Children having children

Posted: Dec 23, 2004 12:00 AM

A few years ago, I visited a friend living in Cleveland's inner city.

As we sat on my friend's porch, not one, but two teenage girls -- visibly pregnant -- walked by. My friend cheerfully called out their names. They smiled and waved back as they continued walking. I turned to my friend and said, "You see that?"

She said, "See what?"

I said, "That."

She said, "What?"

I said, "Those two girls, they're both pregnant."

She says, "Yeah."

I said, "What about that?"

Pointing to houses, she said, "What about the one over here, the one over there and the one down there?"

I said, "So, this is acceptable?"

She said, "I didn't say it was acceptable -- it just is."

Fantasia Barrino, winner of the recent "American Idol" contest and a single-parent mom, dropped out of school in ninth grade, got pregnant and gave birth at age 17. Fantasia, in a recently released CD, calls single-parent motherhood "a badge of honor." In "Baby Mama," Fantasia sings, "It's about time we had our own song. Don't know what took so long." While the song does talk about the struggles single parents face -- "I see you get that support check in the mail, Ya open and you're like, 'What the hell.' You say, 'This ain't even half of daycare.' Sayin' to yourself, 'This here ain't fair.' To all my girls who don't get no help. Who gotta do everything by yourself. . . ." -- she nevertheless refers to single parenting as, "Cuz now-a-days it like a badge of honor." A badge of honor?

According to The World Almanac 2005 -- which now lists illegitimate birth rates under the politically correct heading "Nonmarital Childbearing" -- nearly 70 percent of black children are born outside of wedlock. With Latinos, the rate is almost 45 percent, whites nearly 30 percent, and Asians 15 percent. Overall, about 34 percent of America's children today are born outside of wedlock.

According to the Heritage Foundation, children born outside of wedlock were more likely to engage in early sexual activity and have children out of wedlock. The report further stated, "Compared to children living with both biological parents in similar socioeconomic circumstances, children of never-married mothers exhibit 68 percent more antisocial behavior, 24 percent more headstrong behavior, 33 percent more hyperactive behavior, 78 percent more peer conflict, and 53 percent more dependency. Overall, children of never-married mothers have behavioral problems that score nearly three times higher than children raised in comparable intact families."

About her life before hitting it big in "American Idol," Fantasia said, "I wasn't working. I wasn't doing anything, and Zion [her daughter] wasn't in daycare. . . . I had my own little apartment [presumably at taxpayers' expense] and I would do her hair all day, watch movies. . . . We would play dress-up. We had nothing to do." Her baby's father, Brandel Shouse, was arrested and pled guilty for assaulting Fantasia. (They are said to be on cordial terms, now.)
A badge of honor? Tell that to Coach A.

Coach Ted Anderson worked as the basketball coach for the Memphis, Tenn., Hamilton High Wildcats for over 20 years. Memphis, until recently, allowed corporal punishment, one of the few big-city districts that still permitted the practice. Coach Anderson, who, himself, attended Hamilton High -- where he received the occasional paddling -- earned a reputation as a basketball coach for being hardworking, fearsome, and who would, from time to time, administer the correctional swat.

Anderson said he swatted kids for tardiness, unruliness, disrespectful behavior, poor grades and -- twice in his career -- for poor play. Unfortunately for Coach A., at a tournament during halftime, he swatted three players for poor play, one parent complained and despite no other complaint in his 20-year career as Hamilton's basketball coach, the school board fired him as coach and transferred him to teach a middle school class.

During Coach Anderson's career, single moms brought their children to him precisely because they wanted their sons to see a strong male figure, a presence frequently absent from the kids' lives.

One of Anderson's former student athletes told me that he credits Anderson with his success in life and in business. Several other former students rallied to his support in urging the district to reconsider.

Many studies show that the best predictor of violent crime in a community is not the race or economic status, but the proportion of households without fathers. Most juvenile and adult offenders come from homes without fathers.

In his book "My Father's Face," James Robison wrote about a chaplain in a federal penitentiary who decided to improve morale. He persuaded a greeting card company to supply him with Mother's Day cards for the inmates. The prisoners enthusiastically sent each mom a card. Morale improved so dramatically that the chaplain decided to repeat the success on Father's Day. The chaplain offered the cards to the inmates. But not one inmate sent a card to his father. Not one.

A badge of honor?