Sunday, February 06, 2011

Galvinizing my inner social conservative

Here's an article on teen pregnancy in an urban school in Connecticut that made me react from a position of social conservatism (something which I am prone to do on occasion):
Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.
I hasten to add that American teen pregnancy rates are actually down in recent years (though higher than those of our peer nations), according to this post and other statistics I remember hearing. So let's keep that in mind before getting into a moral panic around young women's sexuality. But I'm going to do so anyway.

I guess it's the normality of it that is shocking to me. There are cultures, right next door to my privileged little world, in which a fifteen year-old unmarried mom is not scandalous. That seems very wrong to me. Even a generous and well-run welfare state (which we aren't--have you seen California's budget cuts?) can't mitigate those circumstances. I don't know how to reach that culture of casual pregnancy or change it. I'm so far away I might as well be on Mars, it seems. But it is wrong and we should use what social engineering tools we have at our disposal to change it.

I'm a libertarian when it comes to people's sex lives; I certainly have opinions about how people should comport themselves, but I'm reluctant to get on a moral high-horse about it because it's such a fraught subject and I don't claim any particular overriding knowledge. But when it comes to bringing children into this world, I'm staunchly conservative: you should be independently established, financially stable, securely pair-bonded, and in general have your shit together before engaging in activities that have a high probability of making you responsible for raising a human being to be a member of our society. If you don't fit these criteria, then use birth control vigilantly or don't have vaginal intercourse. There are plenty of varieties of the former and plenty of alternatives to the latter. Take advantage of them, kids. Please.


Anonymous bill in minneapolis said...

Grandparents end up raising many of these kids to give them a chance.

Better sex education and access to contraceptives can reduce the problem significantly but politically this is difficult.

Ironically, teen pregnancy is a bigger problem in 'red states' than it is in 'blue states.'

The Tea Party probably advocates abstinence education which studies show is very ineffective.

5:40 PM, February 07, 2011  

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