A £5m programme to reduce teenage pregnancies has failed spectacularly. And so we now have a Leftist arguing for moral education
How many more teen pregnancies will it take before this Government realises what a catastrophic failure its sex education policies have been? That is a question I never thought I would find myself asking. I write as a mother of a teenage daughter and a left-of-centre commentator with an unshakeable belief in the power of education to transform lives. I am - and continue to be - a defender of the rights of women and girls, including their right to an abortion, when needed. There is no U-turn here, no betrayal of what I have always believed in. But the facts can no longer be ignored.
The time has come for an honest reflection on teenage pregnancy rates, a social ill which policy-makers and politicians do not seem capable of tackling. We have just had one more example of this failure. An evaluation of one of many government sex education initiatives (this one named YPDP, the Young People's Development Programme) has just been published in the respected British Medical Journal. This programme, costing more than £5million, focussed on groups of sexually active young girls who were considered most at risk of getting pregnant. The girls were given intensive health education and free condoms in the hope that this would enable them to avoid unprotected sex.
Apparently, similar projects in New York had effectively cut down the number of teen mums. Not so here. Alarmingly, significantly more girls on the course got pregnant than those not on the programme. In other words, the costly scheme achieved the very opposite of what it had set out to do. By any reckoning, it is a monumental failure. Yet I predict that all those on the Left will yet again insist that only more sex education will help free these young women. They will insist that only this can free them from the fate that otherwise awaits them, repeating the cycle of teen parenthood through future generations.
But how can this be right? It makes no sense to me at all, repeating a prescription that is manifestly failing. It is just like a patient who has a terrible headache. You give him or her a supposed painkiller. The pain goes on, so you give them another dose of the exact same medicine. Still the pain continues, so you give them two more and then a specially strong one, refusing to accept the evidence in front of your eyes that the treatment is simply not working, and that if carried on, the treatment will cause a cumulative harm that will probably make the sickness dangerously worse.
Yet that's how the Government has responded to Britain's shamefully high teen pregnancy rates - giving them even more sex education, at a younger and younger age. Although I have no objection to basic sex education in schools, that alone seems unable to prevent teenage pregnancies and might actually be encouraging underage sexual activity. It is surely a mark of desperation when, as was recently announced, ministers plan to introduce sex education for children as young as five years old. Thereby you institutionalise the sexualisation of young children, incontrovertibly one of the main reasons for the alarming teen pregnancy statistics.
British children know enough already about sex; it shouts at them from billboards, whispers to them in magazines and newspapers, entices them on the internet and on TV, and consumes them in modern books for children, too. The problem is that this sexual awareness is received and ingested but with no guidance on consequences, nor any cautionary social mores. And although teenage pregnancies most affect those on low incomes, the valueless universe is affecting all our children.
I have tried to teach my own daughter what I think she needs to survive this culture, but that might not be enough. Like so many others, I can only hope and pray she will pass through the next years without succumbing. I see a number of the girls she went to primary school with, out on the streets, dressed provocatively, smoking and inviting attention. It is both scary and distressing to witness. Not so very long ago, these same children came to birthday parties and sang songs at our house. What the devil got into them?
They would all get full marks if tested on the technical aspects of sex. But they have not learnt how to resist the destructive imperatives of the habitat they live in.
For an old feminist like me, the gains we made were many, but we have failed to equip young females with the tools they need to withstand the pressures put on them to give in to (or seek) sexual activity before they are mature enough to understand the implications.
I have a Danish friend whose partner is English. They have three daughters and he is fighting hard to move to his home country, which, though sexually liberal, is still rooted in stable family traditions that, he says, save girls from early promiscuity. 'That family influence, that wisdom, is lost in England,' he says. And I fear he is right.
Don't get me wrong. I am not a prude, nor do I want the Fifties back again when sex was not discussed at all. There is a tragedy in my own family which hails from those days and continues to haunt us today. When she was only 16, a beloved relative of mine was sent to England to study. She was clueless when it came to sex. In Asian families nobody tells you anything - we don't even have words for intimate body parts or the sexual act. She came into an equally repressed England, got pregnant, had a child, but the shame of it brought on a progressive mental illness from which she will never recover.
What has replaced those buttoned-up, cruel times is serving our young no better. I spend a lot of time talking to families on a housing estate in West London. In the past year, four under-15s in one block alone have got pregnant and want to keep the children. Only one did her GCSEs. When I talked to them they were both nervous and full of bravado. None of the dads was interested. Selina was born to a teenage mum who couldn't remember how she had got into that state. Oh, they know how all the bits work, just not what sex can lead to, in the long term.
Boys behaving badly; girls behaving worse is becoming the norm in Britain. That will not change with free condoms and explicit family planning lessons. Too many young girls, still impressionable and forming into women, feel the need to pretend they are adults. We must find a way to teach them to wait until they mature enough to comprehend the consequences of their actions. We must encourage them to realise that you can have a boyfriend but not 'go all the way'. We must make it clear that virginity is not to be given away cheaply, something to throw at a frisky lad, but a precious rite of passage.
I would go further. I think teachers should be encouraged to provide moral guidance and warn kids of the consequences of children giving birth to children.
The masters of the TV universe who are criminally amoral, who have helped make this world, should be regulated. Teenage mums need to be recruited into education campaigns to tell others how hard it all is to bring up a child. It really is quite scandalous that the fourth richest nation in the world is still unable to find its moral centre and to prevent such levels of sexual incontinence and irresponsibility.
The education young people need is not about sex but about pregnancy, even more so about how to grow self respect. When, in a perverse reversal of traditional values, it becomes shameful for girls as young as 14 not to have had sex, as seems to be the case for too many in our country, then it is time for us all, from across the political and social spectrum, to wake up and do something radical. We simply cannot fall back on the tried and failed responses.
British Justice Secretary promises another increase in media scrutiny of family courts
Long overdue. It might help rein in at least some of Britain's endemic abuses by social workers
Thousands of cases in the family courts will be exposed to increased public scrutiny under reforms to be announced today by Jack Straw. Restrictions on what the media can report are to be relaxed and expert witness reports containing details of child abuse allegations may be published. Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary, will also examine how, subject to safeguards, to allow media access to adoption cases. The reforms build on the opening up of the family courts in April after a campaign by fathers’ groups, politicians and the media led by The Times.
Despite this access, reporting is hampered by a confusing array of restrictions across at least ten statutes. Interviewed by The Times, Mr Straw said that there would be legislation in the next session of Parliament to overhaul the restrictions. In the meantime, the rules would be clarified by a committee headed by Sir Mark Potter, Britain’s most senior family judge, so that the media could report “the substance of children’s cases, while protecting the identity of parties and children”.
The opening of the family courts was marred by concerns that media access was hindered by reporting rules. At present, the Administration of Justice Act 1960 prohibits reporting of the substance of a family case unless a judge indicates otherwise.
Mr Straw said: “The first change was to allow the media into the courts and that came into force at the end of April. The second change relates to the concerns that have been expressed that although journalists can report the gist of proceedings they cannot report the substance without being in contempt of court.”
The changes will be considered next week and are likely to take effect this autumn. Legislation will then be introduced in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children’s Bill to rationalise reporting rules across all family courts in line with the regime that applies in the youth courts. Judges would have a discretion to lift anonymity provisions in the public interest at the end of a case. “All of this is turning around a tanker,” Mr Straw said. “But the tanker is turning.”
He added that he also wanted to look at opening up adoption proceedings, although judges strongly oppose media access, regarding adoption as a special case. “To some degree there is a special case and to some degree there isn’t,” Mr Straw said. He added: “What I want, without disclosing the identity of the parties or gratuitously disclosing family secrets where there is no public interest, is to see a light shone on these proceedings because I think that it is in the public interest for that to happen. There is no part of the judicial system that should be private. Confidence in the system suffers if proceedings entirely take place behind closed doors.”
He said, however, that there were “genuine concerns that can’t be dismissed” about protecting the identity of parties and about the disclosure of documents containing “sometimes lurid detail of family secrets”.
Despite a “high level of suspicion” about the media and journalists, Mr Straw said that they had shown themselves to be highly responsible when it came to abiding by reporting restrictions in the youth courts or in any other cases. The regime would be enforced through the contempt of court laws and he was confident that this would work. His family, he said, was subject to a family break-up when he was 10 and his siblings ranged in age from 3 months to 12 years. “If your children or my children were party to proceedings and some pretty unpleasant things were said, would you really want that stuff spilled out?” Mr Straw also delivered a broadside over the rising costs of family legal aid. Spending had risen from £550 million in 2004-05 to about £600 million in 2008-09 with no equivalent increase in the number of cases.
Mr Straw cited reforms to criminal trials and the cut in the number of adjournments. He questioned the need for large numbers of lawyers representing different parties in children’s cases. “A leading practitioner said to me, ‘Is it really in the interests of a child to have all these people in this room?’.”
Law enforcement is the key to keeping NYC safe
In 1990, murders in New York City reached an all-time annual high of 2,262. Six years later, they had dropped over 56 percent, to 984. By 2008, homicides were down nearly 77 percent, to 523, and all felony crime was down over 77 percent.
The turnaround in the city's public image was equally dramatic. As the 1990s began, the national media were proclaiming New York a disaster zone. News reports recounted the brutality of its rampaging youth packs, the chaos of its streets, and the devastating decline in public services, caused by plunging tax revenues. Yet by 1996, the media's story line had changed radically. the big apple comes roaring back, declared U.S. News and World Report. New York showed that "winning the war against crime" was possible, Time proclaimed. In 1998, a new cable TV show portrayed New York as a glittering mecca for beautiful, libidinous women, who managed to squeeze time for exciting careers into their complicated bedroom itineraries.
This wave of positive publicity paid off royally. From 1991 to 1997, the number of tourists visiting New York rose 39 percent, to nearly 32 million. The city's universities were deluged with applications from students who wanted to be part of this suddenly attractive urban oasis. Cutting-edge restaurants opened in what used to be forlorn drug outposts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, bringing more development in their wake. After dropping sharply from 1988 through 1993, real-estate values stabilized, then blasted off in 1998. By 2005, building-construction permits had reached their highest level in over three decades. Job growth revved up in 1997, stalled after the dot-com bust of 2000 and the 9/11 terror attacks, but then resumed its upward trajectory from 2003 to 2008.
The cause of this bust-to-boom revival is largely uncontested: the city's victory over crime. If New York's lawlessness had remained at its early 1990s levels, the city by now would be close to a ghost town. But the cause of the crime rout itself remains hotly contested. Though New York policing underwent a revolution in 1994, vast swaths of the criminology profession continue to deny that that revolution was responsible for the crime drop. They are wrong--and dangerously so. The transformation of New York policing is the overwhelming reason why the city's crime rate went into free fall in 1994. And that transformation, in turn, was aided by an increase in the size of the police department.
This truth means that government budget woes must not be allowed to jeopardize the department's ability to keep crime rates low. The FBI's designation of New York as the safest big city in the country is an economic marketing tool of immeasurable worth. Lose that designation, and Gotham's ability to climb out of the recession and retain and attract businesses and residents will be dealt a severe blow.
The most important thing that businesses look for in a recession is stability," says Greg O'Connell, landlord to about 150 small businesses in Brooklyn's Red Hook area and an impresario of that area's transformation into an artist colony. "When law and order is there, an owner can concentrate on business decisions, not on whether when he comes to work the next morning, his property will still be there."
New York's small-business community lacked such security at the end of the 1980s. Crime was driving manufacturers and wholesalers out of the city. Outer-borough businesses, in particular, felt abandoned by the police. Constant thefts forced owners to spend far more on security and insurance than their counterparts elsewhere, a toll that helped explain New York's anemic rates of small-business job creation. One furniture plant in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, bricked up its windows, installed steel bars, posted guard dogs on the roof, and bought a new alarm system, only to wind up broken into three times over four months in early 1989, reported Crain's New York Business. A manufacturer of men's suits in the same area suffered robberies, muggings, vandalism, car thefts, stolen batteries, and nighttime burglaries, according to Crain's; a thief broke an employee's face and jaw; two other employees left the company after getting held up at gunpoint.
Such outer-borough business woes rarely garnered press attention, but a rising tide of violence in residential areas and in Manhattan's commercial core certainly did. After four children were gunned down in nine days in 1990, Time reported that New Yorkers were sinking to a "new depth of despair." The fatal subway stabbing that year of a young tourist from Utah who had tried to defend his parents against a group of teen thugs shocked the city and the country. Forced to reorient his priorities from social-services programs to public safety, Mayor David Dinkins began a hiring program for the NYPD in 1990 that would raise the number of officers from a little over 33,000 in 1991 to well over 36,000 in 1994, when Rudolph Giuliani began his first term as mayor. (These numbers include the roughly 6,000 officers in the then-distinct transit and housing police agencies, which officially merged with the NYPD in 1995.)
Though strategy matters more than size when it comes to policing, size can bolster the right strategy enormously. At the start of the 1990s, the city still hadn't made up for the attrition in the police ranks triggered by the 1975 fiscal crisis--9,000 officers cut from the department from 1974 to 1980, just as the city's lawlessness, epitomized by the devastating looting during the 1977 blackout, was escalating. By 1990, the department was still down 5,000 officers from its 1974 high. Dinkins's hiring program, called Safe Streets, Safe Cities, restored the NYPD roughly to its early 1970s levels. Giuliani continued enlarging the force, with assistance from federal funding, to reach a peak of over 40,000 officers in 2000.
The most important change in the New York Police Department in the early 1990s, however, was conceptual and managerial, not volumetric. The reigning philosophy among criminologists and even many police chiefs was that cops could do little to lower crime. Since crime was a reaction to poverty and racism, the received wisdom held, only government-driven economic and social change could bring the crime rate down.
Commissioner William Bratton, Mayor Giuliani's first police chief, rejected that excuse for failure. He announced that the NYPD would lower violent crime by 10 percent in his first year. No police leader in living memory had announced such a numerical benchmark. Visionary police strategists Jack Maple and Louis Anemone turned the department into a data-driven crime-fighting machine. Using increasingly sophisticated crime-mapping technologies, police leaders could evaluate on a daily basis which strategies were working and which were not.
Precinct commanders now had to account for everything that happened on their watch, an unprecedented shift in managerial expectations that reflected the new belief that the police could and would lower crime. The weekly meetings between top brass and precinct commanders in which this accounting took place became known as Compstat, and the entire management shift under Bratton, the Compstat revolution. Meanwhile, Maple and Anemone continued to roll out strategy after strategy to get guns off the streets, fight public disorder, and shut down outdoor drug markets.
Bratton not only met his crime-lowering targets; he exceeded them. Felony crime dropped 12 percent in 1994, compared with 1.1 percent in the rest of the country. The enforcement of low-level public-order laws nabbed high-level felony offenders. The rigorous debriefing of every arrested crime suspect yielded information for solving other crimes. The aggressive use of stop-and-frisks lowered the rate of gun-carrying and hence of shootings. "The word on the street became, 'You'll be frisked if you carry a gun,' " says Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone. "There was pressure not to carry, which stopped the killings." At the end of 1994, Bratton upped the ante: he would lower crime by 15 percent in 1995, he said. In fact, crime fell 16 percent in 1995 while staying virtually flat in the rest of the country.
The crime drop occurred across the entire city, but its effect was most startling in the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods, where a virtuous cycle set in. With property and violent crime plummeting, investors started building housing on vacant lots that had once served as breeding grounds for disorder and lawlessness. The new residents, with a stake in their communities, watched their neighborhoods more closely and demanded even higher levels of service from the police and better behavior from neighbors. "Crime went down when the vacant lots became developed in the latter part of the 1990s," recalls Walter Campbell, district manager of Community Board 5 in East New York, one of Brooklyn's poorest areas. "You'd see one [lot] being fixed up, and then everyone would jump on board. Every nook and crack had a new home. Everyone wanted a piece of the rock."
Commercial development followed the new homeowners. The Home Depot, Staples, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond opened stores in East New York on once-fallow property. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, people were "moving in and fighting back," says Nadine Whitted, district manager of Community Board 4. "There were no more vacant lots to hide this and that on."
"AIDS doesn't discriminate" was one of the catch-phrases of the 1980s, but it turned out not to be true. Not only did the expected heterosexual AIDS epidemic never materialize, but according to Reuters Health, it turns out that there are racial disparities in the syndrome's incidence among gays:
[Researchers] found that black gay men were three times more likely to have sexual partners that were also black, than would be expected by chance alone. In addition, black gay men were the least preferred of sexual partners by other races and were believed to be riskier to have sex with, which can lead to men of other races avoiding black men as sexual partners. Black gay men were also counted less often among friends and were perceived as less welcome at the common venues that cater to gay men in San Francisco by other gay men. These influences, Raymond told Reuters Health, push black gay men closer together in smaller social and sexual networks--"networks that are already at higher risk for HIV infection merely because the background prevalence of HIV is higher than in other groups."What they seem to be saying is that the AIDS prevalence is higher among black gays than nonblack gays because the AIDS prevalence is higher among black gays than nonblack gays. And also because of racism:
"Of our findings, social networks and access to community spaces may be the areas most amenable to action," [H. Fischer] Raymond said. "Acting on personal preferences in sexual partners may not be, however raising awareness that personal preferences may be shaped by underlying negative racial stereotypes or history isn't without merit," he added. "The racial disparity in HIV observed for more than a decade," Raymond and [Willi] McFarland conclude in their report, "will not disappear until the challenges posed by a legacy of racism toward blacks in the U.S. are addressed."They seem to be saying that the disparity could be narrowed by encouraging more interracial gay sex. Of course, this would increase the AIDS rate among nonblacks rather than reduce it among blacks--but no one ever said overcoming racism would be cost-free.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.