunning examples of what is reasonable. In the 1940’s, it was considered reasonable to place American citizens in internment camps. Governor Wallace considered it reasonable to block the desegregation of the university of Alabama in the 1960’s. Someone else found it reasonable to shoot him. Teach your children to think for themselves, and to be thoughtful of authority. Respect authority and respect yourself. If you can not reconcile the two, then you must examine both your own motivations and the motivations of those in authority and choose what is right.

    This is what I hope to teach my daughter when she’s old enough to understand. If she’s thoughtful, compassionate, and logical about her own intentions, I will be the first one to stand in the line of fire for her rights. If she’s selfish, impulsive, and insensitive, in her reasoning, I’ll be the first one to stop her.

    Remember, our “reasonable” will not be theirs. Give them wisdom, because our time is ending as theirs begins.

  13. You know, it’s easy to stand around and adopt a pious attitude that teenagers SHOULD never be drinking. (I think we’ve done that already, since it IS against the law.) And as anyone who doesn’t have his head up his… never mind… can see that kids drink anyway. This is nothing new. It was illegal in the 50’s, and it’s still illegal today. But it still goes on.

    Now, maybe the kids with the T-shirts tried to do a cute slogan and it just didn’t really work. So what??? Class of .08? Banning T-shirts & suspending students because it MIGHT be construed as promoting drinking? Have you seen the ads on TV for Bud and Miller Lite? Get over yourselves. Especially the principal.

    And people wonder why kids have NO respect for adults or for authority.

  14. Wow! Where to start! What a bunch of ‘holier than thou’ hypocrites! ‘Could be’ idiots; how about ‘are absolute morons!!!’ These high school students had more sense than the usual graduating class from Anywhere, USA!

    Perhaps some guidance should be taken from our friends overseas. In many countries drinking of alcohol is allowed at much younger ages but is guided by parents who have had some experience themselves. Drunkenness is stigmatized and certainly taboo, not to mention illegal to the nth degree (permanent loss of driving privileges.) It’s about time to face the facts and help our children grow up in a manner which will be safer than hiding our heads in the sand.

  15. I think folks with a strong interest in drinking/driving or teen drinking will see a reference to .08% BAC. Those with no strong interest will see “Class of ’08” as in 2008.

    High Schoolers have been drinking illegally for many decades, at least back to the 1930s. That doesn’t make it right but it should not be such a shocker either. Could be that it is Darwin’s Theory in action.

  16. Unfortunately, there will always be those who “try” to do what they feel is the right thing, regardless on the effect it has on others, using their position or authority to imprint their often narrow-minded view. They “try” to ensure *they* can’t be held responsible. Here in Australia, we hear stories about how America is the “country of litigation”. If this is the case, is it any wonder some administrator tries to cover his A….?

    Teenage alcoholism is quite a serious statistic in this country. I feel that any promotion to limit your intake should be considered positive, such as demonstrated by your students.

    While these students have used their imagination for their T-shirts, maybe the administrators should try to encourage students to curb their drinking through education, not through dictatorial censorship. “Drinking at your age is bad and no matter what we or your parents say, many of you will, or indeed already have tried alcohol. If this is the case, remember the damage it does to your body. Don’t drink drive AT ALL if you’ve been drinking, any be wary of drink spiking.”

    In Australia we call administrators like this “wowsers”. I prefer another word beginning with “W” but will not put it in print.

    In Australia, our the BAC limit for driving is .05%. Provisional drivers (first and second year drivers) must remain alcohol free while driving.

    What, we have to guess at the word? Wankers? That would fit…. -rc

  17. In England I think teenage drinking is as big a problem as anywhere else, and I certainly remember drinking more than I should have when I was underage. However it was always impressed on me (by my parents especially, but also at school) that you should never get in a car with someone who has been drinking. My dad always made me promise if I felt unsafe to call a cab and he’d pay for it when I got home, regardless of the condition I or my friends were in – that would be dealt with when we had hangovers. I never had to take him up on that offer but always knew that there was a ‘safe’ alternative to getting in a car with a drunk teenager.

    I studied for a year at college in Texas and was shocked by how readily people would get behind the wheel rather than take a taxi (much cheaper than they are in England!) or arrange to stay over. Is it perhaps because people are driving at a much younger age in the states that they think they know what they are doing, despite their impaired judgement? I think that the kids’ t-shirt shows their acceptance people will drink in high school but they should be responsible about it – and surely it’s the adults responsibility to support the students in their efforts to educate their peers on the true dangers, not of drinking but getting behind the wheel afterwards?

    It is their responsibility. Now maybe my critics will understand why the children of the school are dying. -rc

  18. One comment about the post from Murray, Sydney, Australia,

    He states “In New South Wales, Australia, the state government has introduced legislation that mandates a ZERO blood alcohol content for learner and provisional license holders (provisional status exists for the first three years of holding a license).”

    The comment is

    “Most, if not all, U.S. states already have such a law. -rc”

    This is not correct. Most if not all of the US laws are .00 below 21 years old. While this means teens are not legal with even a little alcohol, it is not the same rule. What their rule says is “first three years of driving”. A 25 year old getting a license for the first time is subject to the lower limit until 28.

    This is a significant difference as a new driver regardless of age has not yet developed the reflexes to drive safely. By removing one contributing factor for those years the accident rate is presumed to be lower.

    BTW, I am in favor of similar tiered licensing in other regards as well. Example #1, first three years you cannot drive a car with more than 200 HP. Example #2, before towing a trailer you must have one years experience and have passed a second test specifically on towing.

    One of the biggest killers of our kids is handing them the keys to a high performance or ill performing vehicle that is far from what they trained on in drivers ed.

    Federal law (the Drinking and Driving Minors Amendment) requires states to adopt a stricter standard for those under 21 — a maximum of .02 percent. As far as I know, every state has done so, with quite a few choosing to go with .01 or .00. Many are more strict than .02 for those under 18, which would include the majority of high school students. If there is additionally a “3 year rule” in some states, that is in addition to the above. -rc

  19. I would suggest to all of the kids that they wear these shirts off campus, where the administration has absolutely no say in them. From what I recall of the story, the town involved is not a metropolis, but a rather small town (please, do not take offense at that statement.) Therefore, I suspect that the home location of the principal is known, and maybe even some of his habits; like he goes to a particular public restaurant every Thursday evening at 6:30PM. So the kids show up and have diner at the same place wearing their shirts. Never saying a word or causing a scene. I guarantee that action will garner the group a lot of respect from the community.

    Other suggestions along the same line: wear the shirt in high visibility locations like Wal-Mart, the local (or nearest) mall, maybe have a fund raiser for the class of ’08 (notice there is no “point” before this) like a car-wash where everyone wears their “.08” shirts.

    Hey! You kids were smart enough to come up with the idea of these shirts, I have confidence that you are smart enough to think of ways to get the principal’s goat as well.

  20. Is teenage drunkeness/driving ever going to go away? Probably not. I sympathize with the class that lost their friends, and understand that they were trying to send a message. Yes, I believe that this message could be seen as negative, but I’m sure that that’s not what they meant. Good for you, Katie!

  21. On November 10 at 7:54 AM, Mike from Dallas wrote: “… adopt a pious attitude that teenagers SHOULD never be drinking. … kids drink anyway. … it’s … illegal … it still goes on.”

    A few hours later (3:52 PM), Jim from Corunna, Mich. said something that I like much better: “Perhaps some guidance should be taken … In many countries drinking of alcohol is allowed at much younger ages but is guided by parents who have had some experience themselves.”

    I’d like to point out that in the United States, drunk driving statistics show that Jews don’t drink and drive as much as other religions. I’m not certain if this applies to teenage drivers as well, but I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t.

    The reason is that Jewish children are encouraged to have some alcohol — a VERY SMALL AMOUNT of alcohol — while supervised by their parents. The Passover ceremony involves drinking four “cups” of wine. (In reality, the cups are rarely drained — it’s just that four times during the ceremony we drink some wine, and then refill the cups.) This typically happens just before a rather large meal, and there is another ceremony (which does NOT involve wine) that takes place after the meal is concluded. This starts at a VERY young age — at age 13, you are already an adult according to Jewish tradition and law. The net result is that Jews are required to have some alcohol, and are not allowed to drive until the alcohol has had a chance to work its way out of your bloodstream. Obviously the children wouldn’t be driving anyway — but they can certainly observe that their parents are not driving shortly after consuming alcohol.

    In the United States, freedom of religion ensures that it absolutely IS legal to give small amounts of alcohol to children. I’m not aware of any studies which prove that this practice is directly responsible for the low statistics about drunk driving — but it seems fairly obvious.

    While I wouldn’t want to suggest that every child in the United States should be brought up Jewish, I think that all good parents should make sure that their children ARE exposed to SMALL AMOUNTS of alcohol, in moderation but on a regular basis, starting at a young age.

    It certainly takes the mystery out of it. I remember asking my parents to taste their drinks, wine with dinner, etc. Sometimes I thought it would good, but mostly I thought it was terrible. And funny: I’ve never — ever — drunk to excess. So you don’t even have to be Jewish to be smart about this! -rc

  22. Part of the problem with teen drinking is that in most areas there are no penalties against teens ATTEMPTING TO PURCHASE alcoholic beverages. Local authorities penalize the retailers for selling and let the minors go free. If laws were passed making the ATTEMPT TO PURCHASE unlawful, with a monetary fine against the minor of $250 with a portion of it (say $50) going to the clerk or bartender who asked for an ID, prevented the sale & initiated prosecution of the minor it would be a powerful incentive for sellers to prevent illegal sales.

    I’ve heard that this approach is being used in Alaska with excellent results. It is a no-brainer solution, has reduced teen drinking, rewarded responsible retailers at no cost to the taxpayers and law enforcement agency budgets because the incentives are being paid by the minors apprehended & prosecuted.

  23. I wonder why most “adults” forget how it is to be young. Maybe because I’m still ‘kindda’ young (29), I haven’t: young people WILL drink. That’s reality, period. Preaching abstinence simply does not work – either the person has grown believing in it or they won’t listen to you. It’s true for sex, and it’s true for drinking and smoking. So I really do applaud these kid’s initiative: if they’ll do it anyway, be responsible about it. I think that’s even better for society as a whole – when they grow up, they’ll tend to continue being responsible about it.

    And think about it: preaching against something you yourself do has never worked. Adults drink, and telling teens they can’t do it too (and believe you’re doing a good job raising them) is simply insane. Last thing: talking about it doesn’t mean encouraging it. Means EDUCATING. It’s all the more commendable for being their own initiative! Don’t ruin THAT!

  24. Quite a few years ago, my (underage) teenage cousin, Tommy, came home somewhat drunk from a friend’s house. My uncle recognized that, and sat Tommy down to talk to him. My uncle asked him if he liked to drink. Tommy, being a smart-ass 16 year old, said, “yeah, I do! What are you going to do about it?” So, my uncle got out the booze, and sat there and made Tommy drink till he threw up. Tommy felt so awful being so drunk and vomiting, and making an ass of himself, that he never drank to excess after that, and he’s over 40 now.

  25. Just as soon as I read the story I immediately thought about the students trying to persuade others AGAINST underage drinking, not the possibility of promoting it. I think most people, teenagers or adults, know that the legal limit is .08. I’m sure young people learn that number when going for their drivers license. My sister is a high school senior, “Class of .08,” and she definitely knows the limit and not to drink. I applaud this student for truly fighting over a subject that she believes in, and fought to continue this message over those “rational” adults who were trying to stop it.

  26. Most of the students in the high school here begin to drink at very young ages in spite of laws against it. Little is done by the tribal law enforcement to stop it even though alcoholism is prevalent in the community and does incredible amounts of physical and emotional damage. I would welcome students who attempted to do something about the alcohol problem, although the administration of the school might react in the same way as those in the story.

    Strangely, I’m not speaking from a racist viewpoint — I’m just appalled that a community that loves and values their teenagers doesn’t do everything possible to stop this potential killer. I’m rather outspoken about my opposition to the use of alcohol both by young people and others to excess.

    The students who had the t-shirts printed should be congratulated for attempting to do something about alcohol abuse in their community. Each small effort can possibly help someone avoid the fate of those five young people — and thousands more that are killed for the same reason.

  27. This reminds me of a similar episode of administrative stupidity which occurred when I lived in Massachusetts.

    Several students at a local high school had been killed in a single-vehicle drunk-driving accident. Friends of these students bought the car from the junkyard and, with the permission of the school administration, placed it prominently on school grounds with a sign reading “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.”

    It lasted about a week. Parents complained that the wreck was frightening their children. Sadly, instead of responding, “Well, yeah: that’s the point,” school administrators caved, and removed the car from school grounds.

    Clearly a case of the students having more sense than the adults.

  28. Guy in Tennessee said, “You kids were smart enough to come up with the idea of these shirts, I have confidence that you are smart enough to think of ways to get the principal’s goat as well.”

    And he’s right; kids are much smarter than adults credit them, which made me wonder why kids don’t exercise that trait. And then it occurred to me… It keeps getting beaten out of them over the smallest issues until the kids wonder what’s the point of even trying.

    They are being prepared for life as an adult, where in the office no ideas are good enough because “that’s already been tried and it didn’t work” or “it won’t eliminate the problem entirely, so we won’t do it at all.”

    Extending that to our political process, our kids learn that there is no point in participation because “my one little vote will make no difference” or “once elected, politicians will do what they want, anyway.”

    Disenfranchisement, it starts in school and prepares you for a mundane, mediocre life of non-accomplishment to avoid making waves. It’s an [American] institution.

    I wish I could argue with you, Mike. I wish I could tell you you’re wrong. But I think you’re 100% correct, that this is the way it is at many, many schools. -rc

  29. As the students of the “class of .08” had just lost friends in an alcohol related crash, I should think it would be glaringly obvious that they are trying to prevent others from making the same deadly mistake not trying to promote alcohol consumption. Teenagers are inexperienced but they are not, overall, stupid or heartless.

    Furthermore the unfortunate children of people like Dennis, who raise them to never question authority, will likely grow up to be doormats who never stand up for themselves and blindly follow the crowd right over the edge of a cliff not unlike a herd of sheep. When I was in eighth grade I received the best advice I have ever gotten: Ask an adult, Question authority, Then decide for yourself.

    I have been in Katie’s position, in my case I won the argument and was not suspended from school, but I think she is to be commended for standing up for herself regardless of the consequences. I hope she will continue to be so strong minded and inspire the same quality in others.

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