Addressing Underage Drinking

Posted by Steve C on November 9, 2009 under The Blog | Be the First to Comment

After writing a book about letting go of tired ways of thinking in order to find or create answers in new and different ways, I have come across a lot of examples. It is very enjoyable to discover these entertaining, even inspiring stories. But what I love most is having my own point of view rattled by novel, perhaps even crazy sounding ideas.

I came upon one of those ideas which I would have laughed off a few weeks ago. Now it has me quite intrigued. It has prompted me to think about an important issue in a very unusual, perhaps even unsettling way. Read on and see what you think.

My 16-year old daughter recently completed a research paper on underage drinking. (When teenagers and drinking are in the same sentence, it is usually not a good thing!) In a nutshell, she wrote about a previously conceived idea supporting a kind of drinking “permit” for those who are 18 – 20. Modeled after driver’s education, the young adults would go through some kind of training program to better understand the responsibilities and risks of drinking. Then perhaps they would be provided some kind of smart ID card, which would have to be scanned in order for them to purchase drinks. There would be restrictions, to ensure they could not abuse the privilege.

She included a number of research findings about the causes and consequences of binge drinking, DUI’s and other problems associated with underage drinking, in order to make a reasonable case. I am not here to review the validity or her research or make the point that you should agree with the position about which she wrote. Because the bottom line is, who knows if it would work? And it is that very question – “who knows” – that IS the point! It is the question which all growth leaders must ultimately confront and answer. And as leaders, they know that finding that answer is never risk free.

Can you imagine how outrageous this idea might seem? Let’s see, drinking education classes. Does that include hands on practice? “Mom, Dad – I am taking this class and for homework, I have to drink 3 beers and a couple of tequila shooters.” Boy, this would surely be one of the most popular courses at high school and college, at least for the kids. And you can already envision the tidal wave of protest from parents, barking that people would have to be out of their minds to offer or condone such an idiotic program.

But what if it worked? What if it did greatly reduce binge drinking at college? What if the mystique of drinking was eliminated, so young adults learned early on to drink more responsibly? What if drinking and driving accidents with 18 – 20 year olds dropped substantially? Hmm, perhaps this should give us pause after all.

I personally am glad there are education programs to better equip kids to drive a car. Driving is no laughing matter. People die when things go wrong. The same is true for drinking. Would a drinking education program help? Who knows? But what we do know is that attempting nothing different will absolutely never provide solutions to the known problems.

Although I have to learn more before choosing sides, my eyes are now opened to a new way of looking at the issue. And fresh eyes are a starting point for many great innovations.

Fortunately, I still have a couple of years before my daughter turns 18 and I have to worry about the impact of this idea on her – and me. (How’s that for hiding in the box!)

Steve

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