Monday, March 12, 2012

Why calling my generation the "Go-Nowhere" generation is crap

Yesterday, the New York Times published an op-ed by some people named Todd and Victoria Buckholz basically calling my generation slackers ("The Go-Nowhere Generation", March 10)

I do not appreciate this.

The Buckholzes say that our society needs to yank out what they see as a safety net to get young people "back on the road", as they lament our young people's lack of mobility (as measured by the declination in people under 18 obtaining driver's licenses and the "downward trend" in bicycle sales) as a sign of the deterioration of our country's historical inclination toward "mobility" and "pushiness".

I do not know what planet the Buckholzes are from. But as your guest blogger, let me tell you how it is (at least for me, since this is a blog, after all).

Lets' start with their insinuation that the downward decline in the obtainment of driver's licenses by the population under 18 is bad.

I got my driver's license three weeks before I turned 18. There were a variety of factors that influenced this.

1.) The first was financial. I was an ambitious high school kid -- I wanted to go to to college 3,000 miles away to Smith (I had my sights on attending this school since I was 12). Amongst my peers for whom car ownership was not funded by their parents, it was commonplace to work at least 20 hours a week. Because I knew from my reading of the Fiske Guide to Colleges that Smith was a selective school (maybe not as selective as Pomona or UCLA, but still selective enough), I opted to spend the 20 hours a week I could have spent funding car ownership studying and participating in extra-curricular activities instead.

Note: I was privileged in that I did not have to work after school in order to support my family, and that I was able to parlay my summer earnings to cover incidentals such as lunches at school, clothes, and exam fees for the school year.

Also, note: my younger sister had access to a car, the cost of which was mostly covered by my parents. She got her driver's license when she turned 16. We would drive our 87 Accord to her high school, which was just 2.5 miles away from home (too far to walk), and from there, I would ride the school bus or the MTA bus the rest of the way to my school, which was another 3 miles away. By doing this, we determined we saved at least $500 in gas money and parking fees, which was not chump change to us!

2.) The second was environmental. By carpooling to my sister's school (treating her school's lot as, in effect, a park-in-ride lot), and then riding the school or MTA bus, we incurred fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a solo driving arrangement. I rode the school bus or the MTA bus and walked a LOT in high school, even in a suburban environment, which deepened my determination to live in a more walkable community with better transit headways as an adult.

3.) The third was that I had other stuff to do than get a driver's license (see #1)

4) By the time I did get my act together to get a driver's license, California made its rules regarding the licensure of teenage drivers far stricter. You couldn't transport people other than your parents for the first six months of holding a license if you got your license before you turned 18. Yeah. Patty got grandfathered, but I didn't, so I waited until I turned 18.

From what I gather, the rules regarding the licensure of teenage drivers has gotten even STRICTER over the past 15 years. The Buckholzes do not acknowledge this nationwide trend in their editorial. 

As for not being mobile, as I noted, I went to college 3,000 miles away. For my junior year, I attended Pomona (a decision influenced by my desire to sing in front of my parents and the fact that Pomona is a fantastic school) and I almost studied abroad. I lived in a big east coast city for three years after my graduation before moving back to my hometown (Los Angeles) to take advantage of in-state tuition for graduate school (I benefited from AB 540, even though I was born and raised in the US).

After my graduation, the only reason I stayed in LA was because I met my husband.

So the Buckholzes can suck it.

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