On a television talk show this week, I argued that some situations, like teen pregnancy that we were discussing on the program, require “tough love.” Another panelist quickly declared, “Tough love is an oxymoron!” Thus, in the eyes of the left, the only solution to a bad circumstance involving an adolescent is to make it as easy as possible for that child and to help him or her to avoid all negative consequences for personal behavior. Further, the left argues that public policy should be formulated to free teens from the consequences of their mistakes and taxpayer funds should be used to achieve that impossible goal.
I respectfully disagree. I firmly believe in the axiom that in terms of public policy, we get more of what we subsidize. In terms of personal behavior, we get more of what we glamorize. Especially regarding adolescents, any policy that accommodates bad behavior from one student will produce similar outcomes in another dozen students. So, if you have a cute pregnant girl wearing adorable maternity outfits, you’ll have a dozen of her friends oohing and ahhing around her and coming to the conclusion that a “baby bump” is actually quite cool, feeling the baby move is very exciting and, later on, seeing a precious little baby wearing designer clothes is thrilling. All in all, the whole situation is quite “adult” and many teenagers long to be considered grown-up.
The television program was prompted by a news item that a Denver school is considering giving maternity leave to new teen mothers. Representatives from the left think that instituting such a policy is compassionate and talk about necessity for keeping teen mothers in school and the need for mother-baby bonding after the birth. Some school districts even provide day care for the babies of their students. All high schools (and some middle schools) are facing questions about how best to address the problem of teen pregnancy.
It’s a major problem. The census category “mother-only households with kids” has almost doubled twice since 1960. There were 2.6 million such households in 1960, the number jumped to 5.3 million in 1976 and was 9 million in 2006. Sadly, more than a quarter (28 percent) of the mothers and children in those households live in poverty. Careful reading of the news accounts of many of the tragedies involving children reveals that a disproportionate share of these are the products of broken or single-parent homes.