I love the way the news media describes stories like this, with disturbing little mini-news flashes buried within. The depressing story of the Mesa High School Yearbook’s adorable feature on its graduating, unwed parents gave us many examples.
- “Mesa yearbook photos of teen parents anger some”––wait, you mean everyone with half a brain isn’t horrified by this? At least The Arizona Republic was one of the “some,” writing in an editorial “that featuring pregnant teens in a two-page spread of photos glamorizing a life-altering mistake risks normalizing dysfunction.” Uh, yeah, I would think that would be obvious to more than “some.” News Flash! It isn’t.
- “A representative for the district did suggest that parenting isn’t a valuable accomplishment for high schoolers,” writes ThinkProgress. He suggests it? Statistics tell us that those teen parents are more likely to drop school, more likely to be unemployed, and more likely to require government hand-outs to survive. Out-of-wedlock births increased from 7.7 percent in 1965 to more than 40 percent in 2012, including 72 percent of black babies, with teen pregnancies leading the way. The reason this has happened, and few can dispute this, is society’s elimination of all significant opprobrium or disapproval of the act of pre-marital sex, teen sex, and, therefore, teenage motherhood. Helping the social pathology take root, and it is one that has disproportionately crippled the prospects of minorities, are various toxic role models: TV characters, like Murphy Brown; movie stars, singers, TV kid show stars (Britney Spears little sister), even a proud, unmarried, pregnant Congresswoman, Rep. Linda Sanchez, who uttered this fatuous justification: “We’ve evolved as a society so much. The reality of single working moms is such a powerful reality!“
Democrats must be so proud.
Actually, they are.
Then there are the TV shows that make having babies in high school out to be a great, romantic adventure—“Glee,” and “Teen Mom,” “16 & Pregnant’ and various “very special episodes” of other shows. This is the ultimate example of idiotic mixed messages from the schools and the culture: “Wait until you have a degree and a husband, having children too early and without a stable family dooms them and you! But aren’t you a courageous young woman to take on this challenge, and such a good mother!” Doing a special yearbook feature to make unwed, teenage mothers feel great about themselves was the next step; after this, I suppose it will compassionate, caring schools giving special commencement awards and scholarships to the best Teen Mom—or better yet, all of them.
I especially like the statement by the school district responding to the loud disapproval from “some” parents and commentators: “Yearbooks are an opportunity to commemorate students’ school activities and achievements. The material presented reflects choices made outside of the school environment. The feedback received about the subject matter will help refine the judgement used when determining content in future yearbooks.” Translation: “It is what it is. Please have our brains donated to science, so they can determine when they turned into cheese.” Refine the judgement? The material presented reflects unequivocally bad, disastrous choices made outside of the school environment. What’s in store next year, a special spread on the school’s junkies and drug dealers? How about a feature on bullies? Cheaters! Drunks!
The quotes from the defenders of the yearbook feature on teen moms and dads are illuminating too, in their complete detachment from the concepts of accountability, responsibility, and logic:
- “I don’t think that they should be put down or criticized for going to school and raising their kids,” said one supportive student. Take his diploma away: he’s not ready; he has the critical thinking skills of a Shar Pei. See, kid, not glamorizing and celebrating irresponsible conduct isn’t the same as “putting it down.” Furthermore, nobody is criticizing teen parents for “going to school and raising their kids.” They are being criticized for getting themselves in the position where they have no choice but to do those things. Understand? No, of course you don’t. Back to 10th grade with you.
- From a Mesa yearbook staff member: “Student parents don’t have time to go to homecoming and do all that because they have a kid, so they don’t really get to be seen on the yearbook, so we thought it would be a good idea to put them on the page where they could be seen.” You thought that, did you? Did it occur to you that the many social disadvantages of having a child in high school are part of the package of disincentives that discourage students from taking this disastrous step, and that seeing the infliction of the many small pains and inconveniences of too-early parenthood on other students help persuade some more perceptive students not to invite the far greater penalties this mistake will force them, and their kids, to endure? No, of course you don’t—you’re seventeen. Luckily, you have a faculty supervisor who—didn’t have the brains God gave a fungus.
- Gloria Malone, one of the founders of #NoTeenShame, a group of young mothers who, before they go on public assistance, want to change the conversation around young parenting “to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach, while highlighting the importance of comprehensive sex ed,” explained in an interview that stigmatizing and blaming teen parents doesn’t work because “young mothers can feel like all the hard work they’re doing is in vain… We can’t forget that we’re talking about humans who have feelings, and emotions, and families.” You forget, Gloria, or perhaps don’t comprehend, that the idea of shame, which is an invaluable tool of ethical development, is to signal that conduct is wrong-–irresponsible, damaging, self-destructive, for those who haven’t engaged in it yet. Yes, they have feelings, and emotions, and families, and the fact that they followed those feeling and emotions rather than thinking rationally about consequences is why they have families.”
- Finally, here’s progressive websiteThinkProgress’s rationalization, which amount to changing the subject: ”
“In general, teen parents are often met with shame and stigma — personally blamed for society’s downfall, despite the fact that they’re subject to bigger structural issues that are largely out of their control, like insufficient access to sexual health resources and economic inequality. Since May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, this time of the year typically signals an uptick in these type of negative messages about how having a baby will ruin high schoolers’ lives, and by extension, our country’s economy.”
1) Even if we want to eliminate shame, that doesn’t suggest that treating unwed pregnancies as praiseworthy and a proper object of celebration isn’t societally destructive. 2) Burgeoning teen pregnancies are a major problem; to avoid confronting that, ThinkProgress relies on a straw man, knocking down an argument nobody makes, that this alone is all that ails society. 3) If unmarried teens feel that they are burdening the rest of us, good-–they are. If they feel that way soon enough, they might not become unmarried teens. Like shame, guilt and regret are also important tools of ethical enlightenment. Sorry, Ye Sensitive Ones, but it’s true. 4) Teens may be “subject to bigger structural issues that are largely out of their control,” but having babies is something that is emphatically within their control, and because it is, they should know that they will experience the just consequences of it, and realize that before they engage in the conduct that invites those consequences. 5) Having babies ruins highschoolers lives more often than not, as well as their parents’ lives, and the lives of those students’ kids. Relaying “negative messages” that convey valid warnings and truth is not some kind of deviant behavior. Do all progressives think this way?
Well, enough do, which is why the percentage of unmarried mothers, and expansion of the various social problems it feeds, continues to grow. That irresponsible desire to isolate individuals from the consequences of their conduct, together with the collectives of fools that so often get the upper hand in our schools, moves what Rep. Sanchez thinks is “evolution” ever closer. In fact, devolution is what it is.
Sources: Fox, Arizona Central1, 2; Think Progress
14 thoughts on “Irresponsible and Incompetent —and Jaw-Droppingly Stupid— School Administration Decision Of The Decade: “Hey! Let’s Have A Yearbook Salute To Seniors Who Have Kids Before They Graduate!””
I blame some of this on the “hookup” culture that is glamorized in Hollywood as you note. However, the School Administrators have made a terrible decision regarding the yearbook. Yeah, these teens should have their pictures in the yearbook but without their kids. Their future is depressing as few of them will graduate and even go to community colleges. But Linda Sanchez thinks this is fine. 😦
I realize my demeanor in that post bordered on unprofessional, but that really is a criminally stupid decision, and just calling it wrong or bad doesn’t place sufficient condemnation on it or those responsible. And Sanchez–I just reminded myself of her, re-read my own post, and nearly plotzed. God, what an idiot—and she’s in Congress! A leader in Congress! Has there ever been a more lazy-minded, asinine quote as her justification for giving birth without getting married, as a high-visibility, Hispanic Congresswoman looked up to by young, Latina teens? She finally reversed herself, but never mind, we know this is how she thinks…badly. We actually elect these ditzy, arrogant fools to make public policy.
I’m not quite as outraged as you are, Jack, but my reaction is sufficiently close to yours that I can say with confidence that the answer to your quasi-rhetorical question is “Nope.”
But what I’d like to concentrate on is not your analysis, but a paragraph from the linked article:
Am I alone in thinking that we’re talking about three different phenomena here?
Banning photographs of pregnant students is ridiculous. They’re students. Their pictures belong in the yearbook, even if such inclusion shows neither the school nor the young women in question in the best possible light. Girls get pregnant and still go to school; some of them even contribute to the school’s culture as editors or club presidents or student government officers. Barring them from appearing in the yearbook at all seems more than a little unfair, not only to them but to their friends who’d like to have a lasting reminder of the friendships of their youth.
Not showing the kids of high schoolers is a perfectly reasonable decision, although insisting that the babies not be shown sounds punitive for no particular reason. I’m calling that one a wash.
What happened in Mesa, however, was neither of these things. This yearbook spread does indeed glamorize irresponsible behavior, and clearly sets out to engender a case of the warm fuzzies, concentrating on the pseudo-heroic efforts of young mothers struggling with the difficulties of student parenthood while blithely ignoring the purely voluntary choice that put them in that position. (Of course, it is possible that one of the mothers might have been a rape victim and chose for religious or ethical reasons not to terminate the pregnancy. That’s another matter altogether.)
The yearbook feature does, in fact, empower a group of young women who, having made a mistake, are trying to mitigate the negative consequences by continuing their educations. But such an argument remains sufficiently destructive to the next generation of prospective mothers who see only a romanticized view of profoundly counter-productive behavior that there is no question that cooing over teen pregnancies is a net minus.
You get full credit for “nope,’ but “too damn many do” would also be accepted.
I guarantee that at any school where this spread becomes an institution, a small percentage of underclasswomen will strive to get pregnant so they be featured in the yearbook.
“In general, teen parents are often met with shame and stigma — personally blamed for society’s downfall, despite the fact that they’re subject to bigger structural issues that are largely out of their control, like insufficient access to sexual health resources and economic inequality.”
Doesn’t a good deal of the economic inequality originate from the teen pregnancy? Had they not had a child they could have done more to improve their own employment prospects. Therefore, the a great deal of the economic inequality results from the bad choices the teens make; especially when describing people mired in poverty and their inability to move into at least a middle class standard of living.
Precisely. But it hurts people’s feelings to tell them so, and that seems to be the only argument against stigmatizing destructive behavior.
While it is true that it takes heroic courage to raise a child as a teenager, the simple fact is that these teens are facing the consequences of their actions. The usual consequences usually involve missing most yearbook worthy events to care for the children, in addition to the more dire consequences. The teenage parents should neither be stigmatized for making the courageous and ethical choice to have the child, nor be unduly celebrated.
I cannot agree that it takes heroic courage to raise a child as a teenager but I will agree that the child made the ethical choice to treat the developing fetus as a living human being. Upon birth the child could be given up for adoption. That too is a choice.
The fact is that the act of having a child without the personal resources to care for and raise the child imposes costs not only on the child but on society at large. I will admit there are no absolutes in describing the behavioral motivations of the young mother but much has been written on the subject such that many of these young girls are using the child as a surrogate for the unconditional love that they never received themselves. To that end the baby is merely an object to satisfy a need of the teenage mother. For these mothers keeping the child not heroic it is selfish. Glorifying the (poor) choice made reinforces the belief in others that having a baby as a teen is no big deal and may actually elevate their social status.
Who exactly is taking care of the child when the teenage mother is still in school? An extended family member? Maybe. What costs are being imposed on the family member that must now care for the child because you are in school? If paid daycare is the choice who pays for that? Who pays to clothe and feed the child? Not the young mother as she has no resources. Where is the father to pay for these costs? Oh I forgot we no longer have fathers we have “baby daddies” – those irresponsible young men that make their rounds inseminating as many girls as possible to prove their manhood because they never learned from a real father what it means to be a man.
Neither the pregnant teen nor the inseminating male have the resources to pay for the food shelter and medical care for themselves or their offspring as a result of their CHOICES, which is why our social services programs costs have exploded in the last 50 years. We cannot remind young people of the negative effects of a sexual choice if we eliminate the negative effects. We have no problem stigmatizing other behavioral choices. Smokers are social pariahs. The government banned us from seeing images of people using tobacco in publications so that children would not see smoking as a glamorous lifestyle and start the habit. We have a war on obesity in which we make the overweight person feel unattractive, unwanted and a blight on a healthy society. Why? Because the claim is that both of these behaviors impose third party health care costs. So, to all those not wanting to create a stigma for unwed teen moms do you feel as strongly about the stigma we attach to those behaviors or physical characteristics?
In the past, carrying the stigma of being an unwed mother prevented both the births of children that suckle on the teat of society’s resources, and the desire for abortions because the child – I reinforce the word child – did not make the very bad choice to engage in sex until they were socially and economically responsible enough to raise the child.
I would never stigmatize the child for being born to any single person because they were not consulted beforehand. I can, however, choose to find irresponsible sexual behavior among teens to be blight on our society.
The most important thing a female can do to empower herself to achieve future success is to make good choices about her own sexual habits early on. This probably means telling her suitors to keep it in their own pants.
Or at least use protection if the young woman is “hot and bothered”. If the suitor won’t do it, just say no!
Comment of the Day.
I’m not advocating that this section should have been included in the yearbook, but I can’t find anything on it that “glamorizes” teen pregnancy.
What a strange take. A whole color spread on the courageous, caring student parents in a yearbook isn’t glamorizing? What word would you prefer? Rewarding? Publicizing? Recognizing? Honoring? Saluting? Which of those is a good thing, do you think?
I can’t read the whole thing, but in bold is “mixed emotions” and “working a double shift.” How is that glamour? Glamour would be, “I’m so glad I did this and the baby weight came right off. I now have a mini-me that I can dress up!” This spread reads more like educating to me. But again, I’m not sure that a yearbook is the right place for that message. The yearbook should be about events at school — not home.