Friday, December 4, 2009

The Right Prophylactic Makes All the Difference

Much more important than the sex scandal of Tiger Woods, which was at the top of page 1 of yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is the story below it, which is really about another, and much more serious and far reaching sex scandal. I am referring to the possibility that condoms will be handed out in MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) high schools.

What do our children need from the community as they make their way through the difficult years of adolescence and high school? They need a number of things, some of which seem to contradict each other at first glance. For example, they need safety, though not at the cost of their other needs. They need a healthy amount of risk and conflict, for without such things neither the muscles of the body, nor the connections of the mind, nor resilience of one's spiritual life, will grow. They need strong moral guidance, from parents, from the church, from the media and pop culture, and yes, from the schools, for without this guidance the moral dangers they face will cause them deep hurt; the dangers are great and grave, both physical and spiritual. They need also to grow in knowledge, and to learn to think, and to reason. They need to learn what it means to be a responsible member of the community. Each of these needs, and more, must be met, in order for a child to optimally result in a healthy and well rounded member of society. And all segments of society do play a role, in each one of these particular needs being met. However, each particular arm of society must play its own special role, more actively influencing a child in one way, more passively in the other ways. For each has its special role. The special role of the Church is not to teach algebra, and the special role of academia is not to enforce the moral dogmas of our age.

As a minor excursus, it is worth pointing out and clarifying that the elemental parts of society are the family, the Church, and the civil government, and that a fruitful discussion of the role of each could take place. One question that this raises is into which of these does the school fit. It is my contention that the school is essentially an arm of the family, an extension of the parenting vocation. Seen in this light, church school teachers will no longer be seen as ministers of religion, just as school teachers of government run schools will be seen less and less as ministers of the state. And real cooperation between the teachers and the parents, whom they represent for eight hours each day, will be promoted.

The problem with MPS, which in too many ways makes it typical of the public school system in our nation generally, is that instead of focusing effectively on the particular role of the school, that is, to educate children intellectually, it seems forever interested in implementing a social agenda. As I say, the school does have a part to play in the social and moral upbringing of our children, but the public schools tend to chase its moral and social goals in completely the wrong ways, and at the expense of the academic needs of the student.

The graduation rate in MPS is at about 60%, and while this is better than a few years ago when it was in the neighborhood of 40%, it is still scandalous. And as a recent report indicates, the increase in the graduation rate has not meant an improvement in education. Young men and women are walking off the stage with their diplomas, but without the ability to read. Many more can read but cannot reason through an argument, or speak intelligently in a job interview.

While this is going on, MPS wants to be one of the few school systems in the country to give out condoms to students. But don't worry, the nurse will only give out two at a time. Our boys and young men do not need the license to drop their pants lower than they are already hanging, and have their ignorant way with the precious flowers that is our girls and young ladies. I hasten to add, of course, that the ladies too often fail to act like ladies, and this will not help in that regard either. Instead of handing out prophylactic paraphernalia against venereal disease, our schools need themselves to be a strong prophylactic against ignorance. They can fulfill this mission by learning once again to educate our children.

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