A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute is showing a 3% rise in teen pregnancy. The announcement was all over the news day before last. About the same time I heard Tyra Banks mention something about surveying her talk show viewers, and something like 1 in 5 teens saying that they wanted to become moms - now. (Just for the record, I saw this in passing and don't have a direct source). The point is, we have a serious issue on our hands.
There are a lot of theories out there as to why there is a rise in teen pregnancy in America. There is, of course, the concern that the push for abstinence only programs has left a generation of young men and women ill equipped to cope with the physiological and emotional pressure to have sex. But, I also worry that we glamorize teen pregnancy. Everything from Bristol Palin showing up on the cover of every magazine to MTV's new reality show focusing on young moms. Even if the message is, "this is hard" someone is thinking - "yeah, but you still have a social life, and you have someone to love, and you're on TV - I could do that."
I think it's time, as a country, to get over our "thing" about sex. I agree, that there is a lot of baggage and responsibility that comes with a sexual relationship. And if you're not mature enough to recognize this, you probably shouldn't be doing it (and that's true whether you're sixteen or forty.)
But this abstinence only approach just isn't working. Not only do teens think, "it won't happen to me" but they're thinking "if it does, I'll be okay." My boyfriend/girlfriend loves me; I can still go to school; mom and dad can help; etc. etc. I just think they are unrealistic about the remarkable weight that accompanies having a child.
It comes down to education (big surprise coming from an educator right?) But it's true. We need to educate them about sex, and war, and poverty. It's not always a pretty world in which we live, but it's a world very much worth saving and making a better place. But, we cannot be expected to make good and honest decisions if we only have half the information we need to do so.
Let's not underestimate what this generation might do with knowledge. Who knows, they might even surprise us.