Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Answer to Chris's Question

A few days ago, Chris Roberts an important question in his insightful blog:
What is the most effective means of teaching young men without fathers the skills needed to be a man within the context of a public education classroom?

[He has beaten me to the punch by posting his answer. It is far better than anything I could think of, however, in the spirit of exchange, I will post my answer too. As I am not an educator, my proposals will no doubt strike my readers as silly, but I ask that you to bear with me & take the time to read & criticize my views.]

1. Public Boarding Schools
Many of the children who go on to become teenage parents & negligent fathers come from broken homes themselves. They have never had the opportunity to develop the skills & discipline necessary to succeed in life. Their home environments, as well as a majority of those they encounter in their community tend to be ill equipped to assist a child in the path of academic advancement. While, many single parents are no doubt good people who love their children, should the child's academic performance be at a state where he or she will find himself or herself disadvantaged when competing in the adult world, I believe that taking the child out of this toxic & unhealthy environment would be the best solution.

At a boarding school, not only will the children be insulated from harmful influences, gangs & violence, but also, they will be surrounded by caring adults who are good role models. There are a few experimental ones already, and while they are far more expensive than regular public schools, the phenomenal results:
*according to a Ford Foundation study, 5 percent of SEED students were in a physical fight last year - compared with 35.7 percent of students from other D.C. public schools; and 12.1 percent of SEED students had tried drugs - compared with 47.2 percent students elsewhere.
*the national public high school graduation rate is 63 percent; here it is almost 100 percent
*ninety-eight percent are African-American, 2 percent are Hispanic. Ninety percent come from homes below the poverty line; 88 percent come from single parent or no parent households, and 93 percent are the first generation in their families to go to college
*100% of the graduates are going to a four-year college versus the national average of 45%

fully justify the price tag. We as a society will reap dividends from an investment such as this. I do not believe that, should these schools continue to perform in the way that they do, that tax payers will refuse to fund them. Here an article about one of these schools, please read it.

2. Abstinence Based Sex Education
While their effectiveness is debatable, one thing both sides agree on is that these programs delay the onset of teenage sexual activity by at least 18 months. Almost all of the studies done on the subject agree that delaying sexual activity is healthy. This means that when the child does become sexually active, they are more mature & less hormonal & have a greater investment in their future.

Also, the norms that such programs set of respecting one's body, refusing to surrender to peer pressure & reject the messages in pop culture are healthy & conducive to character development. When teenage pregnancy ceases to be a quotidian phenomenon, children will begin to see it as deviant & undesiable, & thus, strive to avoid it. Lack of disapproval for parenthood out-of-wedlock has been found to be a factor in teenage pregnancy.

3. Strict Enforcement of & Tightening of Statutory Rape Laws
Many studies show that girl who are sexual active at younger ages tend to have older partners. These girls are also more likely to become pregnant.
*teenage girls with older partners are more likely to become pregnant than those with partners closer in age.(Planned Parenthood, 2004)
*a recent study found that 6.7 percent of women aged 15-17 have partners six or more years older. The pregnancy rate for this group is 3.7 times as high as the rate for those whose partners are no more than two years older (Planned Parenthood 2004; Darroch et al., 1999)
*teens who date older partners had a lower likelihood of consistent contraceptive use. For each year a partner is older than the respondent, the likelihood of always using contraception decreases by 11 percent. (In this study, on average, first sexual partners were one year older than the respondent.) Child Trends (2004)

Clearly, older men & young girls are not a good combination. Once a girl has become pregnant as a teenager, her whole life must be rearranged to accommodate this. She has a much greater chance of dropping out of school, as well as increases the chances of her experiencing divorce or never marrying. Broken homes produce poor parenting skills.

These are the methods that I propose to utilize in order to teach young men& women, the skills necessary to avoid teenage parenthood & pave the path for their leading fulfilling & productive lives. As the problems & of young men go hand in had with the problems of young women, my proposals address both. All of these proposals would be strengthened & made far more effective with the help of religious institutions & strong communities. None of them would be needed were it not for poor parenting & a poisonous pop culture. Unfortunately, teachers are increasingly being called upon to teach the things that parents should. This is not an ideal situation, especially when teachers are subject to the mechanizations of politicians & unions.

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