Should We License Adults?
Come to think of it, many professions and trades require their practitioners to be licensed. This is true from psychotherapists and massage therapists to doctors, lawyers, accountants, beauticians, airline pilots, and many others. More generally, civilians in all 50 U.S. states are required to have driver’s licenses before they can take to the road in their vehicle. Even permission to practice driving with an instructor or licensed adult is de rigueur. But licensing adults?!
All right. Stay with me here. We do require marriage licenses. But they are a joke, really. They don’t certify that the possessors thereof have the skills and abilities necessary to live together in harmony and raise children to be decent human beings and effective citizens of their communities and the wider world. There is however an exception. In the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, candidates for a church wedding are required to undergo counseling by one of the parish clergy and to take a nationally scored compatibility test. If the candidates come out low on the latter, the clergy will decide on either more church counseling or even professional couples’ therapy. In extreme cases, the parish clergy can decide not to marry them at all. And here’s another area of concern. In too many American states, any sociopath with a valid credit card can walk into a gun shop and buy a military-style assault rifle with no questions asked. Even James Bond had to be licensed to kill! Oh, and in 2020 the number of gun homicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive, reached 19,379, the highest figure in 20 years. If these gun shops had required an adult license, the number could have been significantly lower.
High-school diplomas and college and professional-school degrees focus on intellectual knowledge and achievement. Adult licensure by contrast would focus on an individual’s E.Q. and social quotient (S.Q.), those softer values that predict character and relationship skills. Given divorce and domestic-violence rates in our country, it makes sense to test our late teenagers for such things as patience, perseverance, time management, ability to keep commitments, willingness to work out differences peaceably, temper control, kindness to people and animals, concern for others, valuation of human differences and diversity, generosity, wise decision-making, and preference for human over material values. Wisdom schools, possibly in the summer, could teach to such values. And this is simply an illustrative first draft of such a list. My wife, Dr. Cedar Barstow, is the founder of a training program for the “right use of power and influence” (www.rightuseofpower.org). Her point of departure is that too many persons in “up-power” positions are corrupted by their power over others and misuse or abuse it with disastrous effect for those individuals, society, and even the perpetrators themselves. And then there is the matter of parenting. Part of the adult-licensure program should include parent-effective training. It would be fun and enlightening to get groups of people together to brainstorm what such a list of requirements might include and how the skills in question could be tested for and taught to. I’m up for joining such a group. How about you?
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