Answer to Teen Pregnancy is Tough Love
- Thursday, July 31, 2008
On a television talk show earlier this year, I argued that some situations, like teen pregnancy that we were discussing on the program, require "tough love." Another panelist quickly declared, "Tough love is an oxymoron!" Thus, in the eyes of the left, the only solution to a bad circumstance involving an adolescent is to make it as easy as possible for that child and to help him or her to avoid all negative consequences for personal behavior. Further, the left argues that public policy should be formulated to free teens from the consequences of their mistakes and taxpayer funds should be used to achieve that impossible goal.
I respectfully disagree. I firmly believe in the axiom that in terms of public policy, we get more of what we subsidize. In terms of personal behavior, we get more of what we glamorize. Especially regarding adolescents, any policy that accommodates bad behavior from one student will produce similar outcomes in another dozen students. So, if you have a cute pregnant girl wearing adorable maternity outfits, you'll have a dozen of her friends oohing and ahhing around her and coming to the conclusion that a "baby bump" is actually quite cool, feeling the baby move is very exciting and, later on, seeing a precious little baby wearing designer clothes is thrilling. All in all, the whole situation is quite "adult" and many teenagers long to be considered grown-up.
The television program was prompted by a news item that a Denver school is considering giving maternity leave to new teen mothers. Representatives from the left think that instituting such a policy is compassionate and talk about necessity for keeping teen mothers in school and the need for mother-baby bonding after the birth. Some school districts even provide day care for the babies of their students.
I think alternative arrangements should be made to continue the girl's education without requiring the public schools to accommodate an adult situation in an adolescent environment. All high schools (and some middle schools) are facing questions about how best to address the problem of teen pregnancy.
It's a major problem. The census category "mother-only households with kids" has almost doubled twice since 1960. There were 2.6 million such households in 1960, the number jumped to 5.3 million in 1976 and was 9 million in 2006. Sadly, more than a quarter (28 percent) of the mothers and children in those households live in poverty. Careful reading of the news accounts of many of the tragedies involving children reveals that a disproportionate share of these are the products of broken or single-parent homes.
Today the typical sex education program in the public schools merely concedes without any protest that kids will initiate sexual activity in early adolescence or at the very latest by high school; then to confirm their pernicious assumptions, they lump together the data for 18 and 19-year-olds in order to inflate the statistics about teen sexual activity. To compound the misinformation, the sex education programs seem to imply that condoms are adequate to provide satisfactory "protection" to undisciplined, inexperienced kids. Meanwhile, adult marriage manuals include "what to do" sections about when the condom breaks or slips off.
Let's have a reality check: teen sexual activity is down, teen abortions are down and teen pregnancies (except for the oldest teens) are down. These dramatic changes coincide with the more wide-spread use of abstinence education programs in schools and youth programs. Whereas, the typical comprehensive sex education program focuses on "protection" via contraceptives -- especially condoms, abstinence programs provide a clear and consistent message about delaying sexual activity. Such programs bluntly advise the students that abstinence is the only 100 percent certain protection. Further, abstinence programs include information about the detrimental emotional as well as the biological consequences of too-soon, uncommitted out-of-wedlock sex. Most importantly, the abstinence programs emphasize the students' futures: that self-discipline and self-esteem are essential to achieve a student's dreams and reach his or her lifetime goals. The abstinence programs also lay a foundation for future relationships by teaching the principles that are necessary for building healthy relationships and preparing for a strong marriage.
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