Add Birth Control Pills to Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice…

“You know, sweetie, one day you are going to have to learn to tie your own shoes! Now, before you leave, don’t forget your cookies and the Barbie doll you brought in, and — oh, I almost forgot! — here’s your birth control pill!”

For those who haven’t heard about Portland’s decision to allow one of its middle schools to give out birth control pills to its students who are as young as 11-years-old without parental permission, you can catch up by reading here: “Maine middle school to offer birth control.”

Un. Be. Lievable. This is wrong on so many levels that I fear I cannot begin speaking about it without spending the rest of the day on it. With much yet to do, however, I will constrain myself, but for those who hadn’t heard about it amongst my congregations (and you additional readers), I wanted to make sure I pointed it out as something you might want to read.

(I should say that the school was already handing out free condoms, so at least they’re being consistent!)

The video that accompanies the CNN article above is interesting viewing as well, as it shows a small potpourri of (what I assume are) parents speaking variously against or in favor of the measure. The one well dressed gentleman who spoke of giving the children “the resources they need” is supporting a horrible twist on an essential truth. We should give children the resources they need. But if Portland’s three middle schools have experienced at least 17 pregnancies in the last four years and this is their solution, then they apparently have no idea what “resources” these children need.

I would say that if an educational system and its cultural support is so massively ineffective, morbidly inept, and morally impoverished that it can’t sufficiently educate 11- to 13-year-olds, then it certainly isn’t competent enough to decide that pumping the children it is failing full of hormones without their parents’ permission is a good idea.

Actually, I don’t think that Portland’s decision is the real tragedy. It’s merely the symptom. That our sense of right and wrong has degraded to the point that we think this is the best solution — that is the tragedy.

Yet another dark day for parental rights, another day to mourn the days when children had a childhood, and another day to sigh and cry over all the abominations done within this nation’s borders (cf. Ezekiel 9). A time will come when for all people it will be true that “your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:20-21). How sad that so many of today’s teachers have lost not only the capacity to so teach, but even the will to try.

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26 thoughts on “Add Birth Control Pills to Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice…

  1. Hi Mr. Smith,

    Isn’t part of the problem the age at which kids, especially girls, enter puberty these days? Some say yes and some say no. But I haven’t forgotten what a Force Five hurricane of hormones I was by age 15 (it only got worse from there), and my interest in girls was already in full swing by age 13. It truly takes a strong will coupled with strong ethics to withstand that kind of pressure, and while I didn’t make the major mistakes others did, I wasn’t without problems. Having ever younger and less mature minds dealing with that kind of biological pressure — if that’s what’s actually happening — can’t be easy.

    That’s the rock. The hard place is that our livelihoods demand an ever-increasing amount of time in school before we are ready to deal with marriage and family. So there’s an ever-increasing amount of time between puberty and marriage that certainly nurtures the kind of solutions that Portland, OR. and others are promoting.

    Shakespeare’s Juliet and her contemporaries were married at 14 and even somewhat younger for a reason. That seems an insanely young age to get married even today, as neither body nor mind is mature by that age, but at least people reckoned with the pressure that young people face as they enter puberty and had an honorable solution for it. At least that seems the lesser of two evils, when compared with what our society is attempting.

    Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

  2. Wade

    I can’t fathom children – CHILDREN – as young as 11 years old getting involved in something as complicated and adult-like as sex! What kind of outside influences are causing these little kids to want to do such things? What must be going through their minds that makes such an act so desirable? Children should not be drawn to such things, and it makes me wonder: “Where are the parents! What are they doing – or not doing – to teach their kids the right approach, the Christian approach, to sex?”.

    This article reminded me of an event involving my own 10 and a half year old daughter. While at the Feast of Tabernacles in Texas a few weeks ago, one night there was a family dance. My little girl was sitting at our table, playing with the younger kids, plus watching the dance. She was having a fantastic time. On two separate ocassions that night, two boys, probably 12 or 13, came up to her and asked her to dance. She was petrified! She would have none of that! So off the boys went, and that was that. Of course we kidded her about it, and she was okay with it. Looking back on that event now after seeing the extreme reverse side of what children – CHILDREN – are faced with now in the public arena of life, as a dad, I couldn’t have been more proud of her for not wanting those boys attention.

    Of course, dancing with them would not have been a big deal, its only dancing, and she would have had fun if she wanted to. But seeing what children – CHILDREN – are doing now, makes me ever so glad that she is not interested in that sort of thing at all. I guess her mother and I, with God watching our back and tieing up those loose ends we miss, are doing the right thing.

  3. Howdy, and thanks to both of you. Let me comment on your comments in reverse order…

    Mr. Brown: I agree — I look at Boy #1, who is 10, and cannot believe what kids a mere one year older are getting involved with. However, I do not question that there are pressures out there on kids that age — both internal and external — bringing me to…

    Mr. Wheeler: Thanks for your comment, and it reminds me of some of the things I would have said if I allowed myself more time to write. I’m certainly NOT trying to say that there aren’t incredible pressures on kids these days. But I am trying to say that if providing powerful hormones, with powerful side effects, to 11- to 13-year-olds, without parental permission is considered a good idea — that is the sign of a bankrupt philosophy if ever there were one.

    I’m not saying that the problem is not to be addressed. It certainly should be! But the solution they have chosen simply reveals how utterly lacking in resources they are — how shallow their pool must be from which they draw their ideas and options. Or (which I suspect is more likely the case), it is a sign of a supporting culture that is beginning to think, “Ah, sexually active 11-year-olds — it’s not really that big a deal, is it? I mean, as long as they’re not getting pregnant, you know?”

    When we give in to the pressures of that sort of thinking, we create environments that not only prevent improvement and restoration in the culture, but actually make the next level of degradation that much more inevitable. Every step away from God makes the next step easier.

    I know that the thought that the passive encouragement of sexual activity among the young does more damage than teen pregnancy is an unpopular thought — a ludicrous, irrational thought in some circles, but I believe it.

    (On a side note, I think one of the problems involved in this “solution” is the resultant lack of effort that will go into the question of who is out there having sex with 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old girls? I seriously doubt it is only 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old boys, and this new policy seems, to me, to make the choice to ignore looking into these situations a bit more tempting for the powers that be. Having been a part of such an educational bureaucracy myself, I know that there are enough crises going on at any given moment that the pressure to put off what you can is phenomenal. And if you know someone is having sex with one of your 11-year-old students, that is not a situation to put off, thinking, “Well, at least she’s on the pill…” — nor is it a situation that should be withheld from parents. If that’s what Maine’s law requires, then it is a horrifically ungodly law.)

    Sorry, I know I am ranting (or near-ranting). And my target isn’t so much the policy or the good (though misguided) intentions of those who have put the policy together. It is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and the value system that he has intractably woven into it — a value system without God, and therefore without hope.

    Again, thanks to both of you for your valuable comments.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  4. This story disturbed me on many levels. As the mother of four children, two of whom are girls (we’ll see what the fifth baby is) I was bothered by the idea that a mother could be so far removed from being actively involved in the choices surrounding her children’s healthcare. I was bothered by the idea that instead of educating these children on the extreme dangers of the activity they are involved in, they are instead handing them medication.

    As a nurse, I worry that parents without complete and accurate information regarding their children’s healthcare will not be fully capable of making healthcare decisions. I mean, what if the child is in an accident, and the parent can’t even accurately tell the physician what medications the child is taking?

    I am grateful that, at the very least, parents can say no to allowing their children access to the on campus health center. But it’s a small comfort when our children are being sexualized as such a tender age and thrown out in the world with little to protect them.

  5. Denial is no solution to the problem of premature sexual awakening. All the negative emotions in the world — outrage, fear, and whatever else you can muster — do absolutely nothing to address the issue. This school’s policy at least involves making some sort of effort. That is more than can be said for the wellsprings of hysterical reaction cluttering up most treatments of this subject. The reality is a choice between very young pregnant girls or very young girls who are not pregnant. Unless you actually do have a solution (I mean something that gets the results you want, not the naive and willful ignorance that generates support for “abstinence only” curricula,) criticizing this decision just adds only heat to a realm where more light is required.

  6. exevangel

    There’s a much bigger problem here. Who has looked at the effects of synthetic exogenous hormones on the development of 11 year olds? There are so many things that we do not understand about the fact that children are NOT just little adults–someone experiencing puberty and having such a young body should not be a medical experiment. Recent work on the effect of environmental toxins on childrens’ health has demonstrated how different developing bodies are from adults. While birth control pills are a cash cow for big pharma, they are problematic in so many ways that are never discussed, and really terribly overprescribed.
    (You don’t mention it but if they are thinking the pills are okay instead of condoms does that also assume that these kids have also had the HPV vaccine by this age?)

  7. Greetings, all, and thanks for your comments.

    Anne: You know, I never thought of that case! The idea that a doctor would ask me what medications my 11-year-old is taking and that I would not be able to answer him accurately seems insane. Must doctors also call the schools in such emergencies? That parents are out of the loop in these calls is unconscionable.

    I, too, am glad that they can opt out of access to the health center altogether, yet I don’t know that I would want my child to be unable to visit the health center at all. What does such “opting out” entail? It seems the wrong place to create an “all or nothing” condition.

    exevangel: I agree. I would like to think that the extremely low age has been thoroughly considered, but at the same time there are some signs that even for adults the birth control pill is an “experiment” that continues today. I know a good number of adult women who question the effect that use of the pill has had on their hormonal balance, etc. — effects which have not gone away once the pill usage stopped. Don’t get me wrong: I think such anecdotal evidence is often taken way too far. But I am concerned enough to worry about the effect of prescribing such powerful medications to such young, young girls. Thanks for your observation.

    Demonweed: I agree with you more than you might think. Denial is no solution. Outrage, fear, etc. is not a solution. Yes, the school is making an effort that, in their philosophical system, appears (to them) to help more than it harms.

    I think, though, that your “boiled down” version of the dilemma is too shallow and results in the kind of non-solution solutions that we see being enacted. Ultimately, the choice to be made should not be limited to “very young pregnant girls and very young girls who are not pregnant.” It should include very young girls having sex and very young girls not having sex. And while I certainly may be wrong (duh), I don’t see this being addressed. And even if it were so limited, the way in which the so-called “solution” is being put into practice is, frankly, concerning — the idea of having an 11-year-old making such a potentially life-altering decision without parental consent (yet with the state’s blessing) is simply ludicrous.

    We could medicate our way to all sorts of “solutions” in the public schools — prescribe ever increasing amounts of Ritalin, Prozac, anti-depressants, vitamins, nicotine patches, birth control pills, etc. But such solutions are akin to passing out rubber bullets to reduce the number of gun deaths in schools — admittedly, in kind if not in degree.

    I would disagree that the criticism adds only heat and no light (discussions of blackbody radiation aside). Appeals to consider the long term effects (and to more thoroughly consider the short term effects), passionate criticism of the decision not to require parental consent — discussing both the dangerous practical consequences and the consequences to our notion of parental rights… All of this seems to add much light, indeed.

    That there are other options should be obvious — what I’m interested in is both the process that decided this is the option that will work best, short term and long term, and the value system that undergirded such a process.

    Believe it or not, I recognize that the choice Portland has made might possibly be the best one available to them, given their moral and philosophical assumptions — assumptions not necessarily uncommon in todays school systems. But I am saying that, if so, it is a sad commentary on those assumptions and that the children under their care will ultimately suffer for it.

    Thanks, again, for your comments!
    Wallace Smith

  8. Demonweed, I also agree that fear and hysteria are not real answers to the growing problem of sexualization among children. Neither, however, do I think handing them prescription medication with side effects and possible long-term affects is the answer either. Have you ever seen someone react to Depo-provera for example? I can’t imagine having my child suffering a side effect of a medication I don’t even know they’re taking.

    I’m all for the schools stepping up to address a known issue. But handing them condoms or hormonal birthcontrol seems a stop-gap measure. I know grown women who can’t take the pill every day, so I hardly expect an 11 year old to do so. Nor will hormonal birth control protect them from sexually transmitted diseases or the wide range of psychological or social issues related to such sexualization.

    Again, it’s not that they’re doing something. It’s what they’re choosing to do.

    Wallace, I agree with you regarding the health center. I’d prefer that my children had access to it if possible. But not if it means that I will be removed from my role as parent.

  9. KitKat

    Having lived in Portland and specifically knowing that school, my question is: Where are the parents?

    These parents certainly are watching out for their children by knowing where they are and who they are with, they certainly are not providing them with sex education, and the obviously, any child having sex at 11 years old is either being grossly taken advantage of (it’s not called statutory rape for nothing) or is suffering from severe emotional issues.

    In a school where such problems run rampant I can see where the administration is deperate to do something, anything to prevent the further trauma of a pregnancy. Is this the right way to do it? Probably not, but when the parents have proven to be completely absent and will continue to do so…what are these children to do?

  10. Thanks, KitKat — I appreciate your comment! You make an excellent point.

    When I was taking education classes at Texas A & M, we were taught that in the past there were three primary pillars in the raising of children in America: the family, the church, and the public school. (I would argue that this is the correct order as well.) My professor stated that as the first two have ceased to do the jobs they ought, more and more responsibility has been taken on by the public school.

    The school here seems to be willing to act in loco parentis (in the place of the parent), and yet is acting like the worst parent imaginable. “Let’s just get her on the pill so she doesn’t get knocked up.”

    You are absolutely right in your concerns, KitKat, and I am sympathetic to a school district that feels it must make up for the horrendous failures of the family and the church. But my sympathy doesn’t change the fact that the public schools are simply incapable — physically and spiritually — to do those jobs, and faulty band-aids like this initiative (which I do believe will do more harm than good) are symptomatic of the system’s terrifying lack.

    There are “traumas” worse than pregnancy being experienced in that school district by these little girls. And while a symptom is covered by this faulty band-aid, the greater traumas continue (perhaps even longer) and new ones have now been enabled.

    Perhaps these Portland parents will get a clue. Sadly, many of them will simply be thankful that little Sally will have access to free pills and it’s one more thing they don’t have to worry about. I mean, we just can’t control that girl, you know?

    What are these children to do? It is a dilemma. Parents who apparently don’t have their children’s best interests at heart, and officials who have no idea about what the children’s best interests are — educators with “zeal… but not according to knowledge” (cf. Romans 10:2). I wish the district would focus on making it easier than it apparently is there for an 11-year-old child to say, “Please, help me out of this situation,” than they’ve made it to say, “Please give me that pill.”

    Such children have been cast overboard and are in need of rescue. Instead of a life preserver to help pull them back in, Portland has thrown them a sandwich in a Ziploc bag and said, “We’ll see you later — keep dog paddling!”

    Thanks, KitKat — good comments!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  11. I do understand that this is a much more civilized discussion of the subject than 99% of the discourse so far emergent from the new policy. What worries me are shades of the “morality” issue. I would imagine the school district, as with the nation as a whole, is not 100% Christian. Never mind that even from sect to sect there are differences of opinion (though I suppose no modern churches would sanction 11 year old sexuality.) My point is that there are truly excellent reasons for girls that young to avoid sex even if they are also in the habit of avoiding religion. Scripture may be the wellspring of all goodness in the minds of some people, but public policy needs to reach for a more universal form of good than any article of faith can provide.

    I’m no senior citizen, yet in my time no institution dared address human sexuality before high school. Even then it was a brief half-hearted study with as much misinformation as good information, and a significant fraction of my contemporaries opted out of it altogether (presumably under parental pressure.) Perhaps in some cases parents can deliberately extend childhood well into adolescence. Alas, both parents actually able to do this and those laboring under illusions about it have an undue influence on policies even today in most parts of the nation. The end result is an institutional effort to keep all young people shrouded in a form of darkness that is harmful to those who are not also aggressively disciplined and supervised by stern parental control.

    This clearly is far from the ideal, and I suppose it was hypocritical of me to focus on others’ lack of real solutions when I have none to offer myself. From the perspective of the school administration, this must have been an extremely difficult choice to make — go forward with the measure to generate a predictable national firestorm of hostility, or do not go forward with it and generate a small but equally predictable number of teen pregnancies among students. Early honest sex education that seeks to remove taboo appeal from erotic acts could work wonders, but there is both the widespread parental opposition to institutional candor in this area and the fact that a taboo mentality continues to prevail in non-academic environments. I believe the best way to deal with the problem of children acting on bad sexual information is to displace it with good sexual information.

    Yet even if human sexuality were systematically demystified in middle school, there will always be the simple matter of large numbers. In any group of 500, five will exhibit behavior of the worst percentile. Sexually active pre-teens are clearly not common, but they are clearly not pure fiction either. In the end, even in an outright theocratic society, many will break the rules, and some will break the rules in spectacular ways and/or at a shockingly early age. It is good that hysteria does not have us hurling stones at these poor misguided children, and it seems to me that the decision in Portland takes that line of thinking to its ultimate conclusion. As questionable as the health effects of early contraceptive use may be, the health effects of early pregnancy can only be more traumatic. A band-aid solution is not ideal, but but if pure idealism prevented a school dispensary from band-aids, I would consider that bad policy. As touchy a subject as this may be, I don’t see why the final analysis should follow a different course here.

  12. Thanks, again, Demonweed. I’m glad that you believe this is a more civilized discourse than most you’ve seen or heard. Both sides of this issue have their supporters who would rather froth at the mouth than produce solutions. (Not that I don’t feel a bit frothy, myself, at moments!)

    I appreciate your comments about the need for a “more universal form of good” than any article of faith can provide, though any form of good is going to involve an article of faith (let alone, the correct “form of good”). What public policy seeks is not necessarily any “form of good” at all, but what appears to be the least offensive utility. Some would say that “good” and “evil” have been excluded form the discussion, along with God and virtue, whereas others would say that good should be defined in terms of its utility and that, therefore, it has not been excluded at all. Regardless, that is often an argument of semantics (at least to a certain degree).

    I truly believe that what is good is, ultimately, identical with that which will produce the most utility in the big picture. Acting on what is the “good” in America has historically been a fantastic guide to finding that which has produced the best “utility.” It is only in this modern age in which society has “devolved” to the extent we now see around us that it has become this easy to universally imagine a false disconnect between utility and the good. We ignore traditional or “religious” notions of good, believing that a shorter and better path to utility will result, and then we redefine “good” to be the same as that (supposedly) shorter path.

    Portland — with good intentions, I assume, and after much soul searching, perhaps (though I won’t assume) — has decided to sacrifice the good because the wrong seems a quicker route to better utility. I believe they’re wrong. Though I also understand that within the ideology and set of values that likely acts as their faulty foundation, this may seem their only option. It doesn’t (necessarily) speak poorly of their intentions or of their reasoning — reasoning based, as it always is, on a given set of assumptions. But it does speak poorly of those assumptions. Either pass out free, daily birth control pills to 11-year-olds without their parents permission or knowledge, or continue to experience more and more pregnant 11-year-olds… That’s a false dilemma.

    I would like to know what other solutions that the school district considered. I would also like to know what problem the district believed they had the responsibility of addressing and what problems they felt they were required to ignore (or what problems they believed were not really problems).

    As for erotic acts, they have always had the “taboo appeal” you mention. Human nature is still human nature. Yet pregnancies among 11- to 13-year olds have not always been with us. Perhaps this is because in the past the “taboo appeal” was properly balanced with “social stigma” (and, I believe, still should be). While it is clear that the “social stigma” is no longer present like it used to be, I don’t think it logically follows that removing the “taboo appeal,” as well, is the solution.

    I believe, like you do, that replacing bad sexual information with good sexual information is a fantastic approach to this problem. Regrettably, there is broad, honest, and sincere disagreement about what constitutes “good sexual information” and what is the best means (or which is the best societal institution) for disseminating that information. (Unlike most, I agree that my local public school has the right to determine what it will teach in matters of sexuality — as long as they agree that I have the right to school my children myself. FYI: We do not homeschool our children in order to artificially extend their childhood, but I will happily concede one of our (many) goals is to make sure that our children have a childhood.) Too often, everyone on each side of the debate on what constitutes “good sexual information” is demonized by some on the other — one side is full of “unrealistic, superstitious prudes” while the other side is full of “liberals without a conscious who wish to make our children perverts.” I’m not saying that each side is completely devoid of such people, nor am I saying that the extremes of each position are to be ruled out as wrong merely because they are extreme. Sometimes the extreme position happens to be the right one.

    I don’t know how much more energy I have to put into the discussion (one day I will be less verbose, but I wouldn’t gamble on it happening soon!), but I hope you’ve appreciated the discussion, Demonweed, as much as I have. I have not mentioned God as much as I would normally mention Him in this discussion because I want to work from as much common ground as I can. However, I do believe that His way of doing things is the only way that will work when all things are considered — just as I think that anything that represents a deviation from His way may produce good results for a season, but that the inevitable bad results have only been postponed. I believe the policy chosen by Portland will ultimately demonstrate this principle to be true. Yet, I also believe that God invites us to reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18), and that one does not have to put your brain on the shelf when discussion matters impacted by faith (which is to say, all matters). Although reason is tragically dependent on the set of assumptions used (and there are always assumptions), the truth will always prevail — ultimately, if not quickly — and God is more than willing to be put to the test. “Test all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

    I hope that the policy chosen by Portland does, indeed, reduce the number of underage pregnancies. Regardless, I believe that they are ultimately making things worse instead of better, and it would be triple the tragedy if the “worse” were “worsened” by failing even at the one task on which they were focusing, however misdirected that focus was.

    Yikes — I have really written a lot (probably without saying much!). Thanks, again, Demonweed. I appreciate your willingness to spend your time commenting with sense and civility. 🙂

    Warm regards,
    Wallace Smith

  13. Sense and civility are crucial to progress in this area. Neither of us may know how to put a decisive end to the problem of premature sexual activity, but coming from very different perspectives to exchange ideas and consider one another’s views fairly is an encouraging sign. I appreciate that people hostile toward the influence of religion on society are no less a barrier to progress than people who speak and act out of hostility while claiming to be guided by religious beliefs. Society would do well to marginalize hate regardless of the targets and emphasize constructive dialog regardless of the participants.

    It may be of interest to note that the normal age of sexual awakening is subject to some variability. In ancient times when life was short, nutrition was tenuous, and chronic health problems were ubiquitous, some cultures promoted marriage soon after the onset of menstruation. In our own time, widespread environmental contamination with xenoestrogens (chemicals that produce similar effects to female hormones) are measurably hastening the physical development of girls.

    I believe when Jesus walked the Earth it would not have been at all unusual to see 12 year-olds trying to start a family, with full encouragement of their own parents and clergy. I don’t dispute that it is wise to delay (or at least minimize) sexual activity until faculties of mature judgement develop. Yet I do think this issue becomes much less shocking when taken in the biological context of increasingly early onset of puberty as well as a broad historical context revealing an age of majority in the late teens to be rare prior to modernity.

    I guess if I had any serious disagreement here it would be that I maintain the school board faced a real dichotomy between the choice they did make or dealing with additional teen pregnancies. In spite of their usefulness in preventing contagion, many sexually active young people simply refuse to use condoms, or cease using them in the context of an ongoing relationship. Extensive counseling and personal intervention, even if it would not be so costly as to impose serious cutbacks in other important areas of school operations, would likewise be rejected by some.

    By nature of the problem at issue, we are talking about girls with little respect for authority and a predisposition toward poor judgement, even by the standards of their age group. Many come from problem homes that are just on the brink of being worse than alternatives like foster care. More extensive parental involvement, the likes of which would be a good thing (and an expectation) in ordinary households, could be counterproductive in some of these cases. Faith or no faith, I agree that school officials should desire better outcomes than to offer birth control without parental involvement. Alas, they have to work with what is real even when it is a great departure from what is desirable.

    In any case, I also want to extend thanks for this discussion. I believe our host sets an example other vocal figures with a strong religious identity would do well to emulate. In the same vein, I hope I have been constructive in representing views held by people who look elsewhere for moral guidance. In countless areas, the most and least devout Americans have a common agenda. I’d like to think discussions like this help to set a tone more conducive to harmony and unity in the pursuit of a better future for all the peoples of the world.

  14. Farthel

    Mmmm, well. I have no idea how birth control pills can affect the development of a young girl. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, I don’t know. What I know is that a lot of kids are having sex. Do I have a problem with that, no, I was one of them.

    And here is what I think, kids that are having sex won’t tell their parents, specially if they are religious people who see sex as a sin, and a peril, and something wrong. Thay are afraid to tell them. But that won’t stop them, so in a way,yes it is a good messure to give out birth control methods without telling the parents. And trust me, most kids won’t hold back because of what the bible says, thay are a train fuled by hormones, and they will be for a long period of time. And they shoul discover their sexuallity without the judgment of a god or their parents.

    Now, is age eleven way too soon? Maybe, but 12, 13 is not. I know that for sure.

  15. Howdy, again, Demonweed & Farthel –

    My apologies for the delay in allowing your comments through moderation. With the Sabbath yesterday, I was a bit busy with church stuff and trying to show my family that I really do not live behind the laptop 100% of the time (it’s 87%, tops!).

    Demonweed: I agree that families began much younger in the past (I’ve heard 14 would be a more realistic lower bound than 12 in those days, but readily admit that I could be mistaken), yet it was with powerful parental involvement – to the point of parents picking spouses. That does not speak well to the idea of 11-year-olds making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives in such powerful ways without their parents’ involvement. (Plus, (1) that was in the context of first century society that prepared & educated the youth differently, and (2) just because it was done in Jesus’ day doesn’t mean it was a good idea (treating women like property, etc.). Jesus’ own choices to defy convention in some ways demonstrates this.) Plus, beginning a life of sex in a devoted, committed marriage that is intended to be lifelong and is surrounded by a culture that will support it is a world away from what we are talking about here.

    I still maintain that it is a false dichotomy. It seems to me that there are middle schools out there that are, somehow, not experiencing the severity of problems that Portland is seeing. Is it because they are drugging their kids, too? A more crucial question, has Portland even looked into why their situation is worse than others’ and why others are doing better? Perhaps they did, and their experience is representative of every middle school in the country. If so, I hope our handbasket has seat belts and air bags.

    Finally, I think basing such a sweeping, dramatic policy change as this – so negligent of parental rights and so careless with these girls’ futures – is all the more potentially unwise if it is based on exceptional behavior rather than systemic, which some have argued may be the case. It opens the door to an equally sweeping and dramatic display of the Law of Unintended Consequences, where the end is worse than the beginning. Some would say that the reason we are in such a position to begin with is successive applications of this Law to a string of bad policy responses to a degrading culture.

    Thanks, again, Demonweed, for the discussion, and for the tone you have taken in it (and for your kind comments). It looks as though we’ll have to agree to disagree on all of this, but at least we’ve been agreeable! 🙂

    Farthel: Welcome back, Farthel! I would have to say that the “they’re going to do it anyway” argument is a bit old and tired. It’s funny how it rarely gets applied so universally to other problems of adolescence like it is to premarital sex. It’s funny, too, how it wasn’t too long ago when everyone wasn’t doing it anyway. “Oh, yes they were!” No, they weren’t. We did not have these debates about passing out contraception to 11-year-olds because it wasn’t a necessary debate – not because the problem was being “ignored” but because it didn’t exist.

    As for 12 or 13 being “old enough” for sex, you can’t say “I know that for sure” – all you can say is that “I believe it’s true based on my own experience” or “I think it’s worked out great for me.” I hope you will forgive me (though I doubt you’ll be surprised) if I disagree with you. And though I know you will think it pretentious, I greatly doubt that you have a full understanding of the impact those experiences have had and will have on your life – as well as on the life of the family you now have or will have.

    Children should discover their sexuality under the care and guidance of loving parents, not apart from them as you suggest. (Note: I’m not saying that all can or get to, I’m saying that all should.) Proverbs 22:15 says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and in some areas (including sexuality, most definitely) the mistakes that would be made are not worth allowing the foolishness free reign.

    By the way, it is wrong to say that “religious people… see sex as a sin.” While, certainly, some do, most whom I know (and c’mon, be honest: most you know, too) see premarital sex as a sin. Big difference.

    There’s more we could all write, but the dead horse seems beaten enough. 🙂 Thanks, again – your input is much appreciated!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  16. OK, well, I do think you’re deluded, Farthel, but I won’t pretend I can cure you! I pray that when time does tell, that the conversation is as merciful as it can be.

    And no offense intended concerning your kind gesture, but I only accept kisses from the missus. OK, and from Mom. And from my kids. And I would likely take some of those foreign-style cheek kisses from a friendly European dude who didn’t know any better – but I suspect that’s the limit… 🙂

  17. verdeverdad

    I think the following from Wade is an extremely naive statement: “But seeing what children – CHILDREN – are doing now, makes me ever so glad that she is not interested in that sort of thing at all. ”

    She was very probably interested, but scared, nervous, self-conscious…not wanting to have her first dance while her parents watched… None of that means she wasn’t interested. In fact, as a 26-year-old female, I can tell you, you want a daughter who is confidant enough to say “yes” and “no” to dances and everything else that life offers, because it’s confidence that allows young people to make the choices that are best for them, and not just the easy or pleasurable thing to do.

  18. Wade

    Verdeverdad, I appreciate your comments as a woman who’s “been there”, so to speak. Obviously, you were a 10-year old girl at one time and know much more than I about how a young girl of that age (10) thinks, feels, etc. And yes, I and her mother do “want a daughter is confidant enough to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to dances and everything else that life offers”. But I don’t believe my daughter is self-concious, fearful, or nervous about boys. She has plenty of boy friends and pals that she plays with on a regular basis. And I say “play” because she doesn’t even know what a “boyfriend” is, and has no concept of what “dating” is. We haven’t encouraged or even brought up that sort of activity to her. She’s 10! When she starts to ask, then we’ll explain it to her. I and her mother can honestly say, our 10-year old daughter would be repulsed at the thought of a boy – or anyone else for that matter – propositioning her for sex. Yes, we have taught her to understand how babies are made, what sex is, and how it is to be enjoyed only in the marriage relationship. But I’m glad about how she has been raised, and thankful she still acts like a 10-year old should act, and not like an adult.

  19. verdeverdad

    I don’t mean to make your daughter sound any more nervous than your average 10-year-old. I think the first time a boy asks a girl to dance, especially if it’s unexpected is the kind of thing that would throw you for a loop and she (and every other 10-year-old girl) might be inclined just to say no, because it’s confusing and a little nerve racking (especially with the whole family watching). I remember being 10 and while I would also be scared by anyone offering sex, I had plenty of crushes on the neighborhood boys…and my parents might have been surprised to know that too.

  20. riddlej

    Welcome to New England, where our liberal politics give California ideas and then lets them take the credit. =)

    I live in Massachusetts, the land of the original civil unions for homosexual couples and not far from the city which became famous for instituting a homosexual fairy tale in first grade without parental notification/permission.

    So I can see where Maine is getting their ideas.

    Let it be said that even if children are maturing faster physically, they certainly are not emotionally. In fact, as it concerns feelings and moral standards, they are maturing slower than previous generations. And while giving birth control is perhaps one better step than encouraging abortions, it is still reprehensible.

    Moreover, the idea that a public school steps in to play parent in the matter is wrong. That is what happened here, and now parents have the “option” of either having their children in public school with the homosexual agenda, or taking them out. There is no middle ground because the state has decided that public schools can act in their own best interest concerning sex education. I am sure something similar happened in Maine and until parents decide to fight this type of agenda, we are going to have to suffer more of our rights taken away like this.

  21. I think the issue of middle school birth control is a very challenging one for educators given the roles expected of them in today’s society. As a former school superintendent, I had great concerns about the disdain shown for the school and the school board in this matter. I wrote about that aspect at:

    http://www.openeducation.net/2007/10/22/did-maine-middle-school-stray-outside-its-appropriate-role/

    It may be of interest to you or your readers. Thanks.

    Tom Hanson
    Editor
    OpenEducation.net

  22. Thank you, Mr. Hanson, and I appreciate your comment.

    I agree with you that the issue is a challenging one for educators and I do believe that too much is expected of them in today’s society. That too much is expected of them helps to explain why certain poor decisions are made, but the explanation doesn’t somehow improve the quality of the decision. Partially, this is because policy makers have tied their hands. This does not completely absolve them of blame, however, for in many cases the tying has been very willingly accepted—even encouraged—by the educators themselves. (And I have known too many in the educational arena, both in academia and on the “front lines,” to easily accept statements to the contrary.)

    I haven’t listened much to any “pundits” on this issue, though I’m sure many have been hot and some of their “disdain” may have been inappropriate – having not heard it, I wouldn’t know. But whether or not the level of vitriol reached inappropriate levels, it doesn’t change the fact that the decision of the board is deserving of criticism. Criticism with sympathy, perhaps, but criticism, nonetheless. To say (as you do in your article) that it is somehow wrong to express criticism of the board an odd statement. Is it OK for the two board members who voted against the measure to express their criticism or concerns? I can understand your saying that the criticism, itself, is wrong, but the expression of it is wrong? You risk accidentally validating one of the common accusations against public school officials: that they are all for freedom of expression, unless it is an expression of something negative about public education. (I doubt that this is what you mean, but I thought it good to point out.)

    I did read your article, Mr. Hanson, as well as King’s October 19 letter to parents to which it linked – thanks so much for the link. While I did not agree with your conclusions, I found your argument well put and very clear in its message.

    In a certain sense, I do not completely fault the board and those responsible for this tragic decision, because I recognize that they are working within a belief system that is self-defeating in so many ways. (For example, I recall during my time as a part of that system some ridiculous moments when some teachers passionately protested in small group discussions that we could not tell students that cheating is wrong because it was somehow a violation of church and state.) Such a system suffers under a self-imposed impotency that is ultimately doomed to failure, and the only variable left to be modified, however weakly, is the rate of decay.

    The problem is fundamental, and as King David rhetorically asks, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). The answer that need not be spoken: Not much. And when you are unable to take on the hard burden of examining at your foundations, the result is a shallow pool of options – a pool such as the one from which this solution was plucked. Some moments in the letter from King’s principal, Mr. McCarthy, reflect this sort of destroyed foundation thoroughly.

    A symptom is present in your own rhetorical question, given in your article: “According to health officials, five students at the school reported sexual activity a year ago. Does it not stand to reason that health officials at the school would want to protect those five individuals from a potential pregnancy?”

    Can I suggest a revision: “Does it not stand to reason that health officials at the school would want to inform their parents?” Not too long ago this would have been the question to follow your sentence. And it is a better question. It is the right question.

    Or, since the policy choice does not logically follow from your question, may I revise it in a way that reflects the reality in Portland: “Does it not stand to reason that health officials at the school would want to ensure those five girls are given birth control pills?” No, it does not stand to reason. And if it does stand to reason for some, then it is a sad reflection on what has happened to “reason” in a few short generations.

    “Protecting children is a mandated responsibility for educators,” you say. I agree. And I hope they – and the policy makers who mandate but do not empower – figure out soon the dangerous degree to which they are failing to do so.

    Thanks, again, for taking the time to write, Mr. Hanson. I do appreciate it.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  23. Howdy, riddlej —

    Just wanted to say that (1) your New England/California comments are hilarious, and (2) your point about the emotional/physical disparity should be heeded.

    A recent letter from the principal of the middle school in question says that, “Every effort is always made to encourage the student to join with her parents in making this decision [to accept our free birth control pills].” Aside from my personal disbelief that “[e]very effort is always made” (though in their reality they may sincerely think so), do we see the poor assumption at work here? The assumption is that whether or not to use birth control pills is completely the child’s decision. She is encouraged to join with her parents as she makes the decision, but in their eyes it is ultimately her decision to make. After all, as many bankrupt philosophies out there say, she has her sexual rights.

    I’m sorry, but she doesn’t have the right to drive a car, to vote, or to serve in the military. She doesn’t have the right to see movies rated R or NC-17. And yet, she has the right to decide whether or not to make this life altering decision? How is it that we say she is too immature for such decisions in so many other areas, but in this area she somehow has the magical ability to see and analyze potential consequences decades into the future?

    Scripture says that “[f]oolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). It isn’t an insult. It’s a fact of life.

    Decisions like this generally reflect (a) horribly faulty reasoning, or (b) technically “sound” reasoning based on horribly corrupt assumptions. Sadly, the latter seems to be the case, which is so much harder to correct. And in the world of public education, those corrupt assumptions are quite pervasively present.

    Thanks, again, for your comment!
    Wallace Smith

  24. Pingback: Sexually abusive teachers: Frighteningly numerous « Thoughts En Route

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