June 20, 2008

Fears of Gloucester

Not the one in King Lear, but the one in Massachusetts. The story circulating about the high number of teen pregnancies this year is not new: the Boston Globe reported on it June 6. What is new is Time magazine's claim on Wednesday that the pregnancies are the result of a pact among several of the girls to become pregnant, or so says the principal, Joseph Sullivan. The story has spread, with the Boston Herald interviewing two teen mothers in Gloucester who criticize the alleged pact. But even Time's report is old: the Gloucester Times reported an earlier version of Sullivan's claim in March. But the claim in March was different: "According to his conversations with upperclassmen, some younger students may be becoming pregnant on purpose." Then, this week, it became, "All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together."

I will admit I'm skeptical of these claims. Neither Time's reporter nor anyone else has been able to confirm Sullivan's claim with any of the families, and something about this claim seems out of a bad B movie: "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," Sullivan is quoted as saying. That doesn't mean that the story is false, but that is the type of extraordinary claim that we'd expect a little more than a single person's assertion to back up.

There is sure to be a wave of media attention on this, beyond the first few days, with questions about whether Juno glamorized teen pregnancy, whether abstinence-only education is the problem, and so forth. When fears of teen behavior are the focus, every anecdote becomes metonymy.

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Posted in Education policy on June 20, 2008 7:25 AM |