Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bloomberg 3/MHP 0 - don't back down mayor - shame is a cultural asset

NYTimes | In the South Bronx, inside the International Community High School, Johnny, Brayan, Khady, Genesis and Francisco link arms and joke and giggle and write out lists of what they admire about each other. Sometimes they hug.
They are working-class kids, ninth-graders navigating the shoals of adolescence. Each is a volunteer in a program, Changing the Odds, aimed at decreasing the likelihood that they will become teenage parents.
They hear no didactic lectures and see no wagging fingers. There is patient trust-building, and an insistent message: It is hard enough to escape poverty’s fierce gravitational pull; to add to that the grueling business of raising a baby makes it harder still.
“You try to give them a safe place to talk,” says Tatiana Alejo, 26, a counselor with the program, which shows great promise. “They have so many social pressures. And we never, ever, downgrade or shame.”
This is the day-to-day reality of the campaign against teenage pregnancy. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, personally and through his health and education departments, takes a vibrant role in this movement. Teenage pregnancy remains a perilous problem but has dropped sharply in the city and across the nation in the past 20 years.
You wonder, is Mr. Bloomberg aware of this?
I ask, as last week his administration began a jarringly judgmental advertising campaign that aims to shame teenage parents and scare teenage girls who are not yet parents by warning that really bad consequences await should they get pregnant.
One poster shows a weepy baby boy, staring at the camera, and these words: “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.” Another poster features a pensive toddler and states: “Honestly Mom ... chances are he won’t stay with you.”


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