Sunday, May 16, 2010

The contrasting views of Coddington and Woodham

The contrast between the columns written by Deborah Coddington and Kerre Woodham in today's Herald on Sunday strongly marks the split between a pragmatic view and a reactionary view. Strangely it is Woodham with whose view I identify. She believes not a great deal has changed over time in relation to young people drinking to the point of death and that kids will always do dumb things.

Coddington, on the other hand, believes that the drinking is far worse and the state has to do something. Both columns are written in the aftermath of the tragic death of young James Webster.

Having a 16 year-old son brings me a little closer to the issue. Nevertheless I am sick and tired of hearing and reading about the scourge that is alcohol and young people's relationship with it. Not because I like a drink or two, especially bubbly, but because the problem isn't actually about alcohol. Teenage years are amongst the riskiest. That's part of the human cycle and human condition. And nobody can expunge that reality. Young people are busting out and they lack judgement. There are some aspects of life that simply can't be changed. Deborah says that she was lucky her kids survived. Well, not really. The overwhelming chances are that our children will survive adolescence and early adulthood. Except in times of war, when the risk-taking nature of the young was harnessed and celebrated, that is blessedly also immutable fact. Not a matter of luck.

The best parents can do is know their children; make home a place their children want to be; be people their children can trust, or at least be some sort of anchor for them, and teach their children that they don't have to run with the crowd, don't have to get involved with doing stuff they actually don't want to do and, for that matter, neither should they try to coerce others against their will.

After that it is in the lap of the Gods.


Anonymous said...

Mostly agree with you though there is no doubt that the booze peddlers today have young people in their sights in a way they never did until quite recently. Ian

Manolo said...

Has Coddington lost the plot? She is definitely on the authoritarian side on this issue.

Surprise, surprise.

Anonymous said...

As a teenager of the sixties, the six oclock swill was the big drinking event of my day. it was not the young people drinking themselves into oblivion, it was the adults. Knock off work at five,a quick trip to the nearest pub where they drank as much beer as time allowed before the flow stopped at six oclock..
There was never the overt advertising of sports by the booze moguls that there is today.
I believe student loans were used to stimulate the economy of our recent past and that included tapping into the mindset of the 18/19 year olds who were an untapped resource waiting to explode into the world we took for granted.


Eric Crampton said...

There's some decent evolutionary biology literature on how youths are wired for risk taking: demonstrating that you're healthy enough to handle doing stupid things can be a fitness marker. Paul Rubin takes this as reason for restricting youth access to alcohol, but I tend to reckon that would just push risk taking onto worse margins. Will post on it sometime next week if I can get around to it....