After two stories of alleged child abuse appeared in the paper in two days, I was wondering what the alleged abusers in each case were thinking. Did a certain man from Mat-Su really think that slapping his baby girl would make her want to eat her oatmeal and peas? What was the logic of the then-25 year old in trying to make a 15 month old (whose mind is just developing) perform any task? If she had failure to thrive, why didn’t he know what food to give her that she might enjoy? What kind of psychology were the two Anchorage men applying to the five year old in an odd child care arrangement and entrusted to them by “trying to scare the sh—“ out of a little boy to “toughen” him up with a “redneck flamethrower”?
What these men did was terrible, but I want to ask about something that goes back further. Why were they not taught better? I am not interested in warehousing and wasting lives in prisons; with some heinous, ignorant crimes being committed, there comes a point where there seems to be a need for basic family education classes in addition to or perhaps instead of health and personal finance in high school. In the old days, it was called home economics, but now it is often renamed Family and Consumer Sciences and covers everything from clothing repair, hygiene, cooking and nutrition to budgeting, child and human development and working within the community.
When I was in high school, I laughed at a poster of a girl of an indeterminate teenaged age. She was holding a darling baby and looking all forlorn with a caption underneath her stating, “Parenthood is like being grounded for 18 years.” I don’t know of anyone who was persuaded to use birth control by the poster. Some of us just loved kids and enjoyed babysitting and didn’t see it as a problem. Sex has been around for a long time and teenagers having sex is not going to go away. Whether or not to have abortions or use birth control is a matter of what the family teaches, but how to successfully run a household is a science and the schools need to prepare students for it, whether or not they have children.
Supporting yourself is tough enough, but raising a family is a hundred times harder. Most people will engage in premarital relations and whether they do or not is immaterial because almost all of the kids leaving high school will have to support themselves or be responsible for someone else. Sex can cause babies. Choosing between an abortion and having a baby is like choosing between jumping off a cliff and doing an infinite decathlon. Like jumping off a cliff, the decision ends right there. For the decathlon, as with a child, you have responsibility for it as you push on with new choices and events being thrown at you every few hours even when it’s slow. By teaching students (preferably freshmen) about the basics of home economics, they can be better prepared to handle the decisions, be it about family planning and other life choices that they will have to make for the rest of their lives.
When I read of the parents who abuse their children or who have made choices on behalf of their children that are out of society’s range of comprehension, I wonder what kind of training they had to prepare them for parenthood and for managing their lives. Did they know what raising a child and family would entail?
I wonder how many obstetricians and midwives watch babies being born, all born with essentially the same “stuff,” go home and cry (or drink off the feeling) fearing that the parents will watch a bundle of potentialities be snuffed out by ignorance.
By mandating home economics classes, school districts can make a positive investment in the next generation and future of our children.