Lightner Controversy

On a Fox News panel on Monday April 7, Candy Lightner, Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, shared her belief that young adults “don’t think for themselves.” Lightner used this as a justification for why the drinking age should not coincide with the age of enlistment. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have heard members of the MADD network stereotyping young adults as immature. The same argument has been put forth by several of Lightner’s colleagues, including a 19 year-old M.I.T student (who, interestingly, is considered mature enough to sit on the Board of a large national organization), as well as MADD representatives on local panels.

The moment, naturally, was captured by YouTube,  and we have provided a rough transcript below.

“…That’s exactly why the draft age is 18…because these kids are malleable. They’ll follow the leader. They don’t think for themselves. And they are the last ones that I want to say, here’s a gun and here’s a beer…they are not adults.”

7 Responses to “Lightner Controversy”

  1. rich Says:

    I agree 100% with ONLY the following quote from Ms. Lightner.

    “…That’s exactly why the draft age is 18…because these kids are malleable. They’ll follow the leader. They don’t think for themselves. And they are the last ones that I want to say, here’s a gun and here’s a beer…they are not adults.”

    If 18 yr old kids are not mature enough to drink responsibly they certainly are not mature enough to make the decision to risk their lives and future by joining the military. Let’s see MADD take up that cause, How many young lives were needlessly lost in IRAQ.

  2. Lisa Calef Says:

    With attitudes like Ms. Lighter’s it’s hard to imagine that young people will ever grow up. What is the magical moment? If we don’t present opportunities for young people to exercise responsible judgement, when can we expect to see adult conduct? My experience as a mother of three is that kids don’t one day just wake up mature. It’s a process that develops over time and within the context of the presentation of ever greater opportunities to think rationally and behave responsibly. Prohibition is never a successful substitute for sensible reflection.

  3. Marshall Guthrie Says:

    And the age of the person(s) choosing to send those 18 year olds to war was? Do our choices really get better as we get older?

    But, the war aside…

    I think Lightner presents an argument that is easy for many people to agree with, because she focuses on the explicit risks of 18 year olds drinking…that some of them HAVE and WILL make poor decisions in regards to alcohol, just as they have in other areas of their lives.

    However, she ignores the fact that those risks aren’t abated by a 21 drinking age, or any other age-based law for that matter.

    In order for anyone to make proper decisions, they must be able to reason, they must be able to predict outcomes and weigh risks, and FOREMOST, they must be fully informed. Specific to drinking, the majority of 18 and 80 years olds are not fully informed of the physical and emotional effects of alcohol use.

    The drinking crisis is not one of social policy, it is an educational crisis. Build more schools, hire more teachers, and integrate a health education curriculum in a meaningful way, and you’ll see improvement.

    If you inform and equip adolescents, young adults, and their parents, and you won’t need any drinking laws.

    To expect more, not less, is the answer, and Lightner expects the very least. Such a shame.

    Marshall Guthrie
    Bard College

  4. Clinton Smith Says:

    What does “thinking for oneself” mean exactly? Does “thinking for oneself” mean the ability to assess a situation (be it theoretical or actual) and make an appropriate decision as to a reasonable response or action? If that’s the case, I have seen many people thinking for themselves perfectly fine when pairing a good wine with a good meal even though they may be doing so illegally (under 21). Or does Ms. Lightner mean the ability to exhibit self-control or discipline so as not to engage in reckless behavior vis-a-viz drinking alcohol? If that’s the case, wouldn’t military personnel be a model of such a concept? After all, US military service is the pinnacle of discipline education in this world.

    It seems to me that an objective analysis of this woman’s statements (i.e. thinking for oneself) exposes the logical contradictions and inherent biases they contain. Furthermore, I would argue that her emotional, thoughtless statements (did she show any signs of objective analysis or independent thought? no) undermine her own argument. She is clearly above the age of 21, yet showing she does not think for herself. What she has shown is that she can spew anti-military and fascist statements concatenated together. By her own “thinking for oneself” faux-logic, she should not be able to legally consume alcohol. Which begs the question, what kind of marker is age to dictate legal alcohol consumption? I say it’s a horrible, discriminatory one.

  5. Clare Mullee Says:

    So… no beer/yes gun. Makes sense! The death of common sense.

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  7. outside perspective Says:

    Its sad to see that a noble organization, MADD, was represented with such an argument by this individual. The argument’s flaw, which both parties to this debate fail to notice, is that the question of drunk driving-despite being a question of maturity and the age of an ‘adult’-has nothing to do with whether 18yr old’s should be sent off to war. Clearly, the two debates are related, but a mother such as the one in this video should instead argue that their child is actually too young to be in the military at 18.

    I agree that providing the new responsibility of legal drinking to those younger than 21 should eventually evoke the maturity that we expect and even witness soldiers of 18 years demonstrating. However, the simple fact is that a major transition will need to take place; most students in the U.S., younger than 21, *currently* do not display themselves with the aforementioned maturity around alcohol (an undisputed point). Of course, this is likely the result of a rebellious and conspicuous nature of minors subject to a controversial law. Legislators must determine whether this will be a long and thus, costly time during which students adjust.