Good has some interesting insights as to why teen girls get pregnant a first and often, even more inexplicably, a second time. According to her, sometimes teen mothers consciously seek to have a child to develop an intimate relationship with the baby’s father. She describes how these decisions are “typical of the adolescent brain… (and the failure) to truly understand the consequences of your decisions.” She notes how often girls get more attention from others when they are pregnant. She hypothesizes that when they get knocked up a second time, it may in part be an effort to win back that attention, and in particular to maintain relationship with that baby’s father.
Good notes, “Anecdotally… we’ve seen greater demand by homeless girls who have more than one child.” She contends, however, that in her experience she has never seen a girl become pregnant while they are enrolled at AFG, because at AFG they are surrounded by support, family relationships and mentoring. Good emphasizes the need to “identify ways of moving to adulthood besides becoming a parent.” She also suggests girls-only schools may help in preventing teen pregnancy, “especially for girls who have experienced years of exploitation by men.”
I listened with rapt attention to Craig’s interview with Good, because in my opinion everything, everything, everything else stems from this — the literacy rates, education, employment, earnings potential and bettering of status. Households headed solely by a mother with low education are essentially doomed to poverty, and poverty causes or exacerbates almost all other problems of the inner city. I think dealing with this is really the lynchpin of stopping the cycle of poverty and addressing THE underlying dilemma facing Detroit and other pockets of concentrated poverty. This is also a consequence of a school system which, for whatever reason, is incapable of educating these youth and preparing them for the workforce let alone higher education.
Craig followed this by interviewing Mike Casserly of the Council of Great City Schools, who talks about the Council’s study of black male school achievement. As he noted, black male unemployment is twice the national average — in a majority black city like Detroit, this explains a lot. Casserly framed the study as yet another attempt to get policymaker’s attention, and to inspire the political will to acknowledge the scale of the crisis and to take substantive action to address it. Unfortunately, I’m unfortunately very cynical about the prospects of motivating the average voter, much less policymakers, to that end.
In response to a challenge from Craig, Casserly argued that it is the job of schools “to serve as a ticket out.” I agree holding the worst-performing teachers and schools accountable is necessary, and that we are failing to do this. But as long as we continue to name the schools as the primary locus of responsibility, we are going to fail. The primary locus of the responsibility is the parent. And I think AFG is doing the work to address this issue at the very root of the problem.