By Jonah Kondro
There is a lot of personal progress that is measured with obtaining a driver’s licence. The process begins in the teenage years with a learner’s permit. After a few years of experimental maneuvers in a beater (or Mom and Dad’s new car) you can take both the written and the road tests and get a probationary GDL class 5. A couple more years have to go by, and if you keep a good driving record you can take the test and get the GDL status removed off your licence.
The stretch of years that go by while moving your way up the driver’s licence ladder shows a climb towards adulthood. If you play your card rights you can have a learner’s at 14, a probationary at 16, and a full blown driver’s licence at 18 years of age.The piece of plastic becomes very important: you show it when ordering an alcoholic beverage; you show it when you apply for a mortgage at the bank; and you show it with your credit card when you buy a new washer and dryer. None of the latter scenarios would require you to show a high school diploma. The driver’s licence acts as the important tool for ascending through adulthood.
But the driver’s licence doesn’t actually gauge a person’s social or intellectual progress; a licence simply means you can drive a car. Societal constructs unconsciously hinge personal progress to the acquisition of a driver’s licence. There is nothing intrinsic in a driver’s licence to show a person knows responsible alcohol consumption habits, knows how to navigate mortgage negotiations with the bank, or knows how to do his or her own laundry.
It has been a while since I got my licence, but I remember that the written portion of drivers test did include some questions on driving and alcohol consumption. The test never asked me when a good time to buy a house was, or if I knew to separate the colours from the whites when I washed clothes. I think it would be wrong to test a teenager on the pros and cons of afive-year fixed rate versus a three-year variable rate mortgage, but the test can sneak in a few questions on smart borrowing practices when buying a car.
The driver’s licence isn’t really a stamp that can certify someone worthy of the title of adult. Maybe that’s what a high school diploma is supposed to do. I think it would be worth it to start considering combining the two.
A hypothetical model would look something like this: In order to get a learner’s permit, a person would have to prove Grade 8or 9 completion; to get a GDL class 5 a person would have to prove Grade 10 or 11 completion; and to get a full driver’s licence a person would have to show his or her high school diploma.
If the model included minimum grade requirements at each increment, the driver’s licence could act as a sufficient measure of someone’s ascent towards adulthood. But my model doesn’t exist. In real life no one asks to see your diploma at the bar, the bank, or the appliance store—they just want to make sure you’re 18.