I was a little surprised to read a story in The Denver Post (from Tania Deluzuriaga of The Boston Globe) about 17 pregnant teen girls at Gloucester High in Massachusetts. Many of the pregnancies were intentional. To figure out what’s going on, I poked around a bit more. It turns out that people have lots of theories, but I’ve not found anyone who stated the most obvious theory. So I’ll do the job after reviewing the others.
Theory 1: Pathway to Adulthood
…Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, [said a]dults in the city need to do a better job of showing teen girls a pathway to adulthood that includes something other than parenting… “People in Gloucester need to look at using what feels like a crisis as an opportunity to improve services and support.”
I guess it never occurred to me that teen girls would think that getting pregnant is a “pathway to adulthood.” Isn’t it obvious that going to college or getting a job is a pretty good pathway? Or how about waiting till you’re out of high school and then getting married before getting pregnant?
I wonder what sort of “services and support” Quinn has in mind. Do we need tax-funded seminars about how getting knocked up isn’t too smart if you’re a young teen? Quinn’s musings are less than helpful.
Theory 2: Reaction to Technology
Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and FOX News contributor, called the school’s epidemic “shocking.” …
“In a world that is so technologically based, there will be predictable push-back from young people,” he said. “They want to remind themselves that they are alive and human. One of the ways people do this is that they reproduce.”
I think the clinical name for Ablow’s theory is “Gigantic Load of Hokum.”
Right now I’m typing on my powerful computer plugged into the global internet, listening to digitized music, enjoying electric lighting, and drinking a smoothie courtesy of thousands of businesses around the world. And, somehow, I still feel human.
Ablow’s theory seems not to mesh well with the fact that birth rates generally decline in the most technologically advanced countries.
Nor is it clear why getting pregnant might help somebody feel more human than, say, having sex with birth control, studying the classics, preparing for college, or playing Monopoly with the family.
Theory 3: Hit Movies
Time notes that some “blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers.”
That doesn’t really make much sense, because in Juno the girl gives up her baby for adoption, and in Knocked UP the “young unwed mother” is a single, adult professional.
Notably, Time reports, “‘We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy,’ the principal says, shaking his head.” I don’t know what movie that came from.
Theory 4: Too Little Birth Control
Time adds, “Even with national data showing a 3% rise in teen pregnancies in 2006 — the first increase in 15 years –Gloucester isn’t sure it wants to provide easier access to birth control.”
But these girls wanted to get pregnant. It’s not like they were just having sex with 24-year old homeless guys for the joy of sex; they wanted the baby.
In general, it’s not like birth control is hard to find. Any grocery store carries condoms.
Theory 5: Economic Woes
Again from Time:
The past decade has been difficult for this mostly white, mostly blue-collar city (pop. 30,000). In Gloucester, perched on scenic Cape Ann, the economy has always depended on a strong fishing industry. But in recent years, such jobs have all but disappeared overseas, and with them much of the community’s wherewithal. “Families are broken,” says school superintendent Christopher Farmer. “Many of our young people are growing up directionless.”
So let me get this straight: if your daddy gets laid off, the obvious reaction is go screw a homeless guy to get pregnant? Huh. I would think the message would be rather different, something like, “You know, money’s a little tight right now, and we might have to move somewhere else to find work, so maybe now’s not the best time for you, our young teen daughter, to screw a homeless guy to get pregnant.”
While losing a job can strain families, it does not “break” them or cause people to be directionless. People routinely seek out new jobs, through need or desire, and most families weather the transition just fine.
The article gives no indication of whether the parents of the pregnant girls are among the ones whose jobs “disappeared overseas.” Interestingly, a Boston Globe article also refers to the town’s “economic advantage not usually associated with teen pregnancy.”
(This last article is the one that points out that, upon hearing they were pregnant, some girls “broke into smiles. One exclaimed, ‘Sweet!'”)
Theory 6: A Pact
Clearly some of these girls were influencing others to get pregnant. But that doesn’t explain why pregnancy became so popular in the first place or why getting pregnant didn’t strike the girls as an obviously stupid idea.
Plausible Theory: Decline of Personal Responsibility
Time does offer a couple of telling lines.
The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers. … [T]een parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. “We’re proud to help the mothers stay in school,” says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center.
And a non-pregnant girl at the school told Time, “No one’s offered them a better option.”
I suggest that the larger problem is that America’s students are taught, through explicit propaganda and implicit practice, that whatever they need, society will provide for “free.” Their lesson starts with their “free” education, which is funded by taking others’ resources by force. Now, their tax-funded schools provide “free” child care along with “free” education. If they can’t afford to take care of their babies, they can sign up for “free” food, “free” housing assistance, “free” health care, and so on. (Notably, Massachusetts now has mandatory and highly subsidized health “insurance.”)
These students — these products of the welfare state — think it’s somebody else’s responsibility to “offer them a better option.”
Thankfully, the Boston Globe ends on a hopeful note:
Sandy Lakeman said she breathed a sigh of relief when her 19-year-old daughter graduated from high school and went to college in Florida. A single mother, she encouraged her two daughters to play sports and get part-time jobs in order to keep them out of trouble.
“I’ve had to be a waitress and a bartender my whole life and I’ve struggled,” said the Gloucester native. “I don’t want my kids to struggle.”
Parents still make a huge difference. People have free will, and they can choose to make something of themselves. We still live in an economy sufficiently free to foster independence. While some young teen girls got pregnant, most didn’t.