This morning I heard this story on NPR local news (WVXU) about Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland “backtracking on what had been a controversial point in his plan to allow slot machines at Ohio’s seven horseracing tracks”. The case is that Strickland now believes that the minimum age for a person to use slot machines at a race track should be 21 and not 18. Prior to this change, Governor Strickland had argued that if someone 18 years of age is able to make such a life changing decision that is joining the military, then they should be able to make decisions on how to spend their own money.
I have heard this argument countless times (something about drinking age … )
Anyway, instead of arguing at what age the general population is ‘old enough’ to take part in certain events, I bring up another measurement other than age. To do certain things like smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, drive a car, enlist in the military you need a certain level of maturity. So in fact what our society is doing is measuring maturity by age. I must ask, in what world did this ever make sense?
I propose that we as the United States of America implement ‘maturity points’. You see, these points attach to your identification (Social Security Number or eventual Universal Identification) and give you and others around an idea on how mature you are. It is kind of like a credit check for your person.
As you move through life, you gain points or lose points based on your actions. At each birthday you would be given points, because let’s face it, as you do get older, generally you do become a bit more mature. But if the only time you receive points is on your birthdays, you would most likely not be able to drive a car at 16 years of age, or start drinking alcohol at whatever minimum age is set. You would have to accomplish other events to gain points.
Below is a list of events that could happen that would cause you to gain maturity points:
- Have birthdays
- Graduate high school
- Enroll in undergraduate studies
- Enroll in graduate studies
- Obtain degrees
- Own a car
- Own a house
- Pay bills on time
- Volunteer for community service
- Hold a job for certain lengths of time
- Get annual doctor check ups (Only if everyone has health care made available to them)
And now is a list of events that could happen that would cause you to lose maturity points:
- Get in a car accident that is your fault
- Get a DUI
- Get arrested
- Late payments on bills
Now notice what is on the list for negative maturity points. This system isn’t forcing everyone to do items on the positive maturity point list. If it were, not visiting the doctor annually for checkups would get negative points. But that is not the purpose of the system. A person would and should be able to live quite contently right down the middle. They may not get to drive as early as someone who volunteers a lot, but they would still get to the driving point level in fair time.
There would also need to be minimum ages allowable. This is where the system would have the potential to be too much like the current day setup. If the minimum is set at 16 for driving, 18 for smoking and 21 for drinking, then the system hasn’t changed much other than punishing people by making them wait longer. It needs to go both ways. I think good minimums would be as follows:
- Driving: 16
- Smoking: 17
- Drinking: 17
- Military: 18
That is a small list of age limited events that we currently have. I believe driving should remain the same because 16 is young enough. The kid needs to be able to see over the steering wheel, do they not? I believe there is a lot of responsibility that comes with driving a vehicle. You must be responsible for your own safety as well as those around you, which is why I think only a year for the minimum age would be needed for drinking and smoking. And remember, this is just the minimum age, so only those that are going above and beyond their normal kid duties and volunteering a lot or the such would be ‘eligible’ at that age. Now 17 is a good age because most kids are seniors in high school. That means that those kids that are ‘eligible’ would still be living at home under the supervision of their parents while they first started experimenting with these substances. And 18 should be the minimum for military always because that is the age where kids have had the opportunity to graduate with a high school degree and no temptation of running off and joining the military.
I think my system is pretty sound and very straightforward. It would receive a huge amount of push back from the nations community because it is the mindset of too many that there are certain rights that we deserve, for no other reason than we know how to take a breath of air, eat food, slurp water and wake up in the morning. Just because you can shovel food into your mouth does not make you mature enough to make responsible decisions.
Holding a person accountable to be more than just an age is not asking very much, seriously.