Savage Thoughts -- Kids, $100 Sneakers, and Rap

By Leo Savage

In this essay I am going to try to pull together many diverse threads. It may take me awhile to get there, so please bear with me.

I have heard numerous stories of kids being beaten (and if some unreliable accounts can be credited, even killed) over a pair of sneakers. The reason being that said sneakers were very expensive -- upwards of $100. I don't really want to know how far upwards. Why kids would want such expensive sneakers is obvious. Status, of course. Any given kid is going to want expensive sneakers if other kids have them, and in some cases there will be kids who can obtain them only by theft. In most cases kids with expensive "status" sneakers got them by talking their parents into buying them. But how does it begin?

On the face of it, it does not make much sense to pay a lot for kids' sneakers. Kids are hard on shoes, and kids will grow out of any shoes soon enough, so normally one would figure that the cheapest possible shoes are the obvious choice. So how does any kid end up wearing expensive "status" sneakers?

There's no big secret here. Some kids buy them. Then other kids talk their parents into buying them. Then finally other kids steal them.

Okay, how about rap music? Or punk rock before it? Who listens to this stuff? Don't get me wrong -- I know that there's been some very interesting and worthwhile things done in rap music (though I'll confess that to me, a little goes a long way). But what about gangsta rap? Does this stuff have any redeeming qualities at all? Who buys this stuff? Well, teenagers do, mostly.

And how about that drug problem? It's bad enough that adults are burning themselves out, but kids are doing it too. It's in the high schools (and reportedly even in some grammar schools) now. What can be done about it? Well, do you really think that adults are coming into the schools selling the stuff? Sometimes, yeah, but mostly it's kids selling drugs to other kids.

It has been said (by reasonably good authority) that the marketing segment with the most disposable income in modern American society is the teenager. This is not to say that teenagers have more money than anyone else, but their money is not already targeted for bills, rent, car loans, and so forth. They have the most spendable income of any age bracket. This is why so many TV shows (and TV advertisements) are geared to a teenage mentality -- that's where the money is! At least, the non-committed spendable money. Which leads to an obvious side thought: Why do your kids have more pocket money than you do? But that's outside the scope of this essay.

There are more threads to this that don't occur to me right now. I'll add them later when I think of them. Meanwhile, let's start heading toward the answer.

There are a number of things that society has deemed inappropriate for children, and which minors may not purchase for themselves. Pornography, "adult" movies, tobacco, and alcohol all spring to mind. In all these cases a salient point (in most states, anyway) is that it is not illegal for minors to own or use these things; it is illegal for them to buy them. This, in my opinion, is the correct approach. It puts control more or less in the hands of the parents or guardians. Yes, it isn't perfect, and so what? Nothing is. Once a person becomes an adult, he or she may purchase all the beer, wine, or whiskey he or she likes and none can say otherwise. But until that time it's up to the parents. Some parents may allow a minor child to have wine with dinner, or the occasional beer on weekends, and others may eschew it totally. It's up to the parents, as it should be.

Let's extend the concept a little bit.

What if minors were not allowed to spend money? Or at least not without the supervision of a parent or guardian -- we still want to allow giving junior a buck and letting him buy whatever candy he wants. What if minors were not allowed to walk into a store (any store) and plop down cash for something? What would happen?

This wouldn't even be that big of a change. It is already accepted legal principle that minors cannot enter into a binding contract. It is also accepted legal principle that a sale is a contract of sorts.

I know that this one sounds off-the-wall. Meanwhile, kids run wild, and parents throw their hands up and say they have no control. They're right, as things stand now. But if minors could not buy things, were dependent on their parents or guardians for things, wouldn't it be different?

Think about it.

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