If you don’t correctly identify the problem, you don’t stand much of a chance of solving it.
The problem of “sexual immorality” among teenagers is almost universally misdiagnosed, and the vast majority of solutions proposed for problems such as high rates of illegitimacy and STD’s miss the point entirely. While so-called “liberals” (who also tend to misdiagnose the problem and propose band-aids like handing out free condoms) stand accused of plotting to overturn thousands of years of tradition and unleash a Pandora’s box full of unintended consequences, conservatives tend not to recognize that an ideal of universal celibacy throughout the first half-dozen or more of our prime childbearing years is itself a radical innovation.
To get a better look at the problem, let’s review some numbers (from Table PF 1.5.b)
Fertility rates ages 15-19, all races, 1960: 89.1
Fertility rates ages 15-19, all races, 1990: 59.9
Fertility rates ages 15-19, all races, 1999: 49.6
Yes, that’s right, over a period of 40 years, we have managed to cut the so-called “teen birth rate” nearly in half.
Unfortunately, the rate of marriage among these people has fallen even faster, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate has risen substantially. Which suggests that the problem isn’t that our kids are having sex “too early” (at least by any reasonable historical standard), but that they’re getting married too late.
Which means that the ultimate source of our problem isn’t a corrupt popular culture, oversexualized entertainment, or anything along those lines. Nor is it insufficient sex education or inaccessibility of contraceptives, or anything along those lines. The ultimate source of our problem is that our children are growing up and getting educated too slowly. Three months out of every year of their childhoods is utterly wasted from an academic standpoint (for a grand total of three years – a 15 year old, instead of facing three more years of childhood, could already be in college, if not for that!), and they get a watered-down curriculum when their classes actually do meet – and the high school diploma that takes their entire childhood (and then some, by any reasonable standard) to get qualifies them for nothing that allows them to support middle-class families.
Now why is it that a nine year curriculum stretched out over 12 years and culminating in a nearly worthless diploma is seen as a fixed law of nature, while the reproductive drive is not? Why is an extra-long childhood non-negotiable, while we must adjust everything else in our society and our kids must put their lives on hold to accomodate it? In short, why should our teenagers be children rather than adults, and why do we think that children can ever safely be left in posession of working reproductive organs?