It is ironic that I would be the one arguing this point since I actually do support children being given more freedom - I feel the drinking age is much too high, if you're going to let a 17 year old kid fight and die he can sure as hell have a beer.
At what age were young men 'drafted' into service on Men-of-War (at least up until the 1900's)? Wanna take a guess? As I said before, go watch Master and Commander which was actually fairly accurate. It was not that they could not find men to hold the officer roles, they were 'kids'. Were the 'kids' of that day more responsible than the kids of today? How many 9 yo's in Africa are holding AK-47's? Ever read any stories of the old west? When did the native Indians consider you coming of age?
Times have changed, you might say? But I cannot see sailing alone across the Atlantic with the 44 million gadgets and EPirbs being any more dangerous than serving on a frigate in her majesty's navy, and certainly not as dangerous as fighting in Africa.
My point is that governments have arbitraily set age-specific boundaries as when a person is mature enough to do 'something', whether it be drink, smoke, drive, serve in the military, or sail around the world. And yes, I also have a real problem that our government feels that you are too immature to know when to drink a beer, but you can be snatched up to Afghanistan with a machine gun and walk point in the terrorists back yard. Sorry, but what a hypocritical crock!
I have an issue, as a parent, of thinking that the government always knows what is best for us dumb citizens - or that someone else that does not even know me, knows what is best for my child. I ralize that there are some obvious examples of child abuse, I do not think this is one.
That being said, I do not support the idea of my children doing this and would not support it (at least not at this juncture in my life). I don't see the point or what there is to prove. I also feel it is a needless risk. Yet, I might say the same if they were 21. I simply would not have the option of holding them back. It all depends on them and their level of competence and WHY they are doing it. And the truth is that both sides of this argument (for and against) have made very valid reasons. I just get sick and tired of everyone else knowing what is best for everyone else.