Teen birth rates and education

2012-07-15T00:00:00Z 2012-07-24T09:53:35Z Teen birth rates and education Santa Maria Times
July 15, 2012 12:00 am

Life has its challenges to overcome, ups and downs and passages to get safely through, but for the most part, if we work at it, life is good.

Sometimes, the challenges can be truly daunting — especially if you’re a teen girl sitting with your family at the dinner table, explaining that you’re pregnant but hoping to continue with the 10th grade.

Those who’ve never been in such a situation may find the scene amusing. Believe us, it is anything but. It is one of those life moments that is etched, permanently, in the psyche. For the strong, it usually works out. For too many others it’s a disaster.

Yet, surprisingly for adults who may not remember the challenges of those teen years, a lot of teens are getting pregnant — and it is an especially critical issue for North County teens.

Santa Barbara County ranks 16th out of California’s 58 counties in the teen birth rate, and almost always the rate is higher than the overall state and national averages.

The high ranking — or low ranking, depending on your point of view — is baffling to some but really not that difficult to explain. Cultural mores and a general lack of sex education are the core causes of the high teen birth rate.

On average, American teens are having sex for the first time at the age of 17. And in that age group only about a third receive any formal instruction about contraception. The education establishment is somewhat divided on the issue of sex ed in the classroom, in large part because many teachers and adults believe it’s a matter of discussion between teen and mom and dad. Many others are philosophically opposed to teaching kids about sex, especially contraception, because they believe such education actually encourages promiscuity.

All of which leads to the usual conclusion to any discussion about sex education with the following bromide — don’t have sex. That is, after all, a surefire way to avoid getting pregnant.

But it also ignores natural inclinations of kids slowly growing into adulthood, with hormones raging and amid a bombardment of media advertising, television shows and movies that treat sex in a cavalier manner, which encourages teens to do what adults are doing.

The problem is, most teens are simply not equipped to handle the stresses and strains of parenthood. Growing up includes learning about such things. If the baby comes before the ability to properly care for her or him, the family social fabric begins to unravel.

Often, as the teen girl is explaining to mom and dad about having sex and getting pregnant, it comes as a complete surprise to the parents. That shouldn’t be. Parents should be able to talk to their kids about anything, and vice-versa. Sadly, that’s not what is happening — and that’s where we acquire the high teen birth rate, year after year.

It sounds trite to say, but honestly, abstinence is the best policy and the best prevention for teen pregnancy. Short of that ideal, however, it is painfully evident we need to do a better job of educating children about the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood — and parenthood.

It’s best if that education occurs in the home, but if it doesn’t happen there, it needs to happen in our schools. If nothing else, teens need to know the fundamentals.

This newspaper examines teen pregnancy in a series starting today and continuing for the next two Sundays. We hope you read every word, and make sure the teens in your home read every word. Their happiness may depend on it.

Copyright 2015 Santa Maria Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(23) Comments

  1. Cbrown
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    Cbrown - July 22, 2012 4:49 pm
    Teen pregnancy became worse when the tolerance movement worked to remove shame from society. Sorry, but things like shame are the incentives for proper behavior.

    By removing shame and the stigma of pregnancy, allowing these girls to stay in our schools and be visible to other girls- has taken away the life destroying component that came with shame.

    Now we help the girls try to graduate and earn a living, but we can never help them enough. Even Hillary Clinton’s claim that it takes a village is partially true- it takes a family. A single girl, with a baby, is never going to be able to learn and growth mentally, emotionally beyond the time she had the child. The evidence of generations stuck in the same cycle of single motherhood have made that clear.

    We need to bring back shame- have the girl that made the mistake shipped off to her relatives’ farm to care for a sick Aunt- code for being shipped to a birthing orphanage- all her friends at school will know what happen and learn the lesson of her mistake. Sacrifice one to save a dozen. Too many girls think getting pregnant at 16-17 will cause their boyfriend to quickly grow-up and be the husband the girl wants.

    It hardly EVER happens and the girl pays the price. Bring back shame and we can make this problem less. Nature built shame into humans for a reason!
  2. WyettEarp
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    WyettEarp - July 20, 2012 6:29 pm
    Cec - July 16, 2012 10:50 am
    I am in love with the idea of a whole health component in schools. Obesity is linked to so many conditions which lead to death. Health promotion would only make this great country even greater.

    If the health of your kid is so important to you why would want to turn that job over to the schools? And why is it my job to teach your kid how to eat and NOT scr#w around and get knocked up?
  3. WyettEarp
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    WyettEarp - July 20, 2012 5:42 pm
    If you do not think it is liberalism promoting sexuality then rate the following things that most experts would probably agree that do have a role in promoting or educating young people in regards to sexual activity.

    TV
    Hollywood movies
    Churches
    Schools

    Now look at who has the most control and influences in those institutions.

    Now before you fire back cec( or you either Shadow Dog (Trevor), do the following searches on Google and then tell me liberalism does not promote teen sexuality.

    how influential is Hollywood movies in teen promiscuity
    how influential is tv in sexual promiscuity
    how influential is church in sexual promiscuity
    how influential is school in sexual promiscuity

  4. WyettEarp
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    WyettEarp - July 20, 2012 5:31 pm
    "Show us a link that proves this."

    You know, there is not always a "link" that proves something. Sometimes you have to engage your brain and actually think a little. Use a little common sense and apply it to common knowledge.

    Teen pregnancies have NOT significantly decreased over the years. But we have seen more and more sex education all around us including in schools.

    Now, show me where I said that sex education was causing teen pregnancies. Once again you can not. You always try to put words in other people's mouth and end up looking like a fool.

    My point is not that it was promoting sex.. the point is that it is not working... just as bobbhH just pointed out for you.

    You are not as bad as your shadow dog Trevor, but all to often you fail to engage your brain before you attack. I have no problem with being attacked, but for goodness sakes at least make an attempt to try to understand what I am saying. I doubt Trevor has that ability but I do think you do NuniCan't.
  5. Justin Case
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    Justin Case - July 18, 2012 10:34 pm
    logicalone,

    I forgot to mention;

    It has also made my friend DumbinOrcutt very bitter too (just read his above comment).

    El Pastor JC
  6. DominOrcutt
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    DominOrcutt - July 18, 2012 7:56 pm
    Blah, blah, blah,,,,,,,,,

    As usual, worthless.

    If you look up "pathetic" in the dictionary, you'll see J's picture.
  7. Justin Case
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    Justin Case - July 18, 2012 3:36 pm
    logicalone,

    You said: “I remember what it was like to be a 15 year old girl and be afraid that no boy would like me.”

    My friend DumbinOrcutt feels that way each and every day!

    El Pastor JC
  8. Trevor
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    Trevor - July 17, 2012 2:02 pm
    Wyatt can't and won't. so sad that guy.
  9. DominOrcutt
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    DominOrcutt - July 17, 2012 8:37 am
    It's hard not to agree with most of the statements here. bobbyh and logicalone summed it up pretty well.

    You get into trouble though when "educators", like those in California, with an agenda get control of the curriculum to be taught in these classes. I don't think anyone has a problem with pregnancy, or STD prevention (they shouldn't), but when you start to introduce "alternative lifestyle" to the mix, and tell parents that they are not permitted to remove their kids from that part of the program, you're going to get a lot of people saying "no thanks!".

    I don't mean to speak for wyett, but I think this is where the whole "liberals" thing comes in. California schools have adopted a sex ed program that goes way too far, and removes anything even resembling parental rights. And, as we all know, Cali is a "liberal" state.

    As in most things in life, there is no perfect answer. I do agree with Nunican't about parents and "heartfelt, and frank discussions with their children about the consequences of teen sex. ". but we all know that's a tough one.
  10. logicalone
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    logicalone - July 16, 2012 10:06 pm
    According to the latest report by the Center for Disease Control, the states with the highest birth rate for teenagers are Mississippi (65.7%), Arkansas (64.9%), New Mexico (65.2%), Oklahoma (62.7%) and Texas (62.4%). In all of these states except New Mexico, the only form of sex education allowed in schools is abstinence only. In New Mexico, sex education is not required in schools. The states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates are New Hampshire (19.8%), Connecticut (20.1%), Massachusetts (20.4%), and Vermont (21.2%). In all of these states, sex education in the public schools includes information about contraception, sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases.

    I think that this shows that a comprehensive sex education program does help to lower teen pregnancy rates - or at least, it shows that states with abstinence only education doesn't lower the rates.

    Teenagers are bombarded with more sexual images every day than our generation got in our entire high school experience. Have you watched television lately? The rise of cable television has amounted to sex education for our children - and they are not immune. They can see that it looks like "fun", and with their hormones racing they want to test it out. All they have to do is to go on the Internet to read about the sexual exploits of their favorite actors or singers. In our day, most of it was kept quiet - remember trying to decipher the sexual innuendo in your favorite songs? Well, there is no more innuendo - they say exactly what they mean...and our children listen to every word. Back in the day, girls were respected for saying "no" - but now, they are subject to ridicule and teased. I remember what it was like to be a 15 year old girl and be afraid that no boy would like me. It didn't have anything to do with sex - it had more to do with wanting to feel loved and worthy of attention. So, today, teen girls have sex with the boys because they think that is the only way they can get a boyfriend. And we, as adults, need to realize that the world has changed, and the best thing we can do for our kids is to protect them - not by hiding the truth about sex, but by giving them the whole picture.

  11. bobbyh
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    bobbyh - July 16, 2012 9:49 pm
    Opposition to comprehensive sex education classes in our public schools is largely from religious groups and individuals, many of whom send their children to religious schools, and is less about teen pregnancy and the prevention of STDs than it is about sin and religious dogma. WyettEarp is correct in his observation that teens are no more receptive to ad vice and information provided by teachers than when it comes from their parents or pastors. Principal difference is that parents often shun this responsibility and clerics, often woefully unqualified, are long on abstinence, blame, and the punishment awaiting transgressors. Would guess this accounts for the high rate of sexual dysfuntion reported by marriage counselors for couples of certain religious denominations. Given the demographics, pregnancy rates at religious schools are only margi nally lower that at public schools. A recent poll comparing teens who had and had not signed a "chastity pledge" popular among evangelicals, revealed pregnancy rates to be virtually identical.
    Given internet access and exposure to other media, arguments that frank classroom discussion of sexual subjects will inflame teen passions are ludicrous.
    In spite of our best efforts, teens will continue to experiment with sex, as they always have, and expose themselves to unwanted pregnancies and STD infection. We can, however, insure that mistakes they make are not for want of information or because of misinformation.
  12. NuniCan't
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    NuniCan't - July 16, 2012 9:22 pm
    OK, Wyett, back this statement up:

    "Then why is it that teen pregnancies rates have gone straight up in direct relationship to all this sex education and condom distribution started and backed by liberals?"

    Show us a link that proves this.

    Sex education does not promote sex. It simply shows the alternative to not using contraceptives. Your generation's 'just put an asprin between your legs' is outdated.

    It's a sad, sad commentary on the parents of America to not have open, heartfelt, and frank discussions with their children about the consequences of teen sex. That said, however, teaching the kids what their parents won't about keeping unwanted pregnancies away is paramount in keeping kids from having kids.

    Also, in the Latino community, having a kid is a rite of passage. Whether you or I agree or disagree with this, informing their kids about alternatives to unprotected sex might sway some of them to choose to not have sex or use protection.

    Until there is a cultural change in the dominant race in our area, things won't change. But teaching sex education is at least a small step in curbing underage pregnancies.
  13. WyettEarp
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    WyettEarp - July 16, 2012 8:11 pm
    "It's not about thinking that kids aren't or are going to have sex, it's giving them to tools to make the best and most educated decision. "

    Then why is it that teen pregnancies rates have gone straight up in direct relationship to all this sex education and condom distribution started and backed by liberals?

    As for Palin, other then just taking a cheap shot, once again at the Palins, why would you even bring that up? No one suggested or even implied that there was not teen pregnancies form all walks of life. But it has been well established the Liberals are far more sexual permissive..

    >>> Contrary to the breathless claims of Planned Parenthood, there is no evidence that states with liberal sex-ed policies have lower teen-pregnancy rates. In fact, the evidence suggests that, after adjusting for important racial differences among states, those with liberal sex-ed policies actually have higher rates of pregnancy for girls under 18.

    Sex-ed programs promoted by Planned Parenthood and its allies in the Obama administration teach that it is okay for teens to have sex as long as they use a condom. Virtually no parents support this idea. Even teens tend to disagree with it. But Planned Parenthood’s message to teens is brutally simple: Hook up, have sex, but use that condom; if it doesn’t work out, we’ll fix things with a taxpayer-funded abortion. -Permissive Sex Ed Linked to Higher Teen-Pregnancy, Abortion RatesBy Robert Rector & Rachel Sheffield
    <<
  14. Cec
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    Cec - July 16, 2012 10:50 am
    I am in love with the idea of a whole health component in schools. Obesity is linked to so many conditions which lead to death. Health promotion would only make this great country even greater.
  15. lolabean
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    lolabean - July 16, 2012 10:20 am
    AGREE totally with Cec!!!
  16. lolabean
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    lolabean - July 16, 2012 10:19 am
    i wasn't clear (anyone else's computer freezing up on this site?)....yes, schools should teach about sex education and health, but the MORAL issues should be the parents' job. i got tired of dealing with the computer freezing up and didn't elaborate between the two.

    more than ever, we need HEALTH education in school---not just sex education, but instruction in nutrition, exercise, and obesity prevention. teach kids to take care of their bodies, and they'll have more self-esteem and make smarter choices--whether it's in regard to skin care, exercise, or what to do when sex is in the picture.

    to be clear, it's not a school's job to teach whether or not having sex is appropriate. that was the point i meant to make, and didn't even come close to doing so.

  17. Cec
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    Cec - July 16, 2012 9:54 am
    Airdale, I agree, I don't want to pay for anyone's baby other than my own, whenever I choose to have them. That's why I think education is so important, so these unwanted/unintended pregnancies won't be as prevalent. Ultimately, like always, preventative medicine and education costs so much less than shouldering the cost of these kids. I agree with you wholeheartedly, abortion, adoption and shouldering the cost of your child are the ideal, as well as absitinence and just being really rich, the ideal isn't always what happens.
  18. Airdale
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    Airdale - July 16, 2012 9:12 am
    Cec, however, the rest of society should not be paying one red cent for these babies, their parents and grandparents costs for bringing these babies into and up in the world. Abort, adopt out, or shoulder the entire cost of your decision/action.....that includes the sperm donor and his parents. It's not EVERYONE else's financial responsibility to contribute to the cost of these teen or unwanted babies of single mothers. Maybe it's time for Norplanting all females at the age of ten, then remove it only when they are financially able to have and raise a child on their own, or when married.
  19. Cec
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    Cec - July 16, 2012 8:53 am
    It's not just Liberals promoting sex as a recreational sport, it's the society that we live in. How do Conservatives promote keeping it in your pants? Bristol Palin was conservative.

    It's not about thinking that kids aren't or are going to have sex, it's giving them to tools to make the best and most educated decision. A strong sex education program will make it the norm for condoms and birth control to be part of the dialogue that teens just like adults are having every day. If everyone can open up discussion of sex and sexual health, then these kids will be able to think on a different level. Sex ed isn't going to make anyone have sex, it's just going to provide them with the knowledge of how to do it safely.
  20. Cec
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    Cec - July 16, 2012 8:47 am
    lolabean, I agree with everything that you said about giving the guys a little responsibility. We, as a society, tend to let these young men off the hook because their lives and bodies aren't generally affected as much as our young women. However, while I agree that parents should be the first and strongest school for life issues, we have to understand that that isn't always the case. It's irresponsible to say that it is not a school's responsibility to teach sex education. It's EVERYONE's responsibility to create a generation of well-prepared adults. School's should be responsible, parents should be responsible, peers, friends, family, everyone should be responsible for teaching teens during their formative years.
  21. lolabean
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    lolabean - July 15, 2012 9:55 pm
    what galls me is the girls all claiming they didn't use birth control because it goes against their religious beliefs. i was raised in that same faith and the church also says no sex before marriage. why adhere to one rule and not another? you don't get to ignore what your religion preaches (abstain from sex before marriage) and then embrace what that same religion preaches (no birth control).

    bottom line---if you're going to have sex, be responsible. don't be a hypocrite. don't hide behind your faith as an excuse for your not acting responsibly. if you were such a good little catholic girl, you wouldn't be having premarital sex in the first place.

    education is the key. ignorance and/or avoidance will never be the solution to any problem, so making information readily available in a non-judgmental way is the key. most parents do not talk to their kids about sex; and it really isn't a school's responsibility to do it, but letting kids know where to go to find the answers they need should be an option.

    and folks, let's not let the boys off so easy---it's not just the girls' responsibility. teaching them to keep it in their pants is a valuable lesson, too. if they can't do that, then they need to know that it's as much their duty to prevent pregnancy and STDs. they need to know that it's not unmanly to wear a condom.

    so many excuses, so little accountability!
  22. summerivy
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    summerivy - July 15, 2012 8:39 pm
    I became a mother at age fifteen. Today my son is 17, and I've never been on welfare, I own my own home, I have an MBA and a great career...as a teen then single mother. I'm a mentor at the Adolescent Parenting Program in Memphis and applaud the efforts of organizations who support teen moms in continuing their education so that they can become self-sufficient and not rely on welfare for their entire lives.

    www.lifeafterbirthbook.com
    http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Birth-Survival-Success/product-reviews/1450221033/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

    Criticism doesn't solve any problems. Only compassion and education.

    Summer Owens
  23. WyettEarp
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    WyettEarp - July 15, 2012 9:00 am
    As long as the Liberals keep promoting sex as a recreational sport the problem will exist and only get worse. You can hand out a billion rubbers a day.

    The people that are promoting this idea have obviously never been or have forgotten how it was for a couple of over exposed to sex teenagers to be in the back seat of a car with the overwhelming urge to scratch "the" itch. These are basically all good kids with raging hormones and they probably can't even tell you how they ended up in that back seat and out of their cloths. The image of the sex education instructor stretching a balloon over a cucumber is NOT EVEN going to enter their mind!!

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