This article by Gerry Garibaldi in City Journal—about the enormous number of teen pregnancies, our attitude towards them, and the state of education in our country today—is a must-read.
Garibaldi is a teacher in an urban school in Connecticut. The tale he tells is a heartbreaking one, of teenagers who have given up all hope of marriage as unworthy of contemplation or expectation, and who are having children in a system that, in its attempt to be humane, rewards them and supports them for doing so.
They are mostly the product of unwed teen mothers themselves. Although not unintelligent, they are uninvested in school and much of anything else except the frantic search for love, be it from a missing father, a swaggering teenage boy, or the babies they have with alarming frequency.
As Garibaldi points out, tons of taxpayer money is being flung at the problem. But the end result, unfortunately, is only to encourage the behavior.
I have no solution; these things begin in the home, and this system is broken down. It’s not just urban schools, either—the problem is worse there, but it is everywhere.
The contrast between the world I remember from my high school days could not be greater, in which the few girls who got pregnant usually became more quiet and withdrawn, and then were sent away for months to continue their pregnancies in homes for unwed mothers. Later they would return, empty-handed, a sad and newly-adult look in their eyes.
Not so today. The pregnancies of these girls are often the happiest events in their lives, and the babies are almost always kept to be raised by the teens and their thirty-something moms. The single female parent is the norm:
My students often become curious about my personal life. The question most frequently asked is, “Do you have kids?”
“Two,” I say.
The next question is always heartbreaking.
“Do they live with you?”
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? It hardly matters at this late point, unless the answer would lead to solutions. Do we withdraw the supports from pregnant teenagers and possibly doom them (and their babies) to a worse situation? But if we don’t, aren’t we just perpetuating the problem? Does the phenomenon lie more in the realm of the emotional? But can’t the emotional be influenced by practicalities? If the consequences of teen pregnancy are made more dire, will it matter at all to these children and their children, who know so little of marriage that it is a foreign territory, almost never visited by anyone in their acquaintance?