Friday, October 19, 2007

The Maine Idea

Last Wednesday night, the local school board of Portland, Maine approved a measure allowing for middle school students to receive birth control devices from the school's nurse(s). The story is best captured in this msnbc.com article, which details the measure, vote and subsequent outcry. The issue, in and of itself a political dynamite, was further ensconced in controversy because the middle school students can request anything from birth control pills to condoms without their parents' permission. This last bit is what has the whole country talking about the measure, and the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh up in arms.

Still, the question ultimately comes down to teaching kids about sex. It's important for parents to speak honestly and frankly about sex with their kids, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may seem to both parties. However, whatever a parent says (or doesn't) has serious competition from a few factors: friends and interests. If a child loves rap music and has sexually active friends, how likely is it that the child is not going to engage in any sexual activity before the end of high school? I don't know the answer to that, but experience tells us all to put our money on the under. Schools may want to inform parents about what the child will learn in the classroom, after all, whether tuition or taxes, the parents are paying for the lesson. Schools should not shy away from teaching kids about their bodies and how to protect it and prevent dangerous circumstances.

Kids are having puberty at younger ages than before, and no one knows the actual causes of this. With everything that's on television, from Britney Spears wearing no underwear to A&F selling thongs to adolescents, sexual messages are pervasive as ever. The only thing to guide young people toward making good decisions is information, and all of it. Teach young people about the changes going on in their bodies. Enlighten them about sexual activities, the risks involved and preventative measures. Give them birth rate statistics, involving babies born to h.s. dropouts, in single-parent households, out-of-wedlock marriages, et cetera. If this strategy works for investors who want to maximize their Q3 earnings, why shouldn't it work for a teen couple contemplating whether or not to use a condom? Totally different worlds, I understand, but it's information that serves as the x-factor.

I received some illuminating statistics recently regarding teen birth rates by state. The first stat is from 2000 (a bit old, I know), and gives percentages, by state, of teen births. It's bare-bones stats that ultimately has one conclusion: progressive policies help reduce teen births. The second tells the same story, but shows a pattern from the seventies through 2005, and gives the teen birth rate per one thousand births in each state. A similar conclusion to the first, one must immediately begin to accept the idea that the Maine folks are on to something.

Of course, all of this would be simple academics if parents chose to speak to their kids, as opposed to leaving it to that Korean woman on MTV. So someone has to do the tough job of preparing our kids to help prepare themselves. Next objective: Teaching geography.

3 comments:

Xavier said...

CPC,

SuChin Pak could not have made a better argument herself or maybe she could have? Who knows. What I do know is how you have simplified what is a very complicated issue. Parents do need to educate their children about sex. Sometimes, even during these conversations, the people involved are speaking two different languages and nothing is really getting through.
The pill is prescribed but the kids aren’t swallowing it. So, where does that leave the nations parents and children? What is more important to America is the real question. Do we care more about keeping minors away from all things sexual or keeping minors from having children of their own? What the moral conservatives do not seem to want to accept is that these things are not mutually exclusive.

C. P. Coleta said...

Obviously, it's a simplified point I make. However, I think the Maine school is better off doing something, preparing the kids for the tough choices they face ahead, as opposed to keeping the issue tabboo.

And I'm glad you could correct SuChin Pak for us all.

Chris Meehan said...

This was a good post, CPC, but i got excited because at first i thought it was going to be about my boy John Maine.