Where’s That Gate Keeper When You Need One?

You can think anything. You can say some things; some modicum of self-control would be recommended, depending upon your audience. However, when you put your ideas and beliefs into writing, or when you say things that you know will be recorded or captured in writing to be read or repeated, then one should be careful.

Listen, I am not naive. I’m aware that there are a number of people who say or write fairly outrageous stuff who would counter with messages like: (a) I don’t care. (b) I can say whatever I want to say. (c) My rights to free speech are guaranteed by the Constitution. (d) My message is very important. (e) It’s my blog, and I’ll write what I want to.

And then, there are always those who suggest that this is not what they said, not what they meant, or else, that ever-useful stand-by: “My words were taken out of context.”

Another over-used response would be to chide the offended party for being too politically correct–too PC–as if having a conscience or an awareness of bias, prejudice, or social justice is so childish; so wearying; so lame; so ineffecutal. Heave sigh. Roll eyes.

In my opinion, we have certainly heard enough offensive commentary in the past few months, and especially in the past week or two, from the current cast of Republican candidates. OMG. Living in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina must be unreal. Living in here in Delaware provides me with a certain level of protection. I can read what I choose; I am only subjected to reports of their latest pronouncments and faux-pas; I am not forced to hear them ad nauseum directly on the radio or robo-calls; and their ads are not on our local TV stations–yet.

How many months are left until November 6th?

As one of my friends would say, “They need to engage a gate keeper (for their thoughts and words).” In other words, they need to think before they speak; and then, stop, and think again. “Rude, crude, and socially unacceptable,” as one of my favorite high school social studies teacher used to say.

I find them all quite objectionable: loud, redundant, bombastic, and hyper-critical; full of bluster, slurs, abuse, and cheap shots; close-minded, lacking empathy, failing to connect with the real world of too many the real people of America. When Rick Santorum and/or Ron Paul start to look even the tiniest bit O.K., then we have a serious problem here!

I am not Black. I am not poor. I am not gay. I am not Latino. I am a well-educated, upper-middle-class, middle-aged white woman.* BUT, I AM OFFENDED.

*For the sake of full disclosure, y’all need to realize that I am a long-time, died-in-the-wool, liberal East Coast Democrat. I am somewhat active in local Democratic politics. However, I come from a hard-core Republican background. My grandfather was a regular delegate from Western Maryland to the Republican National Convention. Papa would not understand my point of view. And, until the late 1960’s, my parents were ardent Republicans–my mother had a pair of rhinestone earrings that spelled out I LIKE IKE. [Two thoughts: (1) Those long-gone earrings would have some real $$ value these days. (2) Who doesn’t like Ike? Compared to the current bevy of candidates, Ike looks like a champ.]

But, I digress. My intention here was not to comment upon the dysfunctional dynasty of the Republican party. My concern falls closer to home. I had the chance this morning to finally read the piece in yesterday’s Wilmington News Journal by Dr. John Stapleford, Director of the Center for Economic Policy and Analysis for the Caesar Rodney Institute. The opinion piece is titled Having unmarried parents can adversely affect kids.

O.K.  I’ve been married for 39.5 glorious years. I have kids. I am a teacher, so I am interested in kids and what might affect them.

This piece appears to be about potential consequences for children due to out-of-wedlock births, unwed mothers, and co-habiting adults. I found the piece to be confusing. (Please read it, and judge for yourself.) Is it about kids who have two cohabiting parents in the same household who just never got around to marriage? Or is it about kids whose mothers weren’t married at the time of their births and/or may never marry? Two different situations, if you ask me, and ones that may or may not be troublesome. Or, is it something else?

Is it a condemnation of cohabitation? “Although the divorce rate is coming down, cohabitation is soaring and accounts for more than half of the births to unmarried mothers.” This does not seem like a surprising correlation. More folks hooking up, to use the vernacular, outside of marriage = more babies born outside of marriage.

Apparently Delaware has tied for 4th place in percentage of out-of-wedlock births to all births–with a 48% high in 2009–the national percentage that same year was 41%. This is most unfortunate–lots of unwed mothers is not a good thing. Lord knows that it is hard enough to raise a child with two committed, involved, high-functioning adults in the household. I would imagine that many of these births might have been to teen-age or young adult mothers with few resources. Not a good way for anyone to start a family. I won’t recount all the other data he shared regarding racial and ethnic statistics. All in all, 4th place is not a place where we want our new mothers–and their children–to be.

Stapleford writes: “When it comes to child well-being, however, research suggests that family structure is a better predictor of children’s psychological and social welfare, whereas poverty is a better predictor of educational attainment. Being raised by unmarried parents in a poverty household is, obviously, problematic.” I agree–a stable, harmonious “two-parent” household is probably the best way to go. Poverty combined with a dysfunctional family structure of any sort would present all kinds of challenges. Marriage seems to mean a lot to Stapleford’s argument.

However, the piece smacks a bit of sanctimonious scolding and piety. Naughty, naughty. Shame and guilt. Thou shalt not,… The terms un-wed mother, born out-of-wedlock, and even cohabitation all sound more than a tad lowly, regrettable, and indecent. I know, I know. So PC. But, it does seem that way to me.

[There is this little nagging thought that has occurred to me. “Having unmarried parents can adversely affect kids.” Unmarried parents–hmm,… let’s see. Who is it that cannot get married here in Delaware? Who might share the responsibility for raising children but may not marry according to the laws of the land? Oh, yeah. That would be my gay and lesbian friends who may finally be united in a civil ceremony but may not actually MARRY.]

Married = good. Unmarried = bad.

However, it is the last four paragraphs of the piece that really put me on edge. The good doctor is not just informing us about the sad and sorry consequences for those poor children foundering in a cohabitaiton situation. Oh, no. Dr. Stapleford’s mantra: Never miss an opportunity to get in a few digs.

Paragraph #9:  “More abortions are not the answer since the abortion rate and out-of-wedlock birth rate among the states are not correlated — that is, more abortions does not reduce the proportion of births out-of-wedlock. And Delaware already has a high abortion rate.”

Phew. Good to know that he is not recommending more abortions as a remedy to this problem. But that comment about correlation–or the lack thereof–seems a bit wobbly. Does he really mean that if there were a correlation, then we should be in favor of more abortions? Huh?

Paragraph #10:  “Perhaps it would be helpful if schools were allowed to reinforce the values of sex after and within marriage, rather than the Hollywood philosophy of sleep together anywhere, anytime. [Italics mine.] Perhaps it would help if young people were made aware of the standard outcomes of cohabitation relative to marriage.”

Did he say what I think he said? Oh, my.

I was totally unaware that in schools in Dear Old Delaware the national and state standards for health education included instructional objectives modeled upon west coast practices of screwing around. Californication? I never imagined that we were–oh, no–BICOASTAL.

What on earth does this guy think we are doing in sex education classes in 5th and 6th grades across the state? Does he really believe that good old Mrs. McGillicuddy is instructing 11 and 12 year olds to “Just do it,” or that the boys’ P.E. teacher at the local middle school is giving his students the message “If it feels good, do it?” Holy cow. I have two sons. This is certainly not the kind of training they received at school. They must have been absent that week.

And, BTW, I do believe that our children’s parents have a role to play in reinforcing the values of sex after and within marriage. And, the family. And, the church. And the community. Glad that the opportunity presented itself to Dr. Stapleford to create the idea in the readers’ minds that our schools may be wholly accountable for the kinds of wild sexual abandon that could actually lead to out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation. Good to know.

Then there is last line of the paragraph: “Perhaps it would help if young people were made aware of the standard outcomes of cohabitation relative to marriage.” I foresee a new version of Scared Straight in our future. We could arrange for some “loser” cohabiters to come to our schools to share the downside of failing to wed.

Paragraph #11:  “Data and research may lead to other important causal relationships. A major driver of out-of-wedlock birth in the black community is the limited pool of marriageable young black males; that is, young men who are employed full time. And a major obstacle to the employment of many young black males is a felony record.”

“And a major obstacle to the employment of many young black males is a felony record.” What the hell?

Let me see if I can follow this line of thinking. Too many felonious young Black guys leads to too many unemployable young Black guys which creates and maintains too small a pool of eligible candidates for marriage which in turn leads to a rising number of out-of-wedlock births. Wow. I had no idea that it was that simple.

Finally, Paragraph #12:  “Certainly there are other steps that might be taken or tried. But to do nothing to address this disturbing trend is not an option.”

Other steps? Yes, there certainly must be other steps to try to curb the rise of out-of-wedlock births in the year 2012.

Steps other than the ones that seem to be implied in the Stapleford piece:

(1) considering abortion as a way to reduce the number of babies born out-of-wedlock so that they will not grow up in a household with two cohabiting unmarried adults; or

(2) addressing our schools’ failure to reinforce the sanctity of sex in marriage rather than turning young men and women into sex-crazies a la La-la Land; or

(3) job counseling programs for young Black felons to be combined with dating services intended to bring together young Black women and men of the marrying type. [An interesting idea for a new combined reality show / Dating Game concept.]

Has anyone heard of this new idea called BIRTH CONTROL? In this entire nasty piece, Stapleford says nothing–not one word–about BIRTH CONTROL. It’s the 21st century, Mac. Get over yourself and your outdated, moralistic, conservative-beyond-belief attitudes.

Personally, I am more than a little concerned about the incidence of HIV and AIDS and other STDs.

Look–I share others’ concerns about teenage pregnancy and young unwed mothers with limited resources of every imaginable kind. But I disagree with the premises put forth in this piece and Dr. Stapleford’s perspectives on the situation. I say that to do nothing to address this disturbing op-ed piece is not an option.

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