Saturday, October 20, 2007

Educating Ourselves to Imbecility- Contraceptives in Middle School

The availability of the pill to 11 year old kids in Maine without parental knowledge is creating furore across the US. The Baltimore Sun in this article represents, I think, the point of view of those who support the program.

Here's a quote from the article"

Dr. Laurie S. Zabin, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said she hates to hear complaints that contraception equals a free pass when it comes to becoming sexually active."I don't really think that the primary objection that the public has holds any water - that it encourages sex," she said. "It's sort of like [saying] the availability of seat belts causes more traffic accidents. The availability of contraception does not cause risky sex."

Nitpicking being my favourite pastime, let's deconstruct this for a moment: we wear seatbelts to prevent injury resulting from a collision, tipover or other such accidents. If the accident does not happen there is no injury. One doesn't need to wear a seatbelt after or during the accident in order to prevent injuries. Nor does one need to wear a seatbelt with the distinct objective of getting into an accident. A contraceptive user makes use of a contraceptive specifically in order to have "safe" sex. Contraceptive use is conditional- it is used on condition that the user takes part in sexual activity. The comparison between it and seatbelt-wearing is illogical and perhaps a little disingenuous in this context.

Let's stretch this argument a bit. The opposing camp could claim that the contraceptives are not being necessarily used, but simply distributed. It may or may not be used- and it is distributed with general parental knowledge of its availability if it is requested by a student. This is again a disingenuous argument. The knowledge that potential pregnancies could be avoided is a pretty powerful motivator to indulge in sexual activity. Besides, the message the school is sending out is that pregnancies that are underage and "unwanted"pregnancies are the greatest evil, not immorality or underage sex. So in conclusion- yes, it will encourage underage sexual activity, sexual experimentation, sexual promiscuity. Yes, it will (as it clearly has done) reduce teen pregnancies- no question about that. Yes, it is a postmodern line of thought that morality doesn't matter. That, more than anything else, leads to the destruction of a society.

Attempts to reduce the significance of this are ridiculous. We are indeed, as Neil Postman said, amusing ourselves to death; and as Muggeridge put it, educating ourselves to imbecility. Erotomania or megalomania- that's the choice for the world outside of Christ. I'm thinking of our 3-year old daughter: the more I hear about this the more I wonder where we could get her educated in a safe environment, away from these predators. People with no means to get kids educated outside of public schools are worse off for all this. I do hope we get Christians to take up better-priced, quality education on a larger scale.

Homeschooling is the other option, but I'm also a firm believer in the maxim that it takes a village to raise a kid. This is true in two ways- one, that the society's morals invariably get transferred to the individual, regardless of the particular morals that his/her immediate circle (such as parents) imparts to the person. Secondly, this influence of the society is not just inevitable, but desirable; and therefore, it must be encouraged. Therefore, homeschooling must be coupled with a lot of social activity in order to be truly well-rounded. Kids listen to authority in a peer environment more than in a one-to-one situation- if the peers are inclined to listen. Good company begets good behaviour. At the same time we have a responsibility to ensure that the society in which we and our kids grow is influenced positively.

India is no more the land I saw when we were growing up, but back then, teen pregnancies were almost unheard of. Sexual morality was stronger, abstinence or temperance never seemed to anyone to be foolish options to prevent sexual diseases. Why was this society so conservative, and more importantly, why is this community not so conservative today? Back then the kids were just as precocious as they are today. But the society at the time clearly considered sexual promiscuity as shameful and sinful. The society influences us and a precocious kid may rebel at school in many ways, but still maintain a relatively high standard of sexual behaviour. Like it or not, the village does raise us and we had better understand it. Parents' influence over kids is not the only factor in the equation.

If that is the case, then why should we as Christians not try to pro-actively influence and change the society according to what we believe to be true? When a Christian public servant does this, is he/she in danger of going against the grain of Church-State separation? Well, all actions are motivated by a worldview- and each worldview has institutions that support and spearhead it. Our convictions must motivate our actions- a politician who claims otherwise is clearly in denial.

The incredibly unthinking response of some people to the developments in Maine- that it's allright to reduce teen pregnancies by distributing contraceptives because kids who would choose abstinence would not be affected anyway- is flawed in its understanding of human nature and the significance of the village in raising a kid.

I hope this doesn't turn into a polarizing votebank in the elections although it would be interesting to see how the candidates respond to it. My concern is that they will end up politicizing morality- and the issue is sacrificed at the altar of political mileage.

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