She was a seventeen-year-old girl in middle school. Small and awkward, she spoke little English, but she was learning fast. I’ll call her “Pilar.” She was pregnant and she wanted an abortion. Her mom wanted her to keep the baby. The school social worker was supporting the girl. I was trying to get out of the middle.
Dad had fled the scene. He did not want a baby and he’d put enough miles between himself and the situation so that no help could be expected from him. I think he’d run to Mexico. This girl was standing alone. She was the only child at home, a home that consisted of Pilar and mom. She had no intention of talking to any girlfriends. I thought mom might make my student decide to have her baby or cause her regret to regret her choice later, but this girl knew what she wanted. She wanted to finish school. Back in Mexico, Pilar’s own father had kept her out of school until she was eight years old, when mom had seized her as part of a messy divorce and run away, eventually to the United States. Pilar was so grateful to finally get to go to school. A dream student, she listened attentively, asked many questions and did all her homework.
Pilar had also seen friends and neighborhood girls have babies and she’d watched them leave school. She wanted no part of the teenage-mom life. Home with a baby when you could be in school?
Whether you are pro-choice or not, my student made a remarkably courageous choice with only a social worker she could barely understand for strong support. I laid out the information to help with her choice as best I could, but I did not steer. I did try to keep all parties talking to one another.
Pilar did not have a baby. She did finish school. Given her mom’s push against the abortion, I found the steadfast resolve of this immigrant girl stunning. She never wavered.
When discussing America’s current educational struggles, I believe we don’t spend enough time on the issue of teenage moms lately, in part because the current trend seems promising. Nevertheless, we still have many teenage mothers and these moms frequently fail to finish school. Their children may then arrive at school without knowing letters, numbers, or shapes. When a girl has two or even three children before she is twenty, flashcards or educational games rarely enter the picture, forget money for Gymboree or kindermusik classes. These children’s children have fallen full academic years behind their peers when they start kindergarten if they don’t attend preschool.
(Yes, we are pushing academics too young and too hard, but that’s another post.)
When Pilar finally does have children, I’d bet there will be flashcards, online math quizzes and webquests. There will be trips to the library and to museums. Homework will likely be finished before the videogames begin.
Eduhonesty: Teen-age births have been declining in the recent past.
From the same article:
Characteristics Associated with Adolescent Childbearing
Numerous individual, family, and community characteristics have been linked to adolescent childbearing. For example, adolescents who are enrolled in school and engaged in learning (including participating in after-school activities, having positive attitudes toward school, and performing well educationally) are less likely than are other adolescents to have or to father a baby. At the family level, adolescents with mothers who gave birth as teens and/or whose mothers have only a high school degree are more likely to have a baby before age 20 than are teens whose mothers were older at their birth or who attended at least some college. In addition, having lived with both biological parents at age 14 is associated with a lower risk of a teen birth. At the community level, adolescents who live in wealthier neighborhoods with strong levels of employment are less likely to have or to father a baby than are adolescents in neighborhoods in which income and employment opportunities are more limited.
Teasing out the many factors influencing educational success can be difficult, but being born to a young mother tends to be a negative, if not inevitably so. In terms of our efforts to level the educational playing field, measures taken to lower the rate of teen-age pregnancy appear fairly successful. TV shows such as “16 and Pregnant”, which began airing on MTV in 2009, and “Teen Mom,” aided by high school programs in which students carry around realistic babies for days, have taken the teen-pregnancy trend in a promising direction.
We have a win here, if a win likely to disturb those who are not pro-choice. I thought I’d use a post to highlight this win. Pilar graduated last year.