As a 16-year-old high school student, it's an awkward fact of life right now that I don't have a driver's license. However, taking the larger view, I don't think that I am alone.
NPR recently did a feature on teenagers and cars, which pointed out that far fewer teens have cars now than did in past generations. Joel Stein of TIME followed up with a response piece, asking why. To answer this, Stein cites a study by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan, "in which [the researchers] asked teenagers why they weren't getting licenses. The top excuse for those under 19 was that they were too busy." Stein opined in the piece himself. "[T]o have so little desire for freedom that you don't even want the option of driving," he asserted, "is a sign of generational depression."
I can't speak to the general trend of fewer teens having cars, but I can give personal experience as a teen without a license, and perhaps that can shed some light on the issue as a whole. I'd personally count myself as one of the teenagers in the study who is simply too busy. Most 16- and 17-year-olds are in their junior and senior years of high school, which between college and scholarship applications, internships and summer programs, extracurriculars and (finally) normal schoolwork, can feel as tortuous as a winding mountain switchback.
In addition, there's the catch-22 of buying and maintaining a car: to buy and maintain it, one needs money, and to earn money, one needs a car to get to and from the job. Or have parents transport you there. For me, to add this theoretical job, car, and financial responsibility to my workload is too much.
Lastly, I must throw the Shorter Catechism on top of the pile. As part of the process to earn my license, my loving parents have place one additional prerequisite: memorization of each of the 107 questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. These range from simple to lengthy; the questions from "What is the chief end of man?" to "What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?"
Why this addendum? I think a few examples might show the motivation.
In Stein's article, he returns to the idea that this generation -- my generation -- is simply not adventurous enough. "Our culture," he writes, "is failing to excite kids about driving, despite putting out The Fast and the Furious movies as quickly as possible."
I'm a slow driver. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but a slow, steady pace seems preferable to a fast, uncontrolled one. Reading that last quote again and noting his word choices, it appears Stein might like me to favor the latter -- Excite, The Fast and the Furious, quickly as possible.
As an extension of my slow pace, I've taken my time plodding through the old, dusty, 107-question-long catechism. And this long memorization exercise has taught me firsthand that nothing worth earning comes quickly, whether a driver's license, or perhaps something more significant.
Brad Winsted is the director of the Georgia-based religious nonprofit Children's Ministries International. Winsted tells the story of a Presbyterian pastor who asked a priest why so many lapsed Catholics come back to the church when they are older. Winstead said, "The Catholic priest's answer was immediate. 'We catechize our little children and it is part of them. Therefore, when they are seeking again the answers to life, their memorized catechism questions come back to them, and they return again to the source of that learning.'" Winstead continued, "I like to use a metaphor that we are wiring the house of the child's mind and are waiting for the Holy Spirit to flick the switch translating the head knowledge to heart knowledge."
Though memorizing over a hundred catechism questions is certainly daunting, I believe it is worthwhile and helpful. It may seem like a bother in the short term, I believe it will be beneficial in the long. As writer G. K. Chesterton once said, "An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."