Teen Pregnancy: From the Government With Love

One of the funniest lines I've ever heard at the alternative school where I work came from one of our inner-city born and bred teachers. When asked if a female student in his class was pregnant he said 'No, but the guys are working on it.'

A humorous quip but poignantly true. Teen pregnancy at my low-income, inner-city school is not out of the ordinary. It's part of the infrastructure of our building and always a part of staff conversation.

In the American black community, nearly 70% of births are out of wedlock and I've witnessed many of them since I began work. I jokingly asked one student if she wanted me to sign her baby up for an Individualized Education Program starting in 2017. She told me, as many parents do, that her baby would never be in such an environ. If behavior has a genetic basis, which it does, then I will confidently state that probability frowns on her disclaimer as both parents are active students at my school which means'

The one thing that unites teenage mothers with teenage fathers is that neither one of them have any coherent plans for their future. The only thing they know for certain is that the government will take care of them. They know this to be true as the government took care of their mothers and their mother's mothers. Thus the cycle of alchamizing youth into parasite will continue unabated forever.

I know of one girl who had three children before she turned nineteen. She was intelligent and could easily have obtained a high school diploma but why bother waking up at 6 a.m. when you can be paid for producing a large brood of progeny instead? Yes, why bother indeed. She never did. I used to see her 10 days a year. Whenever I'd try to discontinue her enrollment she'd suddenly 'see the light' and mock the system by showing up for a few days. Then she'd disappear until the next drop notice arrived at her house. I do not know what has become of her as I have not seen her since she turned nineteen. This is the magical age at which juvenile SSI payments abruptly end. She was eligible for special education services in two areas and the state uses this certification as a means to rule them 'disabled'- not only inside of school but outside as well. The illogicality of such a work negating label is Kafkaesque. Anyway, one of the conditions of the SSI check is that they must remain in school. For many of them, the charade of their schooling ends with their 19th birthday when they are no longer eligible for what they call 'crazy checks.'

The government payouts destroy the character and prospects of our students. Whenever I want to create levity in a conversation with a child I tell them that I worked at Long John Silvers when I was in high school. They, with no parental income, and many times debilitated by reading equivalencies at the second or third grade level, think it is high comedy that I worked there and chuckle disdainfully. Their monthly check of nearly 400 dollars allows them to do so. Why work when the government sends you a piece of paper embroidered with lady liberty and a torch pointing in the direction of the latest FUBU Platinum, Ice Berg and Rocca Wear gear hanging off it?

I spent about 60 minutes one day last summer completing paperwork for one of our students to ensure his SSI entitlement (it is always necessary for the school to verify educational levels, attendance, and proof of enrollment). I wanted to share, but did not, with the clerks down in Springfield a line that the student had told me the previous spring after he quit a coveted job at a 'Cookie Factory' in the mall. When I asked him why he quit he said 'The b---- wanted me to mop the floor.' I told him 'that's what 16 year-olds do' but my rejoinder fell on deaf ears.

It's practically impossible for people like me to circumvent their SSI checks or pregnancy welfare payments. We cannot let our politics interfere with our jobs, so I diligently cross the t's and dot the j's and send the paper work through. However, I do know of a social worker who is as far on the left as one can be without an obligatory citation mentioning you in The Marx-Engels Reader, who now is so disgusted with the pregnancy rate at our school that she refuses to congratulate the students upon hearing their 'good' news. Her response to the information is calculated. She immediately assaults them with questions like 'How are you going to pay for the baby? How are you going to finish school? How are you going to work?' If they were articulate enough to say it, they'd answer all three of her inquiries with 'the government will provide.'

The government will provide money for the baby, money for the student so that they'll never need to work and, with that cash in their oversized pockets, they'll be no reason for them to complete school at all.

There it is. Societal psychopathology in three thrifty lines. If this were a criminal proceeding, based on circumstantial evidence, the government would be looking at a 20 year sentence in Marion for destroying someone's identity and the perspective needed to dream of better things in life.

One has to eventually ask about the masochism of a society that condones this kind of behavior. We are only exterminating our future by encouraging teenage single parenting. The biggest variable as to whether a child ends up in jail pr not is whether they are the product of a single parent home. It's not race or gender or socioeconomic status that is the biggest determinant of future incarceration. It's whether you had one parent or two.

'More dads, less crime' is an argument that Larry Elder has made convincingly and repeatedly. There's no question he's right. Yet our confiscatory government exacerbates the situation by giving young single parents a license to steal, which is exactly what their offspring will do when they in turn become teenagers. We pay taxes so that the offspring of teenage mothers can rob, rape and murder us 20 years down the line. This is anti-social security and we'd do better if we embossed their checks with that descriptor right now. Something has to be done.

Perhaps this is the time and place for suggestions. After all, I used to work with a social worker who always said 'Don't complain unless you've got a solution' and it's time for me to take his advice to heart.

My idea is to make single parenthood a unpalatable lifestyle for these children. I do admit that benefits and conditions for welfare recipiency vary from state to state but I'd like to put forth a central counter-plan. My first alteration is that the state will donate food and shelter to these young mothers but no money whatsoever. Currency will never be sent to these parents and the state might even want to be honest about its role in our lives by ironically naming the program 'from each according to their need.' Simply put these parents need survival but definitely not spending money.

As far as food is concerned the state will provide it. Although, the state's mechanism for doing so will be to issue a debit card to them so they can make use of it at grocery stores in exchange for supplies. Healthy allowances will be allocated with an increase in value depending on how many children live with them as dependents.

My last condition for support creates this article's sole ICBM moment. Under my plan, the state will make it a precondition for benefit acceptance that the mother must move into government sponsored housing. This will take the form of a girls only group home that they must live in while they accept public aid. This will be a windfall for the taxpayer as group homes could be easily and frugally purchased based on the savings from the mother's never endorsed treasury checks.

The deterrent effect of having to leave their friends and family to stay in a home randomly assigned to them by the government cannot be underestimated. Knowing the population that I work with, I can honestly say that there is no way they'll ever go for this. This is a form of operant conditioning that will eventually change inner cities for the better as young females will no longer associate pregnancy with money and freedom but instead with den mothers and stultifying bureaucracy. What better way to extinguish deleterious behavior which so damages all of society than to force teenage mothers to change the self-denigrating habits that resulted in their pregnancy in the first place? If the girls do not comply with the housing stipulation, then all measures of support will end and the glamour of teen pregnancy will at once become associated with what it really is: poverty. It reproduces poverty of economy, poverty of spirit, and poverty of the intellect. In the astute words of the United Negro College Fund, 'A mind is a terrible thing to waste.'

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Bernard Chapin is a writer from Chicago.