Today's guest blog is written by Patrick T. Kobler, an inner city high school social studies teacher from Texas who reads Finding Common Ground. Patrick is the founder of Solutions-for-Schools.com: an education reform website that seeks to bring all backgrounds and viewpoints to the table for thoughtful solutions and bold actions to end America's education crisis.
According to the CDC, 39.1 per 1,000 teenage females birthed a child in 2009. Two-thirds were unintended and 57% were born to African-American and Hispanic parents, even though these groups represent only 35% of the total population of those ages 15 to 191.
Moreover, infants born to teen parents are more likely to drop out of high school or be incarcerated, costing taxpayers $9 billion dollars a year1. Not to mention the social and emotional downfalls these circumstances create, the cycle never ending.
Pages of shocking statistics concerning teen pregnancy could be provided, but to truly understand its personal and societal impact, to truly make people care, we need to consider the young individuals involved.
I know this student; he is the one a teacher tells his friends and family about. The kid we wished we were in high school: likable, brilliant, permanently smiling. He loved to laugh and always kept class entertaining; making topics such as The Crusades somewhat enjoyable.
That was the kid I used to know; the child that existed before he got a girl pregnant and thought his life was over. He already faced the circumstantial barrier of being socioeconomically disadvantaged. A factor of fate that made his current situation more likely than his peers and now minimizes available support structures to assist him and the future teen mother1.
Most unfortunate is that this student had the potential to transform his life's path from one of poverty to one of hope and prosperity. The American Dream was within grasp. His future options used to be between universities. He is now choosing between a superstore and a fast-food joint, as his only concern is supporting his child, "being a father better than the one I never knew."
It is clear that teen pregnancy is nothing like its depiction on Glee. An inner city student doesn't get to put her cheerleader uniform back on after having a baby and a low-income male doesn't get to sing - he is forced to work any job he can find.
It can be argued that this student made a "mistake." But can one really make a mistake if he or she is not educated on an action's consequences? Is something "wrong," if it is the rule, not the exception in one's community?
Regardless the answers to these questions, we must find ways to better prevent teen pregnancy and better support those children who bear it. Within debates of right and wrong, we cannot lose the humanity affected by our actions and in-actions. Beyond discussions of morality, socioeconomically disadvantaged teen parents -the odds already stacked against them - will not be able to effectively learn or live up to their potential if they do not have proper support.
I leave you with this question: What can we do to help these students, to ensure they, too, can have an excellent education that will allow them a rightful opportunity for the American Dream?
You can follow this story and other inner city student's stories at Solutions-for-schools