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Gerry Garibaldi
“Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister” « Back to Story

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Thanks for taking the time and write this article. It's really an eye opener and it was extremely helpful for my research paper about Teen Pregnancy.
noooooopopooooooooooooooooooooooo nooooooooooooooooooooooo
Sorry about my previous comment, my friend messed with my citation while I wasn't looking to irritate me. I am sorry and I really found this article to be very helpful.
“None of this is lost on my students. In today’s urban high school, there is no shame or social ostracism when girls become pregnant. Other girls in school want to pat their stomachs. Their friends throw baby showers at which meager little gifts are given. After delivery, the girls return to school with baby pictures on their cell phones or slipped into their binders, which they eagerly share with me. Often they sit together in my classes, sharing insights into parenting, discussing the taste of Pedialite or the exhaustion that goes with the job. On my way home at night, I often see my students in the projects that surround our school, pushing their strollers or hanging out on their stoops instead of doing their homework.” (Garibaldi, 2011, Pg. 1).

---You spelled showers wrong... fix it please t kinda bugs my OCD and i cant use this as a reference for my english paper if it isn't scholarly correct...
It should come as no surprise that low-IQ reproductive strategies appear in low-IQ populations.

Forming stable and productive families requires forward-time orientation, the capacity for abstract thought, a theory of mind that can recognize and adapt to the presence of different others, a well developed capacity for self-discipline, the habit of hard work, and much more.

By contrast, these girls are playing dolly with other their mothers and grandmothers have done for countless generations. They do what feels good in the current moment--from having sex to having babies to having more important things to do than care for the latter, like get their hair and nails done. When challenged, they supply whatever justifications they have learned. The child exists only as a tabula rasa to be engraved with meaning by others.

This has happened in a perfect storm of social ignorance. The left has been eager to keep girls enslaved to this baby-mill way of life. Since the 1960s they've championed the New Victorianism that says that you can't expect more of young poor women than that they breed more of themselves, which makes them Mother Goddesses and the babies Magickal Children...with a huge cathedral of social services erected in the name of that worship.

Meanwhile, anti-family-planning forces on the right have contributed mightily to those justifications in the past 40 years by telling these girls that every one of their casually conceived offspring is sacred and that abortion is the worst thing in the world. (Worse than, say, perpetuating this cycle of enslavement to poverty and stupidity.)

Both sets of belief practice idolatry where the child is concerned.

As for teens who get pregnant, they consort with such a low-IQ, high-drama type of male. They probably aren't wrong when they conclude that this is the best they can do: their mothers, and their mothers before them, discarded them while still in the womb, though not in an incisive way (like aborting them). Somehow being born into hell is better proof of responsible motherhood than choosing when it is best for a child to be born.

And how it frosts me to see this be the unspoken truth in so many of these discussions: the tacit agreement that black women are fit for nothing other than being brood mares to the welfare state plantation, for the benefit of its social-services-state overlords, who think that the bad outcomes of their programs can be erased by their assertion of good intentions.

As for what to do about all this, I droop when I hear liberals and conservatives alike who believe that if you just sit down and explain things to impulse-centric, low-IQ, Nth generation Takers, they will understand and act accordingly.

Intelligence is largely inherited. The idea that more intelligent/less disheveled people could provide "the poor" an environment that would make the most of their meager gifts (public schooling and the all-encompassing welfare state) is one whose day is over. Even Gerry Garibaldi--who apparently continues to draw a paycheck and build a pension doing work he admits is hopeless--finds it personally profitable to perpetuate the system.
OH, this is so heart wrenching! So sad, and yet, so true.......
There can't be a sound, effective family unit without individuals who have some measure of character development which is best fostered in a sound, effective family unit. The government will never be able to rescue or replace the family, no matter how much money is spent. The government needs to stop doing the things that undermine the family or enable the family to disintegrate. And those institutions that support strong families (primarily the Church) should be encouraged and supported.

Too bad our nation abandoned the values that used to give us strong families. Now we get to harvest the results. Unfortunately, a whole lot of people are going to get hurt by the well intentioned people who decided that it was necessary to get rid of "repressive" ethics based on the Bible.
I believe Gerry Garibaldi is a "wanna be" that was run out of Hollywood. His views are racist, insensitive and ignorant. He writes with anger and no answers to solutions. I would not want him anywhere near my Dean's List granddaughter, who attends a renown Ivy League university.
I really enjoyed this article--very informative and well written. I am going into elementary education and am currently studying the effects of being a young single mother on a child's development. This was a great lead-in to the types of mothers (and children) I will be working with in my classroom very soon. Thank you for sharing your work!
Well told. Very interesting, and sad story about a cycle that seems unlikely to break. A good part two might be about the fathers who leave their responsibility behind. I ran across an interesting ad campaign a while ago, when we had our first child, to encourage fatherly involvement. "It takes a man to be a dad."
I think the focus here needs to be more on safe sex practices and sex education instead of single parent households. It is the fact that these girls are teenagers that should be the concern, NOT that they are single.

Plenty of women choose to be single mothers and are happy and successful, as are their children. What would have been accomplished had Nicole married David, another teenager with no job and his own behavioral issues? Would that really have made their lives or the life of their child any easier? I sincerely doubt it.

I was also offended by the assumptions that Mr. Garibaldi made of his students, boiling down every behavioral problem his students exhibited to their being a "victim" of a single parent household. There is absolutely no way he can be fully aware of all that these kids may be facing, nor of their family situations. There are literally hundreds of reasons why teenagers act out, and it is not only simplistic but also very chauvenistic to assume everything is due to a child not having a father figure.

While I agree that the girls' pregnancies should not be glorified, they ARE pregnant or already have children and unfortunately there is little to be done about that. Singling them out and humiliating them with that assignment is hardly going to resolve any problems, nor is it going to make other young girls likely to confide in Mr. Garibaldi or anyone like him. As someone in a position of authority, Mr. Garibaldi abused his power by threatening failure to anyone that did not want to write about HIS idea. It is perfectly fine to disagree with the choices these girls are making, and even letting them know so, however it is absolutely NOT okay to cower them and make them feel more stress and shame than they probably already do.

There is much disrespect in this article. The students entrusted to Mr. Garibaldi deserve much more courtesy and kindness than he has apparently accorded them.
I just read Gerry's article from 2006 on the feminized classroom, and wanted to read more. I, too, am a second career teacher after 20 years in marketing and advertising. My "hot button" is gender, and the need to educate teachers and administrators and care-givers of the innate learning differences between boys and girls. Gaining understanding and giving teachers the tools to address learning differences will help improve the daily experience, and results, for both boys and girls.
While I do not totally disagree with this article, I do find some of the Gerry's thoughts troublesome. The reality is the choice to not get married is just not an urban phenomena. Marriage as a whole has declined. Women today unlike many of their mothers or grandmothers are taught to be independent and not dependent on someone else for their well-being.

As a thirty year old married mother of two, I was taught by both my (married) parents to get my education and a great job before considering settling down with someone. With this formula in place, if I was to get married and it break apart like so many marriages today, at least I would be able to provide for myself and children.

I do believe that families are getting younger(mothers, fathers and grandparents) therefore the safety net of resources needed to rear a child are often not in place. I see this everyday as a Social Worker in an Early Head Start Program. Over the last decade the preventative measures to keep children young and educated has been eliminated. Whether you believe in sex education or not, not talking about how to keep yourself protected and safe and has provided for uneducated children now becoming the parents of children who are now at risk of not completing their education.

In most areas of the country, children (that's what they are)have been provided with an education that is worse then that of some developing countries. Education today is a system of mass production that does not truly seek to teach but rather focuses on the memorization needed to pass standardize test to maintain funding.

The other problem with the education system no matter how great the teacher maybe is the involvement of parents. In the day in which people are dependent upon low wage jobs and the time constraints they provide, the protective factors that involve parents create is almost impossible to maintain.
Thank you for such a well written and insightful view into your world. I stumbled upon this article and you kept me reading. I hope someone listens because this state of affairs is tragic. At the very least, your students are lucky to have you as a teacher and advocate.
This is the unintended consequence of 50 years of social engineering which has resulted in the relentless attack on all we knew with the sole aim of destroying our culture. If you've an interest in knowing more, I suggest you buy and read David Mamet's new book, The Secret Knowledge. He notes that liberalism is an expensive habit...but incalculable is the price of the lost lives, generation after generation.
The Manhattan institute is supposed to advocate individual choice and responsibility, marriage is not for everybody, and less money is at issue but
marriage is a "government contract", the alternatives to marriage project notes, for instance why should the government define marriage or a civil union, why not make it a contract which respects individual freedom and responsibility, already we have pre-nuptial agreements , attempts by the government to have a convent marriage by which divorce can only be granted via government law is a nanny state, for instance if your partner is an alcoholic or simply changes his religion, the government will encourage bureaucracy and just delay the inevitable.

It is true that parental involvement , and not endlessly throwing money is key to education, its overlooked by conservatives and liberals alike, one can blame the teacher which is true due to liberal tenure laws in which math students never pass someone's class, or too high of a mandate which involves things that don't really matter.
Wow. Heartbreaking indeed. I was glad to read your perspective from the "front lines". Honestly, and ironically considering the subject matter, I just thoroughly enjoyed reading a piece of journalism so well written. More importantly, thank you for your efforts in helping these children. I pray that God be with you.
I think that my account states if you work hard and not walk around with a sense of entitlement then you can achieve something. I did nothing different then what many other people have done. I hit a snag in the road picked myself up and worked hard to better myself. I did not sit around waiting for someone to provide me with a check or assistance. I learned from my mistakes and altered my behavior. That is what I am saying these kids are lacking they have no sense of working to better themselves. They expect people to give them medical care, give them daycare, give them clothing, give them food and lastly either give them a job or give them a check equivalent to what they would make if they had a job. If those services were taken away or came with stronger stipulations then I feel there would be a different spin on the way things would go in our society. People need negative consequences for negative actions and if they do not receive them then they will not change. Behavior is learned and society has taught our children that it is ok to get pregnant at 15 because they will be taken care of and not have to work for anything.
Paine Larssen, you have a valid point about the futility of "plopping down" social programs on dysfunctional people. Similarly, if you have in place a set of laws—a Constitution—whose framers conceded at the outset could not be universally applied, and that was designed for a generally law-abiding populace with broadly similar values, you cannot expect that Constitution to succeed with a vast underclass that exalts promiscuity, ignorance, and violence.

Your comments about Catholics are another matter. I'm Catholic, and I have never heard anybody talk about any "holy duty" to have babies, or any status gained by impregnating women, or any idea that God and the welfare state are somehow intertwined. The Catholics you know must be quite different.
Beth, your tale of individual exceptionalism offers little by way of a social solution. It does, however, provide a certain sort of observer to ignore the realities of her own plight with the fantasy that she is you.

David Strand, you forget one thing: Sweden and Denmark are full of Swedes and Danes. That is to say, their social programs exist in a society that values personal integrity, the work ethic, personal responsibility, respect for authority, and respect for oneself.

You cannot plop down their social programs in a cultural context where sex, drugs, money, TV, cars, and fun are valued more than anything else, and expect the same results.

A lot of the teens I've encountered who are breeding come from homes that call themselves Christian (and, increasingly, Muslim). It is in their religious DNA for women to get status through breeding, and men through getting women pregnant. Among my students, the kids from Catholic families consider it their holy duty to have babies, and "god will take care of the rest." "God," of course, means the social services state.
I feel I must comment on this article. While I agree with this article in that it is the view of the majority of teen parents it is not all of them. I know this because I was a teen mother and this was before they had all the supports that they have today.

Growing up I was a very difficult child I was argumentative and did poorly in school. My mother took me to see many specialists saying my behavior was awful and I never worked. She could not figure out how come my brother and sister were great children and students. They all came back saying I was ADHD and the cure was to give me medication. I hated to do any academics and never opened a book. I skated by because I was able to retain enough information to past the test, probably because that did not involve reading. It was not until I was an adult I found out that I had a reading disability and so it was not that I did not want to do the work or was being defiant it was that I could not comprehend what I read. So I have struggled with this my whole life always being told I was not good enough or what was wrong with me. I am not saying this is the reason I became pregnant but I know that sometimes we find love wherever it is given no matter the consequence.

When I found out I was pregnant I told the father and he said well I will see it when I see it, so much for love. He saw my daughter 3 times and that was all before she was 18 months. I waited until I was 5 months along to ensure my parents would not force me to have an abortion. Once I told them I had to tell the school and then I was sent to an alternative school to finish up my degree. I worked hard to finish up my schooling, because I knew that without an education there was no way I would ever be successful in life. I had my daughter and was successful in completing my high school degree.

After that I moved out because I was not able to live at home any longer. I worked and had odd people watch my daughter, not because I wanted that but because that was all I could afford. I worked hard for my daughter and in the process I met someone who loved my daughter and me unconditionally. He had a wonderful mother who offered to watch my daughter for me free of charge.

With child care arranged and a steady job I thought I was set. I worked long hours and had very little time off. I felt that I was missing out on so many things with my daughter and wanted a change but did not know what it was. It was about this time that my boyfriend and I moved in together to offer a more stable environment for my daughter. After a few more years of this I decided my change was to work in a school.

Without a college education my options were to be a teacher’s assistant or a secretary. I received a job as a teacher’s assistant in a behavior classroom. I learned how to work with the students and found it came very natural to me, maybe because of the struggles I had as a teen. I worked there and decided I was ready to get a degree so that I could do the job I was doing but change it to a career.

I worked very hard and earned my degree in 4 and half years. I would sometimes take 18 hours a semester just so that I could finish as soon as possible. The reason for wanting to finish so quickly was because I could not marry my boyfriend until I had my degree. Most states will offer several grants and funding if you are a single parent but not if you are married and I would not be able to afford college otherwise. I also knew that once I had my degree I would be able to better our entire life by having a career instead of a job.

I completed my degree in December 2007, got married in March 2008, started my career teaching behavior children in August 2008 and had my son, my second child, in July in 2009. I have since gone on to start my Master’s with an estimated graduation date of January 2012.

I am not going to say I am the most successful person ever, but I am going to say that being a teen mother is not a death sentence. It is possible to earn a degree and make something out of yourself. I endured all the looks of people judging me when I walked through the mall, as big as house unable to see my feet, and I endured being abandoned by my daughter’s biological. I came out a better, stronger and more productive individual then when I started because of it. I did this all because I knew that I wanted something better for my daughter and I knew I would have to work in order to accomplish this. Many may be thinking well she had government assistance and the only assistance I received was my education. I worked for everything else my daughter or I needed. I had the support of my now wonderful husband, whom I know I would have struggled more without him. I am successful, because my daughter is a happy, healthy 14 year old girl who is in the Gifted and Talented program at school and makes close to straight A’s, my son is happy, we own our own house in a good area and I have a career that fulfills my life.

I do not think that being a teen mom makes you a bad parent, it definitely makes it harder, but I have found whether you are 16 or 36 a good parent is what comes from the inside. You have to have the drive to better your life and that of your child’s life in order for any success to take place. I think many of our students are too complacent with having a child, because for too long they have been bailed out of everything. We are raising our children to have a sense of entitlement and it is because of this that they do not truly feel the burn of their consequences. I know that with the way our society glorifies sexuality but does little to teach the consequences of expressing that sexuality it is a dying battle to try and change the teen pregnancy rate. However, I think if society holds not only teen parents but all children more responsible for their actions instead of bailing them out then we will in turn start producing more hard working successful individuals. For too long we are turning a blind eye to the causes and only dealing with the outcome. This is backwards we must raise our children to be accountable in not only the home, and at school but even the community. I feel that until we do this we will continue to raise a generation with a sense of entitlement who are unproductive and unconcerned of the choices they make thus continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy and all the other myriad of wrong choices that plague our children.

I would applaud girls who gave their babies for adoption into a proper two parent structure, doing what is best for them and the child.

I WILL NOT applaud those who keep them and perpetuate the cycle into yet another generation.
I am a former urban high school teacher, and the author's experiences mirror my own. I would add one aspect to the story, however - the horrific influence of gangsta and hip-hop "culture" upon inner-city youth. The urban area in which I taught was a de facto war zone, with everything from murder to drug dealing to teen pregnancy and promiscuity and pretty much any other social pathology one can name. Even the best teacher can do little against such a tidal wave of destruction. The break point occurred when the government, under LBJ, decided to subsidize the urban poor, in effect telling would-be single mothers that from then on, the state would be the father to their children. The "Great Society" programs destroyed the black family, and laid waste to entire inner city communities.
THANK YOU! I retired from teaching high school three years ago. I taught in a Houston suburb school district. Your article states the EXACT cause of the problem. I've heard girls state that they want to have a baby so that they can start getting "their check" (welfare and all that comes with it). The most frustrating thing for me is that much of the fault of this problem is put on the school system and teachers. MANY parents expect the school system to be responsible for everything pertaining to their children. The parents and students are taught and REWARDED TO BE IRRESPONSIBLE!
Teens that believe no ones getting married anymore
Bob Barram, Ph. D. March 22, 2011 at 6:42 PM
Utterly true and utterly tragic. This is a product of an Am. culture which is product oriented. Our kids are pushed to fit into the Am. "machine". We want their brains to be at the top in the world and we allow trash or nothing to be put into their hearts. Of course they are falling into a culture of rebellion and lostness. Thank you Gerry, you care and you state it very well.
Kevin Dunn.... I don't know who is worse in society-- you or the community Garibaldi was trying to teach something. What have you done to help out this planet? Go down to your bunker and pray for your Armageddon.
Preach it brother!
I too teach in an urban school. I am a Family and Consumer Science teacher and in my basic course and the Parenting course, I try so hard to reach these children. I often wonder if what I am doing is making any difference at all.
I also wonder when our society will realize that they too need to take some responsibility for our rising poverty - both literally and figuratively?
amen! they are destroying themeselves in the name of fertility/ what a bloody waste/ felix bethel.
So sad but true. And it doesn't even have to be an urban school. My will graduate from high-chool in June. He can barely read and has no motivation to complete his assignments. I have tried to encourage him numerous times but teachers continue to allow him to pass with "D"s so that he doesn't have to come to grips with the consequences of not doing his work. So much in today's culture is about how I feel about it. What's in it for me. Very little is talked about relative to personnal responsibility and doing the important things first, playing if there is time later.
But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days.

People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them.

For some of these slip into homes and make captives of women weighed down by sins, led by various desires, always trying to learn but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 3
Dear Gerry, I saw a snippet of your article in the News Weekly( Australian Magazine) and looked for the full piece. How can we criticize girls having babies when they have been spoon-fed a diet of sex from the time they were young? I disagree with you, in that the girls that decide to keep their babies when abortion is so available and so promoted should be supported. Instead our society dumps so many of its problems on these young women when they have actually chosen the road less travelled. There are many girls walking down the aisle in their white dresses who have had an abortion and I know this for a fact. The girls who have kept their babies and never get to walk down that aisle are the girls we should support and applaud , if we were truly Christians. And therein lies the problem.
We are a society of enablers, with no regard to consequences. You are breaking the mold, but until attitudes change, the outcome will not.
While the welfare may appear to be humane it would be better to cut it off. The Great Society has destroyed large swaths of the black community. It's a shae.
Great article. Keep trying someone might hear you.
I taught ten years in Cincinnati Public Schools. I had the same type of experiences.
This is a beautiful story. The author, Gerry Garibaldi, really cares. if only there were some way to get through to these young girls. Isn't it sad that the future is so dismal for young unmarried mothers and their 'fatherless' children.
With the whittling away of each spiritual anchor to our nation such as freedom of religious expression in schools; the National Day of Prayer and religious expression at public gatherings; and other acknowledgements of our Maker the nation grows spiritually feeble in unmistakable ways. Misguided secular zeal or even perhaps evil purpose are driving the few who are so intent on erasing every trace of our spiritual heritage that they have lost good sense. We must not let them win.
As a retired high school math teacher in New York, what Garibaldi says is right on the mark. God help this country.
Dear Mr. Garibaldi, It is not as hopeless as your article suggests. If we would simply follow the better examples of nearly all other industrial societies, our teen girls would have a tiny fraction of pregnancies, abortions and births that now prevail. What do they do? They mandate that comprehensive, universally administered reproductive biology be taught. Plus, they also offer (not mandated) universal taxpayer funded, high quality early childhood education that is so good that in places like Sweden and Denmark 85% of 3 year-olds attend. We need to stop setting the worst example, and start imitating the best. Children having babies is a tragedy that can be avoided if we simply apply real social science.
Gerry Garibaldi has written an excellent article that presents the truth of our urban schools, and increasingly our suburban schools. Something must change!

We must back up from the battle we are in the middle of every school day. We must realize the perspective of our students. Too often they have little idea of their family story. They know too little of the culture their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came from. They have little idea of how to carry the values that were most central in their history forward. Those values are too often simply not wanted any longer. Our students struggle to fill in the resulting vacuum and we have the result so well presented by Mr. Garibaldi, a fragile but strongly verbalized dedication to the parent/child bond. It is all that is left of forgotten history with too little planning for the future.

These are the reasons the School Archive Project was started in 2005, and why thousands of Dallas ISD students, and increasingly their parents, are now recording family history and dreams for the future into letters that are stored in 10-year time-capsule vaults bolted to the floor in 7 DISD school lobbies. See for the 2010 Annual Report on the School Archive Project. This project is done by volunteers with less than $1 per child in tax monies used.

In 2004/2005 our middle school had 12 pregnancies. That number has been cut in half since then. An active focus on your own story and plans for the future can change behavior. Where will you be in 10 years? How would you answer the question in 10 years from decade younger students in middle school: "What would you do differently if you were 13 again?" Planning for that question seems to be making a very real difference.
Welcome to the post-Moynihan society, aided and abetted by single mother by choice feminism.

The poor minority girls and boys in your story are no different from anyone else in this country.

They just got to their present state more quickly than the rest of society has.

But no worries - we're catching up.
Amazing insight. So sad.
Michelle - nothing new here and you may have already seen this. I read a condensed version in the Feb 25 edition of The Week and located this slightly longer original piece. We all know about stats for teen moms. And I don't think urban schools are that much different from our schools when it comes to teen pregnancy (or are they?)I am not opposed to assistance for these teen moms - but I was greatly concerned about the mind set of the teens. Not good. Please share with April if she hasn't seen it and THANKS to you and all at our Lufkin Clinic for EVERYTHING you do. Please keep us posted on anything we can do - and we'll see you this Tuesday! Lorri
The never-ending story ...

"Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy."

I like all this talk about "urban." Maybe it is the tall buildings that are causing the problem. Also enjoyed another post saying that "urban" is an evil code for minority, and then went on to point out that there are many dysfunctional rural areas, as if minorities, particularly in the South, are absent from rural areas.

There is a lot of truth in this well written article. However, sometimes one truth can hide a bigger, deeper, truly intractable one, a much more painful one.

But at least such lesser truths, no matter how painful, help us sleep better at night, dreaming of that one more big reform. By gum--this time we will get it right!
- - - -
Border Enforcement + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.
It seems to me you are at least as guilty as anyone in this. You go along with it - paid for pretending to teach these hopeless cases journalism, stringing them along with false hopes - do you honestly think they will grow up to get Pulitzer Prizes - or to be employable in the industry at all? You should be ashamed of yourself- you are simply part of a vast, tax-payer supported fraud.
I know that this question is a taboo in your country, but I am curious to know, whether those pregnant teens and unwed mothers are mostly black or white.

It is as clear as day that the welfare state that continues to sponsor such irresponsible behavior, will soon go bankrupt. It deserves to go bankrupt, since it cannot see its fundamental errors.

Faravell America, the one I used to love.

I am thankful to the author of this article for sharing his first-hand observations.

(A freedom-loving Russian)
To me the root of the teen preganancy issue lies with the breakdown of social structure. If a young man living in a poor community - black or white or hispanic - cannot get a decent job where there is a reasonable chance of earning enough money to support a wife and child then really what possible motiviation is there for young people to marry and attempt to stay together and learn parenting skills for the sake of the child. If the state is going to take care of the child from cradle to graduation how do young men see a role for themselves? They don't. The kinds of jobs that used to allow the poorer classes to start a family and earn enough to support their children and maybe buy a home one day are gone. Now it's retail or other service low wage jobs that simply do not pay enough for anything but trinkets and maybe a used car. So if I were a young man, I could not see a reason to even try to start a life as a father. Why bother?
Great article. Too bad the real issues raised here seem to be swept under the rug all too often by society at large and by the media.
Gerry, Thanks so much for the honest and revealing article. Sobering is the word that comes to mind. I read this article first in The Week magazine. I want this information to spread to every parent, teacher, and legislator. What we have done as a nation in our endeavor to be kind and supportive of this situation is to cover for the mistakes young people make, and provide as you have said a hammock, not a safety net. We are enabling this condition. I wish a guy like you could get a hold of teenage boys and talk some sense to them. I can only hope. I will read more of your work. Best Wishes, Doyle
"During the last presidential election, much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent. Movie stars and pop singers flaunt their daddy-less babies like fishing trophies."

And Ann Dunham was not just any single mother, but an interracial-loving, continent-hopping, exhibitionist, trashy harlot. Did you check out her nude photos?

If I had a mother like that, I wouldn't have run for president. Unless of course, mothers of that country are significantly worse, making my mother look like a saint in comparison.
I think it is counter-productive to give housing subsidies or cash benefits to high school parents. If they come from a stable home environment, I would make these conditionally available to the grandparent(s). In addition, I would also allow them the option to move into a chaperoned group home for single mothers, making them responsible for their private living area and some responsibility for common areas.
Heartbreakingly honest and begs for solutions. Though there are no easy answers, something clearly needs to change. And this poignant essay throws that right out on the table for us all to have a look at.
I taught K-2, in urban schools in Kansas City.
Three of the five years were in Title 1
classrooms. Unfortunatly, I agree with the
author of this article.
This example is just one reason my husband
& I decided to homeschool our children.
This is one of the best articles I've ever read! They need to read this in Wisconsin. Every government official--especially conservatives--need to see this!
thank you. now tell us white, married, with children living with us people to do.
This brilliantly honest, deeply disturbing article should be widely read. I live in Japan, where out-of-wedlock childbirth is still frowned on, except perhaps for rich, narcissistic film stars out to prove how "Hollywood" they are. Well-intentioned (along with ill-intentioned) American liberals (or libertines) subverted their own cultural heritage to create the vicious circle described here. Planned Parenthood, racist and geneticist in origin and practice, will say that what is needed is more condoms for kids and more abortion "clinics"... And your president will agree, even as he promises to throw more money at schools with ever growing numbers of pregnant, illiterate teenagers.
Barbara Coverley (see below) is right; the crisis in marriage and the explosion of bastardy is a national tragedy and a national crisis. It is a calamity which has spread slowly from the Black and urban community of 40 years ago (when there was a 25% illegitimacy rate) to today when the White rate equals the Black rate of 40 years ago and the Black rate is approaching 80%. The effect on culture and education is devastating. So catastrophic is the change that the only way it can be turned back is by a complete societal collapse and or revolution. Perhaps to , for example, fundamentalist Islam both here and in Britain and in Europe. That will entail of course the End of Western Civilization as we know it. There no question bourgeois secular marriage as we have known is dying among large sections of our populations. Some people are remaining childless and others have children and remain fatherless.
I have noticed for example that young boys with fathers are much more likely to be involved in a number of sports like baseball and football in addition to basketball. Those without father or grandfathers or uncles are much less likely to like football or baseball games that need nuturing and are especially in the case of baseball an acquired taste. But more importantly children in single parent households where there NEVER has been a father or a father's family present are at risk educationally. Mind you I have seen families of widows in which the father was dead and gone but still very much a spiritual presence in the house. And perhaps as importantly his brothers took and active interest in their nieces and nephews taking an active part in their education, inviting them on familiy vacations and helping pay for school. The whole reason for marriage was to protect the mother and also the children. Family was not just the father it was the godparents and both sides of the family. But Statism has changed all that. Big Brother provides all so the father is superflous. I also teach at a Title I school and know students exactly like Mr. Garibaldi's. Except I see glimmers of hope in places like the Hispanic Bible Club. In that club there are no out of wedlock pregnancies and every single member is graduating. More amazingly several senior girls are engaged to be married but are holding off marriage until they graduate from college. It all comes down to values and a philosophy of life. The liberal, materialist, secular philosophy is bankrupt. Even today traditional marriage is under attack from all quarters. And by ignoring the wisdom of our forefathers we are comitting suicide as a culture, as a society, as a nation and as a civilization. As we clear fathers from the homes and as we clear tradtional families from our neighborhood we are entering a Brave New World in which the proles can do nothing but hate and hope eventually to destroy the society which has left them useless, despised bastards without names and without patrimony.
Great article! I couldn't stop reading, it was heart wrenching, compassionate, honest, and unapologetic.

Thank you for your honesty.
Thank you for having the courage to say what so many of us are thinking.
Bravo! This is one of the most thoughtful and articulate articles on this topic I've read. Be prepared to be ridiculed, lambasted and called a bigot and racist for just being the messenger. I have posted this to my Facebook page.
I just read your article in The Week. Thank you for sharing your insights as a teacher, and thank you for what you are doing!
Columbus, OH
This is hearbreaking. In my generation,getting pregnant was shameful and you just disappeared for months. There are no role models to look up to. Movie stars flaunt their unwed status with no shame. Movies show disrespect towards teachers and parents.Years ago I belong to a Club,"Childrens Home and aid Society", and we raised money for unwed mothers. But those girls showed remorse, and must placed their babies for adoption realizing it was best for their child to have a better life, and for the mother to plan her future. I don't know what the answer is, I am appalled at todays lack of morals,fear, and respect,and no manners. Birth control methods is available at schools and clinics, but I believe those girls, must of them, want to get pregnant. And of course the government, the tax payer, pays for their support.They count on that. One baby for the government to support, o,k is a mistake, but after that it should be their responsibility. I worked for the government, and one of the department supervisor had two unwed daughters each had three babies and were bringing in a good monthly check. What can I say, discipline also has to start at home, but there are so many absentee parents.
An honest, unabashed look at how these so-called safety nets have turned into a way of life. Thanks for writing it. I'm sure it was not easy.
Wow, Jobar. Bitter, much?
Mr. Garibaldi's piece does not mention the fact that an overwhelming number of unmarried mothers is between ages 20-29, and that the largest percentage of AFDC recipients (38%) are white and often suburban. The public schools have failed urban children longer, to be sure, but the malaise has already entered exurbia.
Good god, this article reminds me of the old story about the accountant and the balloonist. What Mr. Garibaldi says is completely true but completely useless.

The part about glorifying single motherhood is accurate, but, like most writers, the other half of the story (there often are two, or more parts to a story) is neglected.

That part is the male viewpoint of fatherhood. Young people often see the world as it is, not as it is presented to them. As a teacher myself I did the heretical thing- talking to boys to get their views on the subject. The boys know that men essentially have two roles in the modern family: writing checks and keeping there wives happy. They can be banished from their home and cut off from the children at any time by their female partners.

There really isn't much in it for them. Not much is expected from them. They aren't respected much in the media and the schools. The children belong to their wives, their home can and does vanish in a heartbeat and there is nothing they can (effectively) do about it under the law. They have no reproductive rights. The alternative is a life of recreation, casual sex, intoxication, video games and and hanging out with their friends. What's not to like?

The culture likes to use the phrase "It takes a village" in describing child rearing. Yet few people look at what life was like in traditional villages. The women lived in the center, did all the work controlled the resources and grew old prematurely. The men lived on the outskirts of the village, got drunk, goofed around and hunted and gathered food when it became short. Children were the responsibility and property of the women. Sound familiar? Sound attractive?

Oh wow... this is so touching. Most teachers don't notice anything about the kids and their emotional wellbeing in South Africa. That is one of the reasons why I home school my children.

You are an incredible teacher. Stay as special as you are.
Having read this, Gerry, all I can say is that you are a magnificent teacher. To criticise this insanity so accurately while remaining a dedicated and compassionate teacher to these needy youngsters deserves the highest praise. The education system doesn't deserve teachers like you. Respect.
I find your article to be very illuminating in regard to the social atmosphere of urban American high schools. Most of my experience has been with Malaysian schools (where I studied until coming to University here in the UK), where teenage pregnancy is generally not approved of in urban institutes. On the other hand, it does seem to be making an ominous turn towards the other direction.

Best wishes with your future students.
This is one of the saddest articles I have ever read. The sheer waste of lives. Unfortunately not just one generation but many. It seems to be a cycle that repeats itself year in and year out. As to the people who sneer at the morality aspect of teen pregnancy, it is certainly a factor. In our society, nothing has a stigma attached to it. Personal responsibility has flown out the window. Years ago, most folks were concerned with at least giving the appearance of morals and setting good examples for the next generation. Now there are people in the entertainment industry who set absolutely no limits on bad behavior. There are politicians who have the same problem. The most visible role models have lowered the bar to a place where it can't go lower, I hope. Parents have abdicated and there is not a support system of extended family any more. The "if it feels good, do it" culture that is pervasive in our society rules. And it extends to so called adults who should be setting good examples instead of worrying about whether they are "friends" with their children and if they, the adults, are maintaining their youthful looks. I have always hoped that I would see the pendulum swing back to behavior a few generations in the past but I'm way past my mid seventies and I believe that I won't live to see it.
Thank you Mr. Garibaldi for writing this article. I have worked in schools just like the one you describe. If I were a good writer I could have written this myself. Not only is your account true it is sad. For African American girls there really is very little hope for marriage and the family is a dying if not dead institution.

In my own way I have tried to help young people learn the truth about sex and marriage.

If you're young and haven't messed your life up yet, check out the book and apply the principles to your life. You can still have a bright future:
George Lo Greco sr February 11, 2011 at 6:02 AM
Lord please fill our leaders with wisdom to rescue our children from political correctness to just plan correctness.
These are the same issues we face in south Georgia, most of my students parents don't work, have no income, and 80% of the time the baby-father is 3-4 years older and both parent & child lie to hid the truth. Truly sad, but true.
I agree with this writer. It's as if I had written this article myself.
Job Coach in Fresh Start program Rural Wisconsin
Society has no standards of right and wrong, but people do what feels right. The Torah/teachings/Law of God have been forgotten, abandoned, or replaced by Hollywood, peers, feelings, and whatever I want. There is longing pleasure and selfserving, anger, revenge, hurts, fears, insecurity, alcohol and drugs, witchcraft, talking to the dead/necromancy, the list goes on and on. All hopeless and empty, always looking for that elusive happiness. Sin, separates us from and Holy Elohim who is trying to reach out to each of his. We need to seek to know the loving Elohim/The Almighty One, the Creator of the Universe through His son Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah, who because of love for a hurting world gave his life for us. We must search the Scriptures and learn the standards written in the Law/Torah/Teachings of the Bible and walk in them. Our own standards will always bring loss and heartache. He, Yehovah the Creator of the Universe is waiting for you to reach out to Him.
"Every fall, new education theories arrive, born like orchids in the hothouses of big-time university education departments...Every year, the national statistics summon a fresh chorus of outrage at the failure of urban public schools."

It seems the author blames educational theories.

This author presents another view:

"The geographic area of this NICU has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Many young mothers confess their intention for having a baby was a larger government paycheck for the family unit, or the fact that they would receive free health insurance if they were pregnant. Often one would find a teen mother living with her parent or grandparent. The infant’s father was rarely present or involved, and was in fact usually unknown."

And this is one of the responses to encouragement to breastfeed:

“Why should I take my time? I have other things going on and I get the formula free.”

We've got to stop paying women and girls to have babies.

We need to re-open orphanages where these babies can be raised. An institutionalized life is not ideal, but it's better than being raised to repeat baby daddy and baby mommy's mistakes.
Trey, my observation of an MTV show is not scientific... I mentioned the program because this is obviously a phenomenon if MTV is dedicating a show to it. Remember the pregnancy pact in Gloucester, MA or even Sarah Palin's daughter? These people didn't come from the "ghetto". They reflect the reality of this problem.
As an elementary teacher for 38 years, many in the lower economic part of town, I know the reality of this article. Money IS NOT the answer. Politics certainly IS NOT! The care and concern that Mr. Garibaldi demonstrates is!
Students and parents need to know that teachers truly care for them and their future. Teachers need to set the examples.
I believe that Mr. Garibaldi should contact a publisher posthaste and negotiate a book contract that details the facts about his urban school and his proposed solutions.
I think you need to base your research on something a little more substantial than watching episodes of "Teen Mom".
Franklin R. Dallas February 07, 2011 at 1:09 PM
This is a superbly written article which tells
the truth about what many schools in America are like. Thank you Mr. Garibaldi for taking
the time to put your experience into print.
"A wonderful and insightful article into the problem that face many inner city school"

^^Therein lies much of the problem - the idea that these problems are only in the "inner city". The new MTV show "Teen Mom" confirms this. 99% of the teen parents on that show come from white, suburban and rural communities. Even the handful of black teenages on that show come from suburban areas. This is a national problem, not just a "black" one.
Nice article, thanks for the information.
sewa mobil
Lori, your own citation hardly supports your claim that the phrase is in fact "spitting image."

Webster's New World: "spit" — the perfect likeness or exact image, as of a person, usually in the phrase "spit and image"

Merriam-Webster: "spit" (n.) – perfect likeness

Also see:
Ben Dickensen;
The ‘Edenic Time’ you berate was one where society knew the inability of a 15 year old girl to raise a child on her own and pressured her to give up it for adoption so it could be properly raised by a two-parent structure. This is knowledge we desperately need to resurrect if we wish to end the destructive cycle of children siring children.

People who make themselves burdens on the taxpayers as a result of their own bad choices(and who fail to discourage their offspring from doing the same) are fully deserving of condemnation, not empathy. Stop sympathizing with dysfunction. You’re part of the problem.

We’ve been providing sexeducation for several decades now. As a previous poster noted, the girls are not uninformed. Contraception is useless for those who actually want babies.
No more Make A Baby, Win A Prize social policies.

It's well past time for tough love, which has to be a lot tougher now than it would have been had tough love started earlier, say when Charles Murray published Losing Ground over a quarter-century ago.
Really enjoyed this article, Gerry. I wrote a little about it at Thanks for writing!
It isn't just urban schools. The daughter of a friend has taught for years in a small South Texas town. The dropout rate finally got bad enough that Something Had To Be Done. Unfortunately for the teachers in the district, "Something" turned out to be endless hours of unpaid overtime: after school tutoring, weekend makeup exams, endless letters to parents, on and on. I observed that the teachers should be glad they aren't required to make wake-up calls every morning.

And guess what? Nothing changed. Students were still absent or tardy, assignments weren't turned in, only a handful of students took advantage of the extra help, parents were as surly or helpless as ever.

It seems as though we're going to have to institute some sort of triage system, identifying and helping the kids who want to do well and letting the rest go to the dogs in their own way.
Bristol Palin. Just sayin'
"As George Will says, if you subsidies something you get more of it. The gov't provides approx. the same lifestyle these girls would have working a low wage job, and most have the skills for little else (5th grade reading level)."

And if this is true, is the problem the assistance or the "low wage job"?

Minimum wage is 30% less than it was 30 years ago. Additionally, the average American family works 900 hours more per year to provide the same amount of income as 30 years ago.

The best and most telling part of this article was the writer's experience with a parent:

" Nicole’s unmarried mother, it turned out, worked nights, so Nicole would slip out with friends every evening, sometimes staying out until 3 am, and then show up in class exhausted, surly, and hungry.

After a dozen calls home, her mother finally got back to me. Your daughter is staying out late, I reported. The voice at the other end of the phone sounded abashed and bone-weary. “I know, I know, I’m sorry,” she repeated over and over. “I’ll talk to her. I’m sorry.”

Hey, if she is a good parent, she has 900 less hours a year to raise her child. Anyone who has ever raised children knows that time is the most important thing you can spend on them. Even if it is just limited to "go to bed" and/or "did you do your homework?".

That is the problem here. No one in their right mind can think having bad school facilites helps education. No one who has any experence at all working with poor people can possibly think these kids are having babies cause they want that lifestyle.

They do not have many choices. We fail on a constant basis to provide any sex education of any value. Their parents(single or married) are not at home to give them much assistance.

And somehow the blame falls on having mimimum support levels and "wasting money" on school facilites?

Wake up and smell the roses. Geez, Reagan's "Welfare Queens Drivng Cadillacs" had more sense that this thought process.
Some of you should figure out how much all of this "assistance" to unwed mothers adds up to, and the lifestyle it "provides".

Reading these comments it sounds like they are living a life of luxury, it is a long, long way from that.

Simple fact, there is no law requiring sex education in Connecticut. Watching the continuing problem of teen pregnancy while refusing to give these kids a basis of knowledge at an appropriate age (puberty) is insanity.

Will it stop the problem? Of course not. But it will help greatly, at costs far, far less than currently being paid.

This is a good article, but nothing new. When I graduated from HS 30 yrs ago in a small OH town, teen pregnancy was a problem, and for many of the same reasons. Several girls had two babies at graduation. I remember on girl having a baby in junior high and being hugely pregnant at graduation. So, not a new problem and not just an urban problem and not just a black problem.

I think it's a social policy problem. As George Will says, if you subsidies something you get more of it. The gov't provides approx. the same lifestyle these girls would have working a low wage job, and most have the skills for little else (5th grade reading level). If they do have skills, like doing hair, then they get a nice cash bump the gov't never knows about. There is a comprehensive underground economy in selling food stamps and anything else you can get for free and resell. These aren't innocent little lambs, they're people making economic choices and social choices that work for them in their subculture.

What if we made the min age to receive gov't assistance 25? At that point at least you've worked and paid into the system. Also, how about addressing why so many teenagers can't read and write at or above grade level? What happened to the Big Brother/Big Sister program? Where are black Greek organizations that could provide role models? The solution has to be grass-roots and community based.

We're not doing these children a kindness by leaving them on the new plantation of gov't "assistance". And no, I'm not a Republican or Tea Party person.
Thank you for writing this - I also teach students such as you describe, in New York State, and their stories are just as heartbreaking. The ongoing over-incarceration of black men, an enduring Jim Crow legacy, has a lot to do with this, I think. Too many children don't expect to have a father around, too many girls know that their boyfriends will likely spend time in jail, too many boys and girls have low self-esteem and no hope for the future.
There are no roll models where they live, and our society has made having children without marriage acceptable.
Personal moral accountability, yes I've read all about it in the Bible, which also talks about that thing where no matter what people do, yiou take care of their kids. Conservative does not equal Christian. Also, people on this board seem to equate material success w/moral fitness. That's not the truth, or anything close. So I hope people can continue to wank to their own obvious moral fortituted and spiritual fitness. One last thing, the girls in this story will soon make up the next largest generation, thier children will make up the largest one to date. Let's hope they are less self centred, and self ritghteous than that large generation that proceeded us. Let's hope they have more empahty than you have for them. Large, embittered, generations do not make for stable democracies. Respect them now and work with them, or regret it later.
Gerry, this is exactly my experience as an urban middle school teacher. When I was working 12 hour days to pay for my wedding, the girls in an in-school GED program for felons, looked at me with disbelief, "You mean you are only going to live with ONE man your whole life?". "That's the idea", I replied. I polled the rest of the class. Not one had among their friends or family a married person. I invited them to come to the wedding Ceremony at the church. None came.
I knew from the wistful eyes of the young women who worked the streets that my experience, even though I was marrying a recent immigrant with little education and less money, was beyond their wildest dreams. No one would ever propose marriage to them.
Their best hope was to find what seemed like love in the eyes of a man who was theirs for the night, or, more likely in the innocent eyes of their baby.
And who could blame them?
When I called their home numbers, more often or not, a stranger answered who didn't even recognize their name. One of my boys committed robbery in time to spend Christmas with his friends in Rikers Island. I can hardly imagine what his house was like, if a prison felt like home.
So, please remind me why it was when President Bush attempted an initiative to encourage welfare recipients to marry that he was condescendingly rebuffed from the elites? Do they not have access to the stats your students used in their reports?
Or is it possible, they reap the rewards of the lavish spending you detailed while callously ignoring its ineffectiveness? I couldn't. It ate away at me. It still does.
Now I work with younger children in the ghetto, on the "No Child Left Behind" dime, teaching fourth graders to read while their mother entertains a boyfriend in the next room. They eye him suspiciously as he leaves their apartment and I join them in their reaction. But I say nothing.
Nearly forty years of abortion, widespread birth control and social programs have left the family in this desperate state. And the children are the ones who suffer.
Rolls eyes, teen pregnancy is down (and let's not start to talk about how high it was 80 years ago), the states w/the highest teen pregnancies are rurual, and have been so for many years. I lived in a town of 500 and out of the 12 girls graduating 11 were pregnant. That wasn't even the year my former state was number 1 for teen pregnancy. What does it matter if these women get married (as their rurual counterparts might) when most of thos marriages will end in divorce. Yet, for some reason, the media is always enarmored by the spectre of "urban" (aka black or brown) teen pregnancies. Why is that? I'm sure the girls at your school know that you aren't concerend about them or their children because you are a good empathetic person. Kids, are smart, and miniorities aren't as dumb as they are protrayed. We get it. Whatever they do or don't do they are going to be made a problem to be solved, a statistic not a person. A group not an individual. You want to lower teen pregnancy (all teen pregancy not just the scary brown or black teens). Treat everyone like an idividual, give them hope when they are small. Don't spend more on prisons then you spend on schools. Educate girls, and build up their self esteem. Give them options and sex ed. Finally let's train up teachers who care about their students, and don't see them as statistics, or intities that disapoint.
Do you have kids?”
“Two,” I say.
The next question is always heartbreaking.
“Do they live with you?”

I'm sorry to hear your kids don't live with you.
I'm a surgeon and was raised by two fairly traditional Chinese parents in the States. My parents weren't very draconian, but always emphasized good old fashioned values (do your homework, don't blow off opportunities, always try to be accountable to yourself, marriage is a lifelong commitment, and stay healthy).

As someone in the health care field, I see the Medicaid/public aid version of what Gerry describes in the clinic all the time. They are the very same people. And like Amy Chua, I'm terrified that my children might fall into this giant abyss of American subculture, from which it is nearly impossible to escape. In recent years, this subculture has become much more mainstream and in the name of liberal multiculturalism, we're all to accept it if not openly embrace it.

My kids are growing up in a much cushier environment than I had and worlds' apart from what my parents endured in China. Deep down I feel they are losing the context of why those old fashioned values my parents taught me are so important. It's like the vaccine skeptics who have forgotten the days of polio outbreaks and the rows and rows of iron lungs.

I don't know what the solution is. All I can do is hope my own role model and stories can provide a permanent reference for my children as they navigate a society where embracing self-inflicted pain and poverty is increasingly portrayed as moral and heroic. I know deep down that if this attitude continues, America will be on a path of decline, because I know my parents would never wish to immigrate to a country that championed those mores.
Oh, boy: I've now looked at at good few of the dozens of prior comments, and I have to say, you people have exceeded my lack of expectations! I am however now more prepared for the probably imminent arrival of overt eliminationist rhetoric (already audible in many of the comments): Exterminate the brutes! See you in hell, people.... Myron Magnet, what hath thou wrought?
What an eloquent statement of reality from a supremely talented writer (and, clearly, teacher). Thank you. what?

1. As you eloquently show, nothing in the reality you describe will be changed by or within a 5-hour schoolday.

2. Readers of this mag (speaking loosely, cultural conservatives) would have us return to some (I believe largely mythical) edenic time when social and religious sanctions firmly bounded future mothers' behavior and mandated two-parent families with little or no tolerance for divorce. Whatever the one-time reality and merits of that world, I believe it is one we have irretrievably lost. Get over it, people!

3. The other commonly heard solution, one endorsed by a distinguished line of educators from New Haven's own sage, James Comer, back through the ludicrously-demonized-in-these-quarters John Dewey, would involve creating "community schools" that would serve not only as classrooms but as clinics for physical and mental care both well and ill, day care and youth centers, meeting halls for all kinds of voluntary association (once the signature American civic virtue but almost extinct in any less-than-well-to-do communities any more), and any number of other functions that have all but disappeared from our less prosperous neighborhoods.

But this is, it seems, communist, or at any rate socialist (such is the political-philosophical illiteracy of our age--socialism is "state ownership of the means of production" and nothing less...can we at least be clear on that?). Or, as I suggest, positively satanic. Now, it is true that these things can be done in a tawdry, dysfunctional, hapless, and doomed-to-policy-failure way; and I grow ever more fearful that you (City Journal) people exult in such failure and bask in the sense of superiority it gives you to behold and condemn. But you ought to ponder whether such impulses are not in fact the soul of a nihilistic decadence.

After all, America is not the only developed secular industrial society that has to wrestle with the issues Mr. Garibaldi is addressing; and if you have eyes to see and are willing to look around, you will find that most--most!--of them do a better job of it.

So, which is it, Mr. Garibaldi and dear City Journal denizens? Endless whining about a mythical lost social order that's receding into sepia tones? Or a proactive, aggressive effort to build institutions that might truly address the dire existential problems--self-inflicted or otherwise, and further moralizing is beyond fatuous and beside the point, all you red-faced judges--of these vibrant and beautiful young people that Mr. Garibaldi appreciates so profoundly?

Which is it, or what else you got?
Great article and beautifully written. It should be read by people who blame teachers for poor student achievement, and rave about teacher accountability as if firing bad teachers would fix social problems like this one. As a former teacher, I tried to think of one student at a time, as you seem to have done in the situation you described. Otherwise you are just overwhelmed. It's kind of like the "one day at a time" philosophy that AA encourages. One student at a time.
A wonderful and insightful article into the problem that face many inner city school. Thank you for your work in helping these children. Also, I will like to know why you fail to point out the cultural and generational dynamics that foreshadow this problem; like the disintegration of family union during slavery and welfare policy that offer no support to family with an unemployed father figure in the home and many more. Overall great work.
Reading some of the comments, I will also say this: anyone, including the author (although far less than some commanders) who claims that the state actually makes life easy for pregnant teens is contributing to the problem. The single most correctible issue is the myth that single mothers are provided enough support to create a good life for themselves and their children.

Does Nicole understand that as a single mother, "being a good mom" most likely means working 60-hour weeks, perhaps over night, for low or minimum wages for as long as she is raising children? Does she believe that her own exhausted, beleaguered mother is living a happy, fulfilled life? Does she recognize that she will either get no financial support from the father, or if she is lucky and finds a decent job, she will need to go to Probate Court to get child support, where she will find out what the toll that confronting a resentful father takes on her and the child? Does she understand that free rides, free healthcare and food stamps will never buy clothes for her or the kids, or a utility bill?

The truth is, single mothers who step up and make the sacrifices needed to give their kids a good life are heroes. So are soldiers killed in combat. In other words, what make a hero a hero is the sacrifices they make - sacrifices most of us wouldn't want to make.

Kids these days are smart, cynical and selfish. Morality and "personal responsibility" doesn't sell for them. That said, they're still kids. Which means they - as kids always have - live insecure, mythologized worlds in they struggle to imagine what life will be like as an adult. In this regard, teen moms are no different from other kids who engage in risky behavior that seems fine when you're a kid, but destroys their lives when they drop out of high school while their peers move forward.

I am a family law attorney. People pay a lot of money for me to sit in court on their behalf. And as I sit, I watch other cases. Indeed, 80% of the "other" cases I watch involve people without lawyers - most often unmarried moms seeking child support from fathers. Again and again, it's the same story: mom is working herself to death to stay just above water. Her life is a series of desperate compromises and financial emergencies. She would not change being a mother - she loves her children too much - but her life is devoid of joy, independence and personal fulfillment. She is a "hero", because she has sacrificed herself for her kids. But for her, there is no joy.

The girls in this article see their peers getting pregnant, and mistake the assistance and support young moms receive while they are still themselves children for the illusion that it is. When they are 18, high school will end, and their lives will resemble those of their mothers: an exhausting wasteland of low wages, long hours, and constant struggle. The state benefits will not be enough. Nor will their high school diploma, if they are lucky enough to get it. They will be at the bottom of the economic food chain.

In short, reality *should* scare these kids. We, as a society, should be doing a much better job of blowing up the myths of easy single motherhood and telling kids what being a heroic single mom requires. Their lives are likely to be difficult, personally limited, economically stagnant, and full of low wage toil. These kids are selfish. They want the perks of motherhood and money and personal fulfillment. If they really knew what being a single mom is likely to entail, they might think twice about having a baby.
Sad. Sad. Sad. The money does everything but teach these kids how to make better decisions.
One thing that makes this such a difficult issues is that so much of the problem is economic, not morality. No one really disputes that a wealthy, educated single mother can overcome many of the problems suffered by urban mothers.

One thing the author neglects is how the state services create the *illusion* of financial stability and support. Free services are not the same as wages earned by another parent. Someday, mom will take dad to court for child support. And if dad has a legitimate job, up to a third of his post tax income will go to mom.

I think the time has passed for using moral arguments to shame girls into avoiding teen pregnancy. In it's place, the next best thing is a grim description of a single mother's economic future. Nichole need look no further than her own mother - doomed to early morning shifts for low wages until every glimmer of youth and potential is sapped from her, all to provide inadequate financial support for children who raise themselves. The truth is, despite a few state benefits, most urban mothers are doomed to a life of miserable low wage servitude that is devoid of time, opportunity, and individuality. The reason single moms are "heroes" is that they literally sacrifice their lives (at least in terms of quality) for their children. The cold reality of such a life is just as scary as tales of damnation for fornication. And it is the truth. We ought to be explaining it better to kids.
This is amazingly simplistic in my view and it's been done before so many times before. I understand that you worked in a urban school so you have little expertise in other communities, but the trend over the last two decade shows that teen pregnancy is a huge problem for every demographic in this country. Teen pregnancy also occurs in houses with two biological parents, houses where parents were married but are now divorce and in middle and upper class houses. Focusing only on black poor girls from never married single mom families will not solve this problem.

Personal responsibility and delayed gratification are adult terms and these children in your article are not adults. The notion that a child who gets pregnant should no longer be a child mentally, emotionally and intellectually is simply unrealistic.

If we really wanted to curtail teen pregnancy we would look at the teenage programing which is filled with worries about popularity, romantic relationships and solving your own problems without adults. We would have activities for them after school and before their parents got home. We would do better giving them the facts about birth control, money and relationships sans the Kardashians.

Lastly, let's turn this conversation back to the people who can do the most to help prevent teen pregnancy, the adults parents of teens. Parents of pregnant teens house their children and grandchildren, they are instrumental during the crucial first three years of their grandchildren's childhood. Lastly, they are still legally responsible for their children who have had children. Stop picking on the kids and go after the moms and dads.
There's a lot of stuff going on here, and I admire your work, but to reduce these women's situation to individual morality is simplistic at best. Around the world, women have children at young ages when they don't see a realistic path for themselves into the broader adult world and economic life other than motherhood. Motherhood provides an instant adult status in the world. What REAL hope do these women have for being taken seriously and having power and voice in the broader culture, even if they do everything right? You can preach all you want, but they are smart enough to see that the alternative you're offering is not great: they will not be Barack Obama no matter how hard they work. Even if they get the much vaunted place in a community college--will that get them any level of power and respect in our culture? How many community college graduates are in Obama's cabinet, or the US Senate, or even on your school's faculty? How many wealthy people out there are community college graduates?

Moreover, the pro-life movement, which is also frequently all about "individual morality" is in part responsible for this sentimentalization of "keeping the baby," which I see every day in my white middle class students, although they see themselves as having other options. Most young women have been inundated with anti-contraception, anti-abortion rhetoric that fetishizes the fetus, while offering no realistic plans for the lives that must be lived after the child is born.

(PS it's "spitting image":
How can politicians expect personal moral accountability from anyone, when they're the last people who show personal moral accountability?
First, thank you for fighting the good fight. Second, each of us (including me) bears the responsibility of being an advocate for marriage and for waiting until you are married to have sex. It has nothing to do with religion, although religion recognizes the reality. What is the only 100% effective birth control technique? Answer: abstinence. Actually, hysterectomy too but that's pretty permanent. Second, even if a marriage ends in divorce, the statistics show a far higher probability of the father remaining involved and engaged with the child. I am my own exhibit A. My ex and I are grandparents together even thugh we divorced more than 30 years ago. My grand children see their grandfather a couple of times a year and know him. (they live 500 miles away). My adult children, both in their 30s, still see their father on a regular basis.

When a young relative talked to me about what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, I said the M word was the only honorable course of action. They did and both families are happy and delighted to help out. And right there you have one of the reasons that marriage is important. So young people do still get married. Maybe you need to show your class a bunch of sitcoms about getting married. AS it happens, most of todays traditional family sitcoms involve black or Hispanic families.
so mister screenwriter - time to write it for mass media.
I have 30 plus years experience s a similar environment. When I retired in 2002 more and more girls were getting pregnant.

Many girls were extremely intelligent--even gifted--but that did not stop them from getting pregnant.

The biggest factors were their home situation and peers. While they were with me they knew better but somehow they could not break the cycle.

I agree that the govt. makes it too easy for them and even encourages this trend. Do I have a solution, no not really. However, the pattern must be broken.

Targeting the fathers and changing their attitudes toward fatherhood would be the best solution, since the girls will probably not change.
Well what do you expect? Pop culture says having sex at 14-15 is totally normal, and government will gladly put you on a salary if you reproduce and perpetuate poverty. It's depressing
Thank you for writing this.
And thank you for trying to do the right thing w/ your students. I hope you reach some of them.
Well said. But these realities are not limited to urban high schools. I live in the heart of rural America, of small-town America. While the names might be different, the realities are just the same: babies having babies and failed parents breeding yet more doomed-to-fail parents. Reading is our measurable academic goal. It plays well the the politics of education these days. The danger in this label is the root cause is never discussed, the dissolve of a supportive and competent family structure. This reality is at the root root of our academic crisis and has become an American epidemic. We have not even begun to look at that one.
As a soon to be divorced mom of four this article troubles me. To me the ideal situation for children is a two parent home where the marriage is stable and both parents are mentally healthy. After more than a decade of trying my hardest to make my marriage work, it is ending. After time in the military left my ex with anger issues to big for me or him to handle he assaulted our five year old. That was the line. He crossed it. I am doing my best. But marriage is not the end all to be all. I'd hate for any of these teens to marry a man who does not love and honor them and treat them like an equal partner. To me, single motherhood is far better than abuse.
do they live with you?
Excellent article. Tells me we need a whole new paradigm for pregnancy prevention -- one that helps young people "see things through the eyes of a child" How children are affected by unplanned pregnancy and parents' love lives, er...unstable love lives. We also need to give them the real social science evidence.... if you are going to have children, the sequence of 1. finish school 2. be married 3. then have a child really , really, matters. We do a disservice to youth to avoid the topic of marriage--healthy marriage that is.
Mr. Garibaldi: I read this article and you state the problem clearly.

I worked in a NJ urban high school; I just couldn't believe the education I received. These youngsters taught me all about the "cycle of poverty." You stated all the entitlements that these children receive----this is something I learned from the young girls, also. I learned that all these entitlements financially assists their families. When they get the Section 8 housing subsidies their parents, sisters, brothers, etc. all move in with them. The father (an immature 17-year old) of the baby can only take it for so long, he moves out within three months. Now the new mother, with her mother, grandmother, sister, aunt,etc. have access to all these entitlements or freebies. It's not going to end. There is one solution, and if I stated this in a faculty meeting, I would be fired.......Norplant. Norplant is implanted under the skin in the upper arm of a woman, by creating a small incision and inserting the capsules in a fanlike shape. Insertion of Norplant usually takes 15 minutes and the capsules can sometimes be seen under the skin, although usually they look like small veins. They can also be felt under the skin. Once inserted, the contraceptive works within 24 hours and lasts up to five years.

I would like to know what else can be an options to end this.

Good writing. You had a great deal of nerve to put your name to this.
Dear Mr. Garibaldi,

You've precisely struck at the heart of this delicate and most troubling social issue. Oh, that politicians had as much courage to touch the issue of morality as an answer to much of what ails us.

Thanks for the beautifully written piece. I plan to share it liberally.
This is a beautifully written, unflinching piece of qualitative analysis of a wrenching social issue.

You write eloquently, Mr. Garibaldi. Your nom de plume doesn't register on IMDB, but I suppose that's why they call it a nom de plume. Were any of your screenplays made into films? If so, is there any chance you might drop a hint as to which ones were green-lit? I'm sure there's at least one City-Journal reader who would love to check out your work.

Thank you for this article.
The saddest part is that we KNEW this stuff long ago. When our culture was at a crossroads and people were saying, "Remove the stigma from divorce and quit demanding that people get married if it's not their thing!" we KNEW what life was like for kids of divorce and single parents. But we went ahead anyway. Freed-up sex was far more important than the welfare and safety of kids.

We stepped into this moral laziness fully aware of the consequences.

We will pay for this. We will pay with the destuction of our civilization.
All are candidates for sterilization - male and female alike. The only remedy for the problem.
As a teacher of inner city schools, everything in this article is real. Teachers are judged on how their students perform on standardized tests, but have little or no control on the student outside of classroom. No amount of money and fancy gadgets are going to help until the student and parent are held responsible instead of the teacher bearing all the weight. O.K. I believe teenage girls can make a mistake and get pregnant of which I am more than willing as a taxpayer and an underpaid teacher to help out. But when the second, third and fourth babies arrive and never have a father's name on the birth certificate which teacher's are responsible for making sure these documents are on file, then I draw the line. Obama doesn't seem to see the issue on what really goes on in urban schools. Money is wasted just as it is in Washinton, teachers are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to salaries and respect. I work hard as a teacher, have won several awards, spend tons of MY money just todo my job and never a decent raise. If a raise was given, both insurance and taxes were increased. I have 38 years plus experience and have never seen $40,000. I don't get food stamps, aid to dependent children or SSI or free medical. These students that are getting pregnant need to have a standard set for them. It is not fair to the rest of the society. I am a single mom and have worked up to three jobs at night plus teach during the day. Wake up America!!! Where is the accountability??????
Jana asks, "Haven't these kids heard of birth control?"

My wife, who spent 20 years as a labor-and-delivery nurse and then a midwife in three NYC hospitals, says that most teens know all about birth control. The fact is, many of them simply want to have a baby, and not just to game the welfare system. They want "something to love."

My wife also delivered hundreds of babies of young Latinas, some only 13 years old. Those girls also wanted (or thought they wanted) those children, and the family usually showed up in force at the hospital to celebrate the birth. Apparently motherhood at an early age comes with the culture, and none of those young mothers were concerned about losing their chance at a promising professional career.

But I read recently that more than 70 percent of New York City pregnancies are aborted. Clearly, not all teens are delighted at having been impregnated.
Excellent article. Clearly to the point and very well crafted. If only our leaders could see this.
The problem isn't single motherhood, the problem is that these children don't realize the risks they take when they have unprotected sex. Are there sex education classes in your school? Not "moral accountability" but classes that say if you have sex without a condom you can contract an STI or have a baby? What about leadership classes that help students learn to make decisions for themselves?
This should be required reading for any Middle,or High School student.

This article gave me a much clearer understanding of the teen pregnancy problem. It is far worse than I had imagined. Thank you for writing this Gerry. I am a 64 year old happily married woman of 40 plus years. I realize but for the grace of God go I applies here. I ask how do we help our teens break lose from this awful pattern?
What is the alternative to the help given to these children, surely taking it away and trying to instill some ideal of personal responsibility will only end up making their lives more difficult. Thank God they are not having abortions, and they have the future to come to a better understanding.
As a former urban high school teacher, I can say your description is spot on. It is so heartbreaking.
First, my highest regards for Mr. Garibaldi's writing. You can't take the screenwriter out of the teacher, but why would you want to?

I also write, but on financial topics for The Toronto Star and am limited to 700-word articles.

The thing that struck me the most after reading Mr. Garibaldi's article is that as a western society, we are going backwards ON EVERY FRONT YOU CARE TO NAME, including education and social breakdown.

While India and China are pushing education before childbearing, the U.S. is going down a black hole, as Mr. Garibaldi puts it.

How far we have come since the 1950s--no more stigma to teen pregnancy. Accidents are one thing, but when every girl has an accident, that's a trend. Haven't these kids heard of birth control? Where is the personal responsibility?

As Thomas Friedman repeatedly pointed out in the New York Times, Chinese and Indian kids want our jobs. That is, the ones that haven't been outsourced already.

What used to be the prosperous West and emerging markets appear to be changing places. And no one can seem to stop it.
@Ehkzu: So the problem is that some people have too much money? Do you really think it's a zero-sum game? Every flourishing country has ultra-wealthy people. Bill Gates's fortune isn't money out of my pocket or anyone else's.

And the poor suffer because the drug laws target substances that politicians don't use? Huh?

Charles Dickens? What does 19th-century England have to do with the failure of Great Society programs or the pregnant black teenagers of 2011? Yes, we all know that "the poor and uneducated of the third world" don't have it so great. So what does that have to do with perverse incentives ruining lives in the United States?

And you suggest "a universal biometric database . . . that would enable us to connect every child to a dad, honest or deadbeat"? Yet another enormous, invasive government program? So that we can identify the 15-year-old dropout who will have to pay all that child support?
An incredible piece. Thank you so much.
jim said: It isn't "spit and image," but "spitting image."

Sorry, jim, it is indeed "spit and image." In casual speech it is often contracted to "spit 'n' image," which some people hear as "spittin' image" and thus "spitting image."
Amen, there is no dispute socialist agendas have endorsed single parenthood much to our hurt.

Readers have hinted at viable solutions: more "Tiger Moms" following the Asian persuation who ensure mothers make a difference in thier child's life. "Tiger Moms" require "Tiger Dads" to support them. Secondly, a good dose of "Mormon morals" would create a welfare state where whenever something is given something is required and marriage is revered. Thirdly, more emphasis on succeeding without the dollars, the programs, the whiteboards, or the computers...such as the case in many home schooling families and individuals (Homeless to Harvard). Parental attention is the key in learning to read beyond a fifth grade level the key to hope. Hurray for Mothers and Fathers.
Over the past decade, I have been shocked by the number of Germans and Europeans I know who do not have children because of the cost and their small homes. The state provides so no need to have children to look after you and I do believe this feeds into the Tiger mother story too - why worry if your child gets a B. Their income will not impact on your old age anyway.
These girls with their hearts on everything = pens, hair clips = want true love. How cruel to find out the male is not equiped to deal with the baby.
Glee sure does not help either.
"Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch."


It is essential to our modern politician that social problems continue (as the source of their vote getting power.) The entire destruction of the black community by the addiction to the state as father and mother is not without purpose, nor destructive effect. In short; they want it that way. Read the goals of the American Communist Party.

Anyone who thinks this is a purely a problem with them day-um libruls needs to read some Charles Dickens--or look at today's living condition for the poor and uneducated in the third world.

In particular they need to think about the fact that it was conservatives shipped our manufacturing jobs to China, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands etc., and then made sure that we wouldn't stop illegal immigration (which conservative rank and file don't want, of course--but their corporatist "leaders" do)--illegal immigration guaranteeing that whatever unskilled work was left in our country wouldn't pay enough to live on.

They need to think about the fact that the income disparity between 98% of Americans and the top 2% has increased by a factor of 20 since I was young. This enormous wealth transfer hollowed out the middle class, forcing wives into the workplace, and made life nearly impossible for the underclass. In the "recovery" from the 2000 recession, all of that recovery went into the pockets of the ultra-rich while everyone else's wages stagnated.

Moreover, the laws on the books nationwide discriminate heavily against the sorts of recreational drugs legislators don't use, with no relation to their actual relative danger.

But all this doesn't let liberals off the hook. True, the welfare state was an earnest attempt to solve the horrors of 19th century industrialization, and a lot--most--of it needs to be changed radically. However, every program spawns people who make their living off administering that program, and who will lobby for it endlessly.

And liberals are so terrified of being called racist that black and now Mexican hustlers have worked race-baiting for all it's worth--and it's been worth a lot.

And everyone, liberal and conservative, are to blame for quailing at any real solutions, because they'd be so draconian.

For example, how do you conservatives feel about a universal biometric database with DNA sample on record? Among other things, that would enable us to connect every child to a dad, honest or deadbeat.

How about facing the fact that not everyone was born with what's needed to live free? Some people require institutionalization--anything from a group home to full-blown asylums, depending on the severity of a person's mental problems. Crazy people are neither evil nor "differently mentally enabled." They're crazy, and we're on the hook for institutionalizing them humanely, not letting them run around buying guns and shooting people just because gun nuts think it's OK for nuts to have guns if that's the price of not regulating gun ownership.

And some people aren't crazy, but still lack mental equipment needed to live on their own successfully.

Today between a quarter and a third of prison inmates are mentally ill because conservatives believe mental illness is a moral decision and liberals believe nuts should have the same rights as anyone else.

And no one's willing to face the fact that schools can't fix society. Worse, we sacrifice the kids who can be saved in a hopeless effort to rescue those for whom it's too late.

Not that we have to be prescient. We just have to reserve schools for those who are willing and/or able to show up regularly and to let other kids get an education, putting the rest into workcamps euphemized as on the job training.

I taught in ghetto schools myself once upon a time, and the classes were contained riots because every one of them contained a handful of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome or some other defect that made them unable or unwilling to control their behavior. Keeping them in the class sacrificed every other kid there.

As for the fact that so many ghetto girls choose to have kids--I have a solution. Liberals and conservatives aren't going to like it, which says something already.

Let anyone who believes they can't look after themselves--or who doesn't have a proper home, and/or can't prove they have a means of supporting themselves--enter The System. Reserve welfare for those who are crazy or infirm (and who need institutionalization then). For the able bodied--and that includes teen mothers--when they present themselves to the state for care, the state becomes their surrogate parent and they surrender the right to have more kids (with contraceptive implants, to vote, and to sign contracts.

That is, they surrender the full rights of an adult citizen. The state provides them shelter, three meals a day, and work. If they won't work and are able bodied they go on the street, and if they become vagrant they enter the criminal system then.

In the workfare system they get 40 hours of work a week. Any kids they have get daycare while the parents work. And parents are expected to earn both their own keep that that of any kids they have.

This sounds conservative, but it's more expensive than giving them welfare and letting them fester in urban squalor. So no, conservatives won't like. And it takes away their rights, and conservatives love their rights, just like liberals do. They have that in common.

The trick is the same as when your child pretends to be sick to get out of school. Let them stay home but don't let it be fun.

Plus if they become the state's ward, the state gets to send them wherever their work is needed.

Anyone can leave the system whenever they wish, but then they have to acquire honest means of supporting themselves and their kids.

And when I say "them" I mean both the fathers and the mothers of any children.

Anyway, you get the drift. Nobody will enter The System because they think they'll get a free ride. They won't.

I know a Mormon missionary who spent 18 months in Mississippi and he came back discouraged--not about his religion, but about the underclass people he lived among there. He discovered that most of the girls--and I mean girls--planned on having four kids by the time they were 16 (!) for maximum welfare benefits, and then kicking back for the rest of their lives.

I guess that's an improvement on Dickens' 19th century England, the alternative conservatives proffer--but we can and should do better than that.
Ain't feminism wunnerful.
A little tweaking on the original version sadly captures the enormity of the problem.

Humpty Dumpty sate on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as she was before.
Coincidentally, I was listening to a radio report over New York city NPR affiliate WNYC-FM last Thursday about British authorities dealing with, or should I say, trying to deal with, gangs of disruptive youths who have basically taken over entire housing councils, the British version of public housing projects and who are terrorizing the other residents.
Basically, the British approach is to help the alienated youths get in touch with their feelings of rage, and the rest of the usual psychobabble.
The families of these misunderstood youths are almost always headed by unmarried females subsisting on welfare and producing an endless stream of offspring by different biological fathers. And they are all white, probably blonde hair blue eyes - the whole nine yards.
There is no racial component to this social collapse on both sides of the pond. Its society's enabling of and accepting the degenerate behavior of the underclass.

The new Governor of New York, Chief executive and chief law enforcement officer of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo, took office at the beginning of January and moved into the Governor's mansion with his concubine.
And was cheered by the press for doing so.
Defining deviancy down - or up?
Thank you for this near-perfect example of how the road to hell on earth is paved with good intentions . Obviously , no-one involved with youth believes that there is any virtue in getting an education in the school of hard knocks , or that boys and young men ( or not so young ) bear any responsability to their own children . Wal-Mart remains viable by continuousls expanding their client base and so does the secular-socialist nanny state .
I am an African American woman who works in a large city as a social worker. "Nicole" and "Maria" sound like many of my clients, many of whom, by their early twenties, have three or four children by as many "baby daddys." Not only is this acceptable in the black community, it is becoming the norm. Although it is not politically correct to say so, especially in the very liberal world of social work, the high incidence of single mothers and children with no father figures to speak of, is destroying the black community. This has not always been the case; in the fifties, when the NAACP was looking for someone to challenge the South's laws concerning public accomodations and transportation, they at first selected a young woman who was later rejected because she was a single, never married mother. The woman who was selected and ultimately became a symbol of the civil rights movement, was, of course, Rosa Parks. Even in the sixties, at the time of the much-maligned Moynihan Report, the black illegitimacy rate was about 20 percent, not it is at 72 percent. Compare this with the out-of-wedlock birth rate for Asians, which is the lowest in America at around 15 percent. The Asian community, of course, is not perfect, but which group, in general, is doing better economically and academically?

"As for out of wedlock births, I know many couples in Denmark (where I lived for two years) that have been together for 20 years with kids, mortgages, etc."

Common Law marriages are not as widespread here as in Denmark. Our government provides housing assistance (no need for a mortgage), child support, and male partners come and go on a rotating basis. I have a relative who worked in these urban neighborhoods and attested to the chaotic lifestyle of the inhabitants. Not. A. Good. Thing.
And to Hayaka's comments - very few teenagers today get pregnant because of lack of early education. The same teenagers who research every program that can provide them aid (free aid, I might add) and know every website that provides them information about subjects and activities they enjoy, have been receiving sex education since the low grades in grammar school - some since kindergarten. VERY few of today's single mothers become pregnant by accident.
Very sad, but all too true story. The other part is that hard-working people who have one child instead of two, or two children instead of the three they would like to have, because they can only afford to support two, might be able to have more or provide more for the children they have if their tax burden were not increased to pay for the entitlement programs these single-mothers enjoy. Go ahead and have children when you are 16 - but pay for their care yourselves!

"They probably have less teen pregnancy because their culture frowns upon it."

The culture frowns upon it? I'm not sure what that means. I don't think people in Europe are any more or less judgmental about it than Americans, it's just recognized there that getting pregnant at a young age is something to be avoided. There are probably a host of reasons why that is the case, but early education on pregnancy and how to avoid it is almost certainly a factor.

As for out of wedlock births, I know many couples in Denmark (where I lived for two years) that have been together for 20 years with kids, mortgages, etc. They just never bothered to get the marriage certificate. It doesn't mean they are any less stable and committed to each other. Teen pregnancy and out of wedlock births are two completely different things. In Europe, anyway.

They probably have less TEENAGE pregnancy because their culture frowns on it. Cultural attitudes go a long way in influencing mass behavior.


"The proportion of children born outside marriage is rising in all EU countries, the USA, and Australia.[8] In Europe, besides the low levels of fertility rates and the delay of motherhood, another factor that now characterizes fertility is the growing percentage of live births outside marriage. In the EU, this phenomenon has been on the rise in recent years in almost every country and in seven countries, mostly in northern Europe, it already accounts for the majority of live births.

In Europe, the average has risen from one out of four in 1997 to one out of three children born outside wedlock. Nowadays, national figures in Europe range from 5% in Greece and 9% in Cyprus to 58% in Estonia and 64% in Iceland. In Britain the rate increased to 44% (2006) and further to 46 % (2009)[10]; in Ireland the percentage increased to 33.2% (2006)."


Well in this particular area, it is working pretty well, much better than us. Anyway, it's not socialism in any meaningful sense, just more progressive social policies. And in fact, while the South is having problems, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia are doing better than us in most areas. You should go there some time. People are prosperous, healthy, largely content.

Anyway, we are getting off the topic. The facts when it comes to teen pregnancy is that they do a better job with it than we do. We could probably learn something from them.
This is one of the best articles I have ever read. It completely aligns with what I have seen in the last 16 years as a teacher.

Since you're evidently unaware of the recent unrest across the Atlantic, I'll point out that socialism isn't working that well in Europe.
Gerry - Kudos to you for your incredibly written, 100% accurate depiction of what goes on in urban schools across the country. I teach high school English, and have taught in urban schools in LA, Miami, and Chicago and, sadly, this story is like so many of my experiences with pregnant teens in my classes through the years. I'm on my 13th year, and most likely my last, it gets worse and worse. How can all these ignorant politicians push "data analysis" (which is entirely way too time consuming for teachers considering all our other responsibilites; I have such great data analysis skills b/c of these initiatives, I now have another career path to explore!) and ignore these glaring issues that obviously get in the way of improving test scores. Yet it is the teachers who are getting lambasted for students' and parents' failure.
I thoroughly enjoyed your article and respect your desire to reach these girls. I also taught in a inner city high school in Connecticut and what amazed me was the level of hostility directed toward students who were determined to go onto college and pursue a career. These students were treated like pariahs. The herd mentality reigned throughout this inner city school. Those students who endured the hostility and rancor from their peers in this school are the real heroes and deserve our respect and support.
I have to shake my head at those on this site who claim all of this is due to the safety net created for teen mothers. The safety net is much more comprehensive in Europe, but their teen pregnancy rate is a fraction of ours. Can we learn from them? Would their methods apply here? You can wail all you want about "socialism", but you can't argue with the results.
Perhaps one of the ironies here is that education (in the formal sense, and in the 'family values' sense), seems to be the best preventative measure against teenage pregnancy. What of that? Maybe your students could read a little bit more of the teenage pregnancy horror stories and a little less Langston Hughes. Good article.
Reason 3478 for homeschooling.
the sadness of what this means to our young people and to our future as a culture is simply overwhelming. where are wise leaders to comprehend the meaning of family and values? all the money we can pour into education cannot replace caring parents and an understanding of how a corrupt culture is a cancer on the country.
Morality in this country is at an all time low. What can we expect of our chidren when we allow and watch explicit entertainment, reward pregnancy with entitlement programs and when there are no consequences to bad behavior. When marriage is looked down upon and two parent families are rare, kids will do as they see.
This is the start of the destruction of our society.
Heartbreaking. Very well written.
Brilliant. This guy should write a book.
this is touching and disturbing - thanks for sharing
This is the New America ... at least until the white middle class can no longer carry these kids and their progeny. The black bastardy rate is over 70%. The white bastardy rate is between 25 and 40%.

The global financiers have exported their jobs to China. Being a traditional society, China abandons its bastards and so have few of them. Everyone works in China, and no one sucks off the Chinese government teat. In China, you work or die.

If we wish to survive as a country we would do well to follow the lead of our betters, the Chinese, to staunch our liberal bleeding hearts and to abandon these foolish policies.

But really, do we even have a choice any more? The money has run out. We cannot afford to feed and fuel the urban ghetto bastard factories, particularly since we have given the Chinese all the jobs the bastards could possibly do.
...much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent.

an observation: wasn't she divorced?
no wonder our country has gone to hell in a bread basket.
Beautifully written. In fact I crave for more.

It really shows what the nation has become.

I dare to hope that with the reason economic crisis, people will toughen up.

All of this reminds me of a brilliant and prophetic utterance:

"When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin." - Gregory XVI (Mirari Vos, par 14).

Thanks to Carl Olson from Insight Scoop blog for linking to this writing.
Once and for all, the "progresives" programs are not helping the poor. They are enabling their destruction. Forget the wasted money. It's a moral issue. Dismantle the welfare state before it destroys another generation.
It isn't "spit and image," but "spitting image."
As a high schoo teacher for 36 years in Oregon, I would swear these stories took place in the high schools where I taught for many years. I now live on the Oegon coast that has only one traffic light, but has many single mothers with babies and no means by which to support them. The interesting thing thoough is that these young mothers and their mothers think these babies are so cute! Seems like they don't com[rehend the life down the road.
This was a very good article.
Exceptional treatment of this subject and especially the link between welfare culture and failed schools. Politicians spend billions treating symptoms while studiously ignoring fundamental causes of poverty and ignorance. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Until we as a people are willing to address fundamental problems we can only rightly be called insane.
Very good analysis of present day crisis facing all of us...

I admire and respect your commitment and dedication to a very tough job which I certainly would not have the patience to do.

Sadly, I know the deterioration will continue as there is no true desire to incorporate personal responsibility into the equation. It is just easier to blame society with rascism etc. and demand payment for unaccountable behavior.

Such behavior is well rewarded and institutionalized. Failure is guaranteed.

Liberalism has won!....Be proud liberals of your victory...another proud moment for Government fixes.

Enjoy the ride to the bottom!
I teach in elementary school in L.A., and it's easy to see who is going to fall into that trap.
Great article, sir. My heart aches for Americas future.
I knew this world existed because I had seen it in the past, but had managed to relegate those memories to abstractions. This stunning article brought me back, at least for a few moments, to this unpleasant reality. The constant grinding down of these poor souls will eventually sap yours; do your good work while you can. It's like being a fighter pilot; you can only do it for a short time before you burnout or crash.
Thank your for your poignant essay!
My first job out of college (1970) was teaching English in a small high school in an integrated (white, black, Puerto Rican), largely blue-collar town in New Jersey.

Great Society programs had been in operation for about five years. Many of the girls were surprisingly candid about their plans after graduation: "Get my baby, move to Trenton, go on welfare."

I wish I had some hope regarding the mess we're in. Unfortunately, I can't say I do.
Wow. This is a very well written article Sir! :-) Thank you.
ForWhomTheBellTolls January 31, 2011 at 5:45 PM
This is madness, a complete societal catastrophe. The children grow up to be wards of the state. The jails fill to overflowing. I quote NRO's John Derbyshire, "We are doomed!" So what could we do? Let us start with the basics: 1) No welfare for unwed Mothers 2) Impregnating underage children is punishable by incarceration. You say that would be too "harsh". I reply, "compared to what? The current meltdown?"
Your Piece Gerry had me watery eyes period.
Hoo boy.... so true...
Yeah Denise you really where a teacher. I hope to god not, you spelling, usage of words and grammar are atrocious. As to your attitude about race, your parents wouldn't be members of the Aryan Nation now would they?
This has been going on for years!!!!!!! What has change. This is the same old same old. There is only rewards in the short run but we all pay for teens getting pregnant in the long run. PERIOD > No one wants to do what needs to be done. Jeeesssseeeeeee! Welcome to a modern society.
Do you think our politicians are going to look at this welfare world say it is objectively wrong, evil even, and has to stop, no matter how painful?

I blame feminists, who want women to abort their babies and also encourage women who can't support babies to birth those babies. It doesn't matter what the issue is, it's always, ALWAYS the liberal feminist's fault. They are responsible for everything that is wrong with society, because they have no sense of personal moral responsiblity, like we do.
Well written, but sad. No personal moral resposibility anymore. I see it with the batterers I counsel every week. All from dysfunctional families, going on to produce more dysfunctional children of their own.
A very sobering and poignant article from a knowledgeable "insider". My wife and daughter are also school teachers, and they have seen similar problems. It is an epidemic that is not only affecting families, but damaging the education of future generations.
Wow, well that is just fabulous that your school has all the funding. I also worked briefly in city school in Baltimore, MD and let me tell you, we didn't have enough funding. There wasn't enough money for books, or desks, and certainly there were hardly any computers to speak. I didn't even have a working computer n the classroom. Our gym, music, and arts progrmas were cut down to once a week, or once every two weeks. We had so many special needs kids we could only provide services to the very worst off. Of course, there was nothing at all for any gifted students.
There is a hugh desparity in schools state to state, and within the states themselves county/city to county/city. Your situation was your situation and is not indicative of all low income school situations.
The teen pregnancy rate has fallen over the past twenty years. I'm a bit disappointed that this fact doesn't even get a mention in this article.
Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
But sometimes it is the masters themselves who foment the corruption, viciousness and loss of virtue, to their own aggrandizement and at everyone else's loss.
Maybe instead of educating our children about sex, we should be educating them about life. Have these children heard from people that are doing what we want them to do? No. In Sex Ed they hear from Planned Parenthood about how to use free contraception, and abortion when that fails. Cute girls with babies in designer clothes talk about the "struggle" to be a teen mom, but all the girls see is the cute baby in the cute clothes that coos at his mommy. Maybe the health classes in elementary school should be teaching parenting skills (for when you're older and/or married), delayed gratification, the financial benefits of education and how to get there, how to have a healthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Don't dance around it. Be honest with these kids starting in third or fourth grade. Say, I know this isn't how you live now, but it is how you could live if you make different choices than the people around you have made. Get speakers and mentors into the classrooms of people who have made it out of the projects, who have made different choices. These kids don't have fathers, but they crave them. Get surrogates. Find the organizers in our communities and task them with pulling these types of resources together to make a real difference in children's lives. (The resources are there, we just have to be creative.) Maybe those $35/hr tutors should be working one on one with the younger students so that they can do better than 5th grade work in high school.

And for the teen mom? Mandatory classes in prenatal nutrition, parenting, budgeting, early childhood education, healthy lifestyles, etc. Tie compensation to completing each phase. Make a real support structure for these girls so that they know how to raise their children to make different choices, and have enough support to do so. And jobs, require them to work part-time at something. Nothing improves self-esteem and thereby the ability to think differently about yourself than real work and thereby real accomplishment.

These girls are looking for love from men, because they don't have fathers. The baby is someone for them to love. The boys are also looking for love. They also don't have fathers and are often raised by women that are very bitter (with good reason) towards men. Let's create a different paradigm for them to find that love and acceptance.

One other (draconian) possible solution. Maybe if the girls' mothers knew they'd have to adopt their own grandchildren or put them up for adoption, and that the state would not give extra compensation for the extra children beyond some prenatal and medical expenses through birth and the first 6 weeks for the mother, maybe they'd come down a little harder on their daughters behavior. If we required a boy to work minimum wage at a state or local job that immediately went to support his children on at least some level, (i.e., he does the work, but the money is sent to the adoptive grandma) maybe their mothers would be a little more vigilant also.

This website, comes from three men that made it out of New Jerseys' projects and didn't father children in their teens. They are also working to address the real need for children to have good, adult father figures (preferably their own) in their lives. They were raised by single mothers. They have some ideas.

If enough people cared enough, this situation could begin to be changed.
The "progressive" welfare state has destroyed our nation.

What else is there to say?
This is an excellent piece. I've had many experiences like these. I've taught in Las Vegas for 11 years, starting at one of the worst schools in town and now at one of the best, and if anything, the culture at the latter becomes more like the culture at the former every year.
To logic 101: Someone named Eric on this board expressed it so well:
"There's a sign by the river near where I live that says "don't feed the waterfowl; they become dependent on handouts and can't fend for themselves". You'd think that society would understand that applies to people, too."
Very nice essay.

Hollywood has glamorized single moms. And girls that dont know what else do to with their life and have no strong parents at home, go for that life. It provides a sense of "ok, I am somebody, I am a mom". Its really sad, what our new "anything is fine and acceptable" (no more shame) Hollywood culture has done to these girls.
One of the best pieces I have ever seen written by an educator proving that funding and gadgets and Information walls do not make any difference in education when it is our society that is broken.
This article is a sad commentary on the lack of moral state of our society. Everything goes and the children pay a severe price.
This is a truth every conservative knows, but that everyone should know. But how does one change society around and that specific subculture and the ugly term "baby Mama"?
The thing that is obvious to me by reading your article is this: Children have had their childhood stolen from them, no longer innocent and protected.

There are no rules anymore. At least no rules that make sense. Rules upheld make children feel secure and sane.

We are living in a day when evil is called good and good is called evil.

Thank you for your personal report. My heart is heavy.

We also have contraception and sex education - where have you been?

However, the Dutch probably stigmatize single parenthood while our underclass celebrates it.

The problem is one of cultural values, not lack of applicable education.
The Dutch have the lowest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. In fact, nearly all of Europe has a much lower rate of that than the US. How do they do it? Contraception and sex education. Their teens are often more sexually active than those in the US, but with far fewer ill effects.
Insightful article. I taught at a public high school for the last 10 years of my working life. The one opinion about education that I left with is that there are no easy answers. I think school choice is a good place to begin. But I know that even were the teachers unions to relent and allow us to embrace it wholeheartedly, issues such as this one and attitudes about education and authority and deferred gratification must still be overcome. Guess that every step in a positive direction helps.
I teach in a rural impoverished area. This could have been written about my school and I am sure many other schools in the country. Thank you for saying what I want to say much better than I am able to.
This isn't a racial issue; it's a cultural issue, and one I'm painfully familiar with. I'm caucasian; I came out of a coal camp in West Virginia. My dad was a mentally ill alcoholic who stopped working when I was 7. I was fortunate enough to have a strong mother who imbued my siblings and I with a good work ethic, and we all became successful people.

When my kids were 15 and 11, my wife decided she wanted a divorce. I had custody of my kids for a while, but the younger daughter went to live with her mother when she was 14. By 16 she was deeply involved in drugs, and at 17 she became pregnant. She married the baby's father, and eventually had another child with him. They split when the second child was 18 months old.

My daughter has effectively lived off welfare and social assistance since. She's a drug addict.3 years ago I got legal custody of my grandchildren, but she's since had a 3rd child. She's made it clear to me that she has no interest in changing her lifestyle. She gets rent subsidy, cash assistance, and food stamps, and supplements that from a free foodbank. She lives with a guy who is a widower; his mother has his children. He hasn't worked in the 3 years I've known him. He sponges off my daughter's assistance checks. They've told me that they think it would be stupid to not take advantage of the "free money" they get from the government and get jobs.

They have many friends of the same mindset.

There's a sign by the river near where I live that says "don't feed the waterfowl; they become dependent on handouts and can't fend for themselves". You'd think that society would understand that applies to people, too.
Gee, offering teenagers the right to be in charge, as well as free apartments, food stamps, cash, medical benefits, and college is an incentive to teen pregnancy?? Who would have thought that?
If you had wanted to destroy the black family, you could not have done a better job
than these "great society" programs run amok. The slave owners and the KKK would be quite envious if they could see how this is turning out. You see, they had to do all the work back when they were doing the oppressing. Now, all you have to do is tax the middle class and give the money to the lower class with the stipulation that they ruin all their future prospects for themselves and the next generation. I can almost hear those that practiced racial hatred in previous eras laughing their heads off.
We had centuries of precedent to ensure sexual morality was a part of our culture. In the 60s this was thrown out the window. In many families with a string cultural heritage, the damage has been minimal because the traditions have been passed down within the family. But in many others, there is no sexual morality.

Frankly, the only way to change this is to bring back the cultural stigma of teenage pregnancy, and the cultural stigma of unwed mothers.
As much as this is frowned upon today's promiscuous kids and today's social workers, we really do need to treat them less favorably and condemn their behavior in private and in public, otherwise this behavior will never end.

Thank you for an intimate account of the urban teen pregnancy problem.

This paragraph you wrote says it all:

"In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills. The safety net has become a hammock."

It seems like the antiquated option of adoption would be the answer here.

Since teen motherhood and single motherhood is glorified by the culture and propped up by the government, what single mother would consider the adoption option? She has absolutely no incentive to put her baby's needs and future above her own desire to "keep" her baby and be loved by her baby. She is encouraged at every turn to do otherwise.

Some posters here have said to arrest the boys for having sex with underage girls. Helloo, the boys are also mostly underage too. So, not the solutions.
The government is the enabler, throwing money at it from private tutoring (like thats going to help) to housing and welfare. That is all these kids know now. How else would they live. As long as government supports their lifestyle, it goes on fo generations to come.
Great idea with Michele Obama taking up this cause. Occassionally Barack takes a swipe at the problem; but backs off. If they cannot do it no one can. They have the clout and they are a great role model. Of course, all his base would be against an honest attempt to solve the problem
the story has been told before - read the Bell Curve which states that it is the tragically large gap in LEARNING and SKILL DEVELOPMENT that is creating an underclass in the US.
“Nobody gets married anymore, Mister” is the despairing truth. Nicole is right when she writes her imaginary obituary describing a life with multiple children and no husband. Marriage prospects for young black women have never been so poor. Besides the well-documented facts of urban black males’ high incarceration and mortality rates, there is another seldom-discussed factor going on: black men have no reason to marry.
I work at a suburban nightclub in Denver. On weekend nights black men constitute two thirds of our male clientele. Almost no black women come. The black men are there to pick up (mostly) white women and to be picked up by them. I have no problem with interracial dating, but this is largely about white women obtaining notches on their bedposts. If you look at the personal ads on Craigslist, many are from white women seeking black men. These men are getting the milk for free, and there is no reason for them to buy the cow.
I don’t know what the answer is. I know organizations like Promise Keepers are reaching out to black men, many of whom have never had an effective father figure. Thanks for a beautifully written story.
Excellent article from the right source. No black leader has ever addressed this problem. Bill Cosby was very brave and at one point did, but blacks incl. white liberals shouted him down. I think he gave up. Wouldnt this be a good cause for Michelle Obama, the wife of the president, instead of focusing on food stuff. We have other experts that do that already.
Michelle Obama, please look at this. This cause is screaming for help.
Hey Scott,

Thought you might be interested in this, as a future teacher. Pretty depressing.
Excellent article from first hand experience. Can be summarized as follows: No amount of money or good teaching will make a difference if the homes are bad with single mothers and the children are not taught any discipline, morals and basic human standards.
It's too bad about the culture, but it appears that is not what you want to change. What you want to change is people's lives. Yet another sob story teacher who really wants to be a social worker. Give me a break.
As a fellow educator I agree 100% with your points. One line in particular resonated with me: "Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch." This reality has implications for public schools beyond the immediate effects of teen pregnancy. The breakdown of the American family, and absentee parenting create an insurmountable hurdle for teachers. There is not much that NCLB, or Race to the Top can do to overcome this. But, like you said, no politician or education czar will address the issue. We will continue to create programs, perform studies, and train our teachers in new methods for reaching every child, while ignoring the elephant in the room.
Thank you, Mr. Garibaldi, for telling the truth. Nothing (absolutely NOTHING) will improve education in this country like the presence of a mother and a father, married to each other to demonstrate the permanency and reliable relationships kids and men & women deserve. No doubt, caustic cultural liberals will dismiss my and your opinions as 'the past' --keep you head up; I'm sure the rest of us will, too. Kids need a mother and a father in a stable relationship--That's a given; a law of nature on every level you'd care to argue.
All too true. Even more sad is that this dedicated teacher may be labeled a racist, sued for harrassment or worse! We have turned the culture upside down. No wonder the Muslims hate America!
Marriage is just not attractive as an alternative to these girls and young men sponge off the government through them. How much attention has been focussed on young men? or helping young married families? People who do the 'right thing' are on their own and it is not easy. In the past parents often helped young couples get started. That help doesn't exist anymore.
Mr. Garibaldi's article "hits the nail on the
head". It's a sobering reflection on what has transpired in the inner city school system. What's even more sobering is that this mindset and conditioning is now spreading, and I don't believe any amount of taxpayer's money can reverse the trend. Unfortunately the governing bodies have a tiger by the tail, and they either don't know which end is the tail, or they're too afraid to face reality. Until parent(s) accept responsibility of getting involved,i.e., P.T.A., a child's homework and
such, the situation will only fester.
Allocating more funds for hi-tech equipment
and computers is akin to placing a Lear jet
in everyone's driveway with instructions on
how to fly it.
In our charter school, I have often said, knowing that I sound cold and heartless, "Not every child from a broken home is a discipline problem, but virtually every student who is a discipline problem is from a broken home." The sad thing is that the damage from all of this has also affected intact families. Children are simply scared their families will end up in the same place.
I intend to send this article to every member of the congress, senate and the white house. This will do absolutly no good of course because first, it's politicly incorrect and second, the politicins will see no potiential votes in it. I also intend to send it to the two largest culprits on the black community in this problem. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton. Now I've heard both give this issue lip service but both still support the huge amounts of government money that subsidizes the behaviour. They live off this problem and in my opinion are nothing but "vampires".

Mr Garibaldi isn't the first person to bring the truth to the education and social problems rampant not only in black but also in all other ethnic groups and he won't be the last. Expecting the government to do anything about this problem is a waste of time. The truth won't fix this problem because it doesn't need government regulations or money to fix. It only needs the public to change its preception of teen and single parentage and government doesn't want that. Government and particularly progressive democrats have no interest in fixing this. A large percentage of its base are these teens when they reach voting age and their parents, mothers in particular. They are dependent on democrats for their very existance and in effect are owned by them. These kids are doomed to failure and a life of poverty and in the case of most of the male children, prison or death. The progressives who claim to care for these kids are either incredibly stupid and naive or they are cold blooded Machivellian politicans who only care for themselves. I honestly don't know which of those they are.
Some of our black Reverend Congressmen should stop complaining about racism and get busy with their own supporters. No money it that, though.
Thanks for the taking the time to write this article. Your frustration is palpable. I'm not sure how we get out of this hole we have dug for ourselves.
This is an extremely well written article. There are many causes to this failure in our culture: LBJ's Great Society, the Hollywood mores that accept the single parent lifestyle, the rise of the single parent family, etc.
As our country enters the financial abyss that has been forecast and building for years, we will need to revert what worked in our grandparents' generation: the rise of orphanages or a mandatory requirement that demands adoption from babies born from minors.
Our society is rapidly deteriorating towards a two tier culture: one that is third world and the other that is affluent. We have a lost generation that will only be redeemed with the next generation; provided that some of the draconian recommendations previously stated by other reader's comments are implemented.
Thank you for your service as a teacher and as an involved role model. This is heartbreaking. I think our nation has failed to address one of our top crises- it is a crisis in manhood. It hurts our women, men and children and impacts every aspect of our society.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We must quit enabling.
I think this column is great. I work for a social service agency and believe that our country is in virtually total denial about what is really going on with our children. We continue to act like better schools and "comprehensive sex education" will solve our problems with children. Meanwhile the number of abused and neglected children and children with a single parent is skyrocketing because we are so disoriented when it comes to sex and marriage.
A few years ago when I was at s town meeting for Minneapolis Public Schools and proposed that the schools' sex ed curriculum should promote "one partner for life" for physical, social and mental health. The curriculum director said, "That sounds like marriage and everybody knows that marriage is designed for the oppression of women."

Some time later, I heard a talk by the head of NAACP on Public Radio talking of the source of the problems in the African American community. He mentioned everything EXCEPT single parent families.

Ross S. Olson MD
Teenage pregnancy is hardly the root problem you portray it here. The girls were lost causes long before they became pregnant--low skilled, cognitively limited.

Of course we don't want them having babies as teens. But that's not why they aren't educated. They aren't educated because we pretend that they are capable of doing work that they haven't a chance of understanding. We ignore their actual ability and pretend to teach them courses that are, in fact, a lie.

Pregnancy is what they do because their education is a waste, but it's not what is preventing them from being educated. At best, it is preventing a rescue or two.
ooba zooba
I found many of the comments very disturbing. I say this because they seem to reflect a naive attitude that this problem has just been discovered. B. Samuel Davis' comment about it having taken 50 years to discover the problem with the underclass is an example. The late Sen. Moynihan wrote about this problem back in the 60's or 70's; Does anyone remember the outcry over V.P. Quayle's comments about Murphy Brown?
So, this article will cause an uproar or it won't, but until the normal people of America decide that they are tired of the underclasses nonsense, the problem will continue. I too was a teacher in an urban school for 1 year; I too can tell some stories. But the thing to remember is that for most of these children their fates were sealed the moment their mothers spread their legs.
Cut the subsidies that enable this lifestyle. Before government assistance took over the husband's role, mothers in these circumstances gave the kids up for adoption, an act that was best for her and best for the child.

This is a wonderful anecdotal observation of the breakdown of American families. Americans started down a path of cultural self-destruction with the best of intentions. But the road to hell...

The CDC reported that in 2007 40% of all U.S. births were to unwed mothers. In 1960 the same measurement was 7%. Since the 1960's the U.S. has had Great Society welfare programs, abortion on demand, the birth control pill, The Bradley Amendment to the Social Security Act, and a host of other family destroyers and an attitude of "it's okay if it makes you feel good in the moment."

Our kids are suffering and in pain. The really sad part of this story--these are the children who will be the bureaucrats and politicians of my retirement years. Yes, these are the countries future voters and decision makers.

I find this frightening.
The other negative part of what Mr. Garibaldi presents is the lifetime in poverty that his students' children are likely to encounter. Nicole has created for her children a life with a high probability of living in poverty, drug abuse, educational underperformance, health problems, criminal activity and incarceration, and a host of other ills. The cost to Nicole's children, to the children of other single mothers like Nicole, and to society is astronomical.
Excellent article. Stunningly excellent. I was torn between anger and vomiting. I ahve felt for years that we, as a society, from Oprah on outward, glorify single parenthood; particularly teen parenthood. The actual statistics weave a different story line. Abject proverty. Educational failure. Drug abuse. Sexual abuse. Suicide.

A successful single parenthood story can easily be found. But, let's face it. It's the exception, not the rule. I am an elected official and my feeling is that had I said 50% of what Gerry just wrote, I would be branded an evangelical whack-job, a racist or simply inhumane.

We all want to do the right thing. Right now, though, we're not.
geraldine henrietta January 31, 2011 at 7:32 AM
So sad...How do we change generations of attitudes and culture without punishing the children? This is the question our policy makers should be tackling, instead of trying to assuage their guilt with more welfare programs.
Heart wrenching article. Should we look for someone to blame - or answers? Both?

As to blame, we have once again the evil of good intentions. It seems impossible that it took fifty years - FIFTY YEARS - to realize that the cure all for poverty, crime, teen pregnancy, education lay not on money, not in racism, but in a stable family, preferably with cultural driven expectations in favor of education, and continuation of family. That it took 50 years is a testament to the ability of government - and most important, its media support, to ignore solutions that are all too apparent but go against their prevailing world view - that these problems are not caused by entrenched racism, by lack of money as a result of same, or something else.

Couldn't! Only Republicans believe in family values. Rather let these people continue in misery than admit that conservatives were right all along.

So, while the statistics show what's really going on, the government and the welfare industry that grew up around the money made available by government, STILL looks for solutions that will not work - more money, more education, more anything else. Anything rather than admit that they were wrong. Plus they want the gravy train to keep running.

There was a time when the grandmother would step in and offer some stability, but the grandmothers from the last generation when family meant something are gone, and now there really isn't anyone to teach these kids what family means. So, gangs are created - human instinct at work - there will be a group to belong to, in place of family, but steered in a horribly wrong direction.

And that's the problem now - even assuming that the leaders, and their media backers agree as to the real root cause of the problems in their community, how do you create these structures where none exists. Do you starve and refuse to house unwed mothers? Of course not, but what do you do? If educating these children doesn't work, what then?

It starts with a recognition by community leaders that more money isn't the answer. But, these leaders are far too wedded to the political party and the gravy train it provides to really address the problem. And with those who have funded the anti-poverty programs for decades finally saying enough, then where is the solution to this? How do you re-create what is lost?

There must be a special place down there for those who have condemned an entire community to high crime, chemical dependency, lack of self-respect, and never to have the stability, love, interdependence that family can give. We know who they are, even if they are not willing to admit that all of their good intentions have resulted in decades of misery. All that time, all that money - all that opportunity ...wasted over half a century.

True, I teach at a Title I campus and often think the same. I am at an elementary school which is trying hard to make a difference in the lives of the children of Mr. Garibaldi's students.
I am soooo happy I was born a zillion years ago. Things were so much more simple. I must say they were so much clearer than today.
As I struggle through a mother (Mother of the Year) with alzheimers and the loss of a wife the questions of assisted death and "living" with another woman are less clear. At the same time when I was young there was no question about was no and for the most part it still is. I have nothing but contempt for those who take the "easy" way out. For they leave all the guilt and doubt and problems for those remaining to handle. Nope ... nothing but contempt. But what about my mother and her sister. Trapped in a body with a mind that doesn't work and no, I repeat, NO cure. Surely they deserve some dignity.
Not married and living together...what we really are saying ...sleeping together and having sexual intercourse. Again it was much more simple "then". Someplace in the Bible it says something like "don't use sex just for pleasure of the body"...okay when we were young and fertile with no means of support for ourselves and any children we bring into the world it is an obvious that no sex until you are married made sense and was "right". Flash forward to my 80 year old widowed father and question becomes scewed. There was so little time left and the want of companionship was so great and there was NO chance of what is wrong with living in the same house. Then why did the church fathers choose to discuss the issue. As a son I felt no different to my father...I still and do to this day love him. To interject here, it is easy for me to picture God "our father" in heaven just because of my father her on earth. He was not perfect...just an execellant example of what a father is.
Again it was sooo easy to look down at unmarried living together and raising children born out of wedlock. But the living together without being married become more muddled in my mind. I am getting older...what about my childrens inheritence how will it affect my income and or her's? (think debt, income and even medical needs/bills). I cannot reproduce, so I have no fear of bringing a child into the world that will go unsupported or without a proper "father" to teach him/her the way of life. Double bet or maybe the same standard with qualification...I don't know...I know it was soooo much easier in my youth. I do know as I grow older I have to question more. I don't know all the answers and I know that I don't know. See it gets confusing...I do know I have a loving God, that is not always happy with me...but at the same time a loving God that supports me...I also know that prayer works and the Lord knows we talk about this a lot...
What makes people think that the single mothers are african american in this article. The crisis started in this community perhaps but is now everywhere.

Political correctness is always a problem but in this case we need to address the issue across the entire community or else we will have two Americas. One with married college graduates in stable jobs, and single parents struggling to make ends meet with their children falling further through the cracks.

This is a modern society problem, but one that must be solved.
Another reminder that teaching about morality is foundational to all other instruction.
I notice that on some shows, black people are given subtitles so that we can understand them. It seems that a portion of our former slave population has done well and moved up the ladder in places like University Heights IL and Wash DC, much of this due to civil service work. But the larger portion is in the process of splitting completely away from our culture. We are helpless to do anything, so long as political correctness and the fear of being labelled a racist hold sway. So, what we will do is shake our heads and try to throw a little more money at the problem. Maybe appoint a few more African Americans to head city and state education departments, to prove that we care. All the while, we know where this is headed.
What a touching, beatifully written piece. It is moving and so revealing about the place we as a nation find ourselves. It seems we have turned a blind eye to the very serious and devastating results of collapsing family structure.
I want to weep.
Krista Strickland January 31, 2011 at 6:54 AM
What a wonderfully written article! I'm afraid that's the nicest thing I can say, because from there, of course, it's shocking. It's not just urban areas, either. Teen pregnancy is an epidemic. One that I worry about, as a mother of two daughters.
Good piece, but it was a cheap shot to call Obama's mother a single parent. She was married to the president's father when she gave birth and they were together for some years. Moreover, when Obama's mother had a second child, she was married to that child's father. Finally, President Obama has spoken out many times about the need to wait to have children and for fathers to dedicate themselves to their children.

I also wonder why you did not discuss ways to prevent pregnancy. In Europe, girls have sex for the first time at the same age as in the US, but they do not become mothers.
My parents were teachers; my sister has twice been a teacher of the year in Florida. Your heart breaking article is spot on; moreover, I heard my parents predict what was coming 25 years ago. It makes no difference. The Feds got involved and those behind the philosophy governing our public education don't give a damn about kids or education. Their sole motivation is to underscore their moral superiority by pointing to the money spent on education. It is criminal.
Statutory rape is a artifact of society. Both girls and boys were intended by nature to be sexual and they are. You charge one participant with a crime and send him to jail and you give the other participant a lifetime income. Has it fixed the problem?? No, but it has provided an outlet for angry and vicious people who harbor hate in their heart.
Title I is a failure. Welfare is a failure. Too much help is a failure. We have failed over three generations of people who willingly and knowingly choose welfare over making their own life. We, who are not on welfare, cannot believe that anyone would actually choose that lifestyle so we find other reasons to explain it. Racism, poverty, lead in the paint, child abuse, whatever! It is the fault of our meddling pure and simple. And while we through billions and billions on this fire we are going broke...
Please Please Please--charge the boys with statutory rape for impregnating underage girls. Also, I think compulsory birth control should be considered. ALSO--no benefits/subsidies of any kind for mothers and their out of wedlock babies . Yes I know this sounds harsh and fascistic. But is there any other way??i
very interesting read... thank you
Dear Mr. Garibaldi,

This is the primary problem in our society. I am preparfed to help you get your message desiminated. I can help financially or provide my time.

Gary Smith Seattle, WA 206-330-6275
Unfortunately, this genie will not be put back in the bottle. This is the future of our nation and our educational system. The majority of Americans are tiring of paying for the wasted educational opportunities provided to these children. They are tiring more of paying for their social indescretions. The money for both will be decreasing, not increasing over time.
Excellent piece.
Worth reading and disseminating.
I will Facebook share this but most teachers I know will not at all be surprised.
Mr Garibaldi is quite right about personal moral responsibility. It is not only the electrified 3rd rail it is the 800 lb gorilla in the living room so few "leaders" have the courage to address.
The sperm donors committed what at one time was punishable as statutory rape.
OK. Liberals broke it. How do we fix it?
This is a sad and frightening story. Being a parent is the hardest and most important job in life; a job that never ends.
This fits in nicely with a recent book called "Bad Students, Not Bad Teachers" by a career educator named Robert Weissberg. The Teacher's Union is a national disgrace, but the REAL problem is the utterly failed culture of our underclass (and increasingly the Lower Middle class). We can play the blame game and point at the cultural meltdown of the 1960s and the nihilistic entertainment media that resulted, but what's the point. As the underclass remains large and stagnant, and the Lower Middle class grows exponentially (due to the global economy and loss of union jobs), I'm afraid we're doomed to become a two-tier society with the have-nots increasingly ignorant and beastial.
One issue that has not been mentioned either in the article or in the comments is abortion.

One reason why the safety net has become a hammock is because social conservatives who usually oppose welfare programs are less opposing of welfare for children and single mothers because they are afraid the women will just have an abortion instead.

As a broader issue, the question of preventing teen pregnancy has gotten caught up in the larger culture war over sex. How can you tell a girl to "wait until marriage" when there is no realistic prospect of marriage in her future? Likewise, passing out condoms isn't going to do any good if the girls want to get pregnant and don't use them. Very few people have tackled the real issue head on.
Amen, the real problem with any low income environment is the neverending cycle of single parent families. I have known many single mothers, some successful and some not, however, the overarching theme is that they are incentivised to have children out of wedlock.
They see the free education, free housing, etc... offered to single mothers. Their friends, likewise, see that they are not eligible for any of the same benefits. My sister was advised when wanting to return to college that it would be better if she were a single mother.
This system needs to be changed. While we can't leave our most vulnerable without a safety net, we can't also make it like a get-out-of-work-free ticket. Some solution, such as penalties for not naming the father, and making that father pay regardless, would at least make a difference. It would make the guy that is out there getting 2 and 3 women pregnant think twice. The mother should also have work requirements.
One final thing. A little more morality by our role models would do a lot. I know the old "It takes a village" saying, however, a Mother and Father would be a much better start.
I have been railing against the promotion of programs that support a culture of illegitimacy for forty years. Though I divorced my son's father when my son was seven months old, I had a masters degree and an intact, loving family, and regular child support that never failed to arrive on the first of every month. But the job of raising a child is not for the uneducated, the poor, or the young as it takes maturity, experience in the navigation of the world, and personal stability to raise and then send another human into the world fully equipped to handle life without crisis. Fourteen year-olds having babies can not fulfill that definition.
My brother in law and my wife's niece both teach in Connecticut ans this column is not a unique situation or limited to inner city schools.
"In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills.

Even after seeing all of the negative results the author continues to insist that creating dependents is "humane and defensible". Why? Because it makes people feel good about themselves? When "teachers" can't see though their own emotions to rationally address issues as difficult as teen pregnancy, what chance do our children have?
SO what should we be doing- you point out the much known problem, but no solutions. Money is clearly not the solution- as you state- so what is it and how do we get there.
My former high school (I graduated decades ago but still have friends who teach there) in a largely blue-collar middle sized city in Central Jersey now provides a full-time daycare center right in the school for the high school students with babies. Fifteen and sixteen year old female high school students drop their babies off at this center, then visit the children during recess and special "quality time" allowed them in lieu of classes. Four of the girls in their mid teens have two or even three babies (age ranges barely one year apart) in the program. They are allowed to bring the babies to the program so long as they do not file for emancipated minor status, which, here in New Jersey, allows the teen-age mother to set up her own household, obtain a free apartment in local public housing, and begin collecting welfare, food stamps, WIC benefits, and Medicaid under her own name, rather than leaving these benefits in the hands of her own mother, who, most likely, is a welfare recipient herself. This theoretically keeps the unmarried teenage mother under the watchful eye of her mother, a joke at best.
I also heard an overnight radio talk show host (Red Eye Radio, carried overnight in NYC on WABC) last week discuss news stories out of Frasier High School, Memphis Tennessee, where 90 of the girls in the high school are pregnant. Have heard no discussion since. I guess the news about Charlie Sheen's latest romp with the ladies drove that story off the front page.
Not good, not good.
Dear Gerry:

You are part of the problem -- not the solution. You are making a living off a corrupt and obviously morally bankrupt system. Get a job in a religious school where morals are taught and where parents care enough about their kids to see that they get a decent education. Your pay check and union dues are paying for the destruction of the young lives, like Nicole, you pretend to care about. You make me sick.
While I agree wholeheartedly with the observations Mr Garibaldi has made, I think attributing it to a failure in "personal moral accountability" doesn't address the problem. "Morality" is one of those slippery things that has no common definition--every society has or had a different concept of what constitutes "moral" behaviour.

Far more to the point are the pragmatic, life-ruining, consequences of kids having kids.
I once did some work for the Patterson NJ school district. We brought in new computers and set them up, replacing 2 year old computers and printers. In one case we almost replaced a printer with an identical printer, we brought that one back, and it went back to the warehouse, though I suspect one of the district employees took it home.

This was a group of elementary schools, and the teachers were all 25 year old girls who had their degrees bought and paid for by the state in return for teaching in a Title I district. None of them wanted to be there, they wanted to do their time, and then be off to some safe suburban district. The schools on the Wayne border were mostly middle class White and Hispanic, those teachers were in their 60s, career teachers with kids who had parents that cared.

The state has given up on the idea that it should produce people from it's schools an universities that graduate, get jobs, marry, have kids, and pass their priorities down to their own children. So what should the government suspect will happen when they throw religion out of schools, then refuse to give any replacing morals? People will do whatever pleases them.
I admire you for everything you try to do. But I fear no matter how hard you try, it will never be enough.

Aid to children who have children is always brought up in the terms of "helping the children." Which? The ones that have children are now basically consigned to a life of poverty. The ones born are definitely not helped by the outpouring of money.

I say it is simple: Yes, the government will pay for your maternity care and the delivery. But only if you sign away parental rights so they can be adopted. Now that would be best for BOTH children.

And if you don't agree, then go tell the TWO children that were suffocated by their mother when she rolled over on to them while she let them sleep with her in bed. (She was 15 and 17 at the time of their births.)
What a sad truth this is. The decline of family, and personal accountability, is perhaps a greater danger to this country than any deficit. And with MTV shows like "skins" that idealize and push raw teenage sex… Our country will not get any better.

Sad… And getting sadder.
Gerry Garibaldi wrote,
“My students often become curious about my personal life. The question most frequently asked is, “Do you have kids?”
“Two,” I say.
The next question is always heartbreaking.
“Do they live with you?” “

He is among the fortunate fathers who did not have to answer,
I’m a college – educated man. More than half of us are divorced.
My ex-wife took the house, most of my income and my children.
I see my son and daughter twice a month, on Sunday. Sometimes they say they hate me. They call her new boyfriend, “daddy”.
I still love them.”
Great article Gerry. Gee, I wonder why these girls decide that having babies just isn't such a bad idea. Maybe the lack of moral opprobrium has a little to do with it, but the real reason is that there's not much upside for them in NOT getting pregnant, since working the line at McDonald's is pretty much the best they have to look forward to either way.

In virtually every society, women start having babies pretty much as soon as they know their lives aren't going to dramatically improve as a result of putting it off, so long as their lives aren't going to be made horribly worse by having a baby. There's two options, therefore, for dealing with the problem of teenage pregnancy - either make these girls have real improved life options on the condition that they put off getting storked, or else make it really punitive for them to get pregnant. The latter rightly seems inhumane, if only to the prospective children. But dealing with the former would require wholesale changes to our national political economy of the sort that are utterly beyond the political imagination of a journal like this one. states that in 2008 CT had a much lower teen birth rate than the US as a whole.
Excellent article! You certainly know how to write, to describe the atmosphere between the teacher and a problem-ridden student in a school like yours.
Being a teacher myself in Berlin, Germany with year-long teaching experiences in Houston, Texas and Poland I sahre your conviction that the latest technical developments are not what helps a group of students make essential progress - it's their attitude that counts and their will to make use of the means at their disposal.
I, too, taught at an urban high school (7-12). What you report is very true. One of the biggest problems I ran into was the non-participation of students' parents, particularly mothers. They were frequently little more than kids themselves. Many mothers of the junior high students were under 30; many resented having "given up" their childhood to being mothers. So sad...
It's no surprise that school children are acting as they are.The welfare of the child is based on his home life.Single parents make enormous efforts to raise their children to be self supporting independent children.They task is too great for the vast majority of single parents.It takes two parents to properly raise a family.
John Dewy(our "Progressive Education" man)probably had more to do with the downward spiral of (mis)education in this country than any other single individual.He became head of a teachers college and then able to poison the thinking of the students of that college and the graduates spread the poison farther as time went on.How to make schools into the teaching institutions they once were will require more wisdom than I possess.
The descriptions of the home lives of these students underscores a bit of wisdom from former days,"As the home goes,so goes the nation."If our homes continue on their present course,the Elite will have little difficulty herding the population into the holding pens they are planning for us.
Very heartbreaking and enlightening article.
There were answers to many of the problems in educating today's ghetto students found in the District of Columbia Dunham School.A brief history of its successes and its demise are found in a piece by Dr. Thomas Sowell in PRIMUS, a free publication by Hillsdale College.Every element that assured the success of nearly every student is contradicted by today's rules and formulas concocted by "experts" in education Now, the highest per-student- cost is found in D.C., along with the highest failure rates in the nation. Go figure.

Do what you are required to do with the pregnant teenagers under your terms of employment and your instructions. You too involved with these people. These are their choices so leave them to it. As soon as you get the news write them off mentally and emotionally.

Keep "teaching" if you like but consider private schools where children are ready, willing and prepared to learn. If that is no good look for rewarding work.
Interesting story. To learn more about the causes of our nation's educational deficiencies, I recommend the book "Bad students not bad schools" by Robert Weissberg.

Robert H. Gardin