Traduction en français ici, "Des cours pour être parents enseignés au lycée".
This is something I came across about six month ago. We had a staff meeting and somehow, we ended up talking about parenting classes. I had no idea such classes existed.
Let’s start by looking at some statistics about teenage pregnancy.
We keep hearing about teenage parenting being a problem in the US (and elsewhere). Actually after doing some research, it appears that US teen pregnancy rate have dropped 44% from 1991 to 2010. But this is not the case for every state, according to Reuters, “Mississippi reported 55 birth per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19 in 2010, more than 60 percent above the U.S. average, according to state data”.
Despite the lower rates, US teenage pregnancy is above most developed countries. An article published on CBS News states that “according to the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. rate of teen pregnancies is nine times higher than many other developed countries”.
But what is the rate of abortion which would probably change a little bit those numbers. Well, actually quite surprisingly the abortion trends are the same as the teenage birth rates. According to the Child Trends DataBank, the abortion rate among teens ages 15 to 17 declined from 26.5 per 1,00 female in 1990 to 14.5 in 2000. But if you read a little further, the study states that “more than one-third of all teenage pregnancies in the US end in abortion”. In other words, the birth rates might have decrease, but high abortion rates should not be forgotten as having an influence.
Complete state list, here.
So what are exactly those parenting classes?
I think that the name of the class is pretty straight forward. Those classes are optional (currently under debate to know whether they should be required) and usually offered in high-school, mostly to girls. Along with those classes, the students work at daycare and take care of “computerized babies” for a weekend. The computer baby is what surprised me the most. So here is a picture of what it looks like, then you have a set of keys to take care of the baby. And apparently, that baby cries every two hours, and it cries so loud that you have to take care of him to make it stop crying! I even found a Facebook Group called “The fake baby for parenting class is worse than taking care of a real baby”!
Now, let’s look at what people say about them.
An article on eHow clearly supporting parenting classes quotes Graeme Paton, editor for Telegraph.co.uk who said that “teachers are obliged to teach parenting classes because children starting school are unable to talk properly or use the toilet”. The article also states that “raising a child is a difficult job, especially with no training” when comparing the importance of parenting classes to English, math or history.
People who are against it, talk about ethical questions while other think sexual education would be more useful. Some other raise the question of the ones who have no interest in having children.
What do I think about it?
Well, I think that these classes should be only required for girls who are pregnant (and maybe their boyfriend) but they should focus on how to raise a child. The classes should be very practical, for instance teach how to change diapers, how feed your baby, etc. What I would also do is to implement classes as they have in Finland where you learn how to take care of a household and they should be both for boys and girls. They teach you how to cook, clean, make a budget, etc. This being part of the parenting classes, that way the parenting classes would be less stigmatized.
It is true that this won’t help changing some ideas conveyed by today’s society about teenage pregnancy. I think that the first issue is in the media. Why have so many reality shows about teenage moms? For instance MTV has four seasons of a show called “16 and pregnant”.
There are also other techniques to change the perceptions about teenage pregnancy such as a program called “The Silver Ring Thing“. To be clear, I am not in favor of this program, and I think that it is another crazy idea! This is based on Christian theology and tries to encourage teens and young adults to wait to be married before having their first intercourse.
What I am saying is that what needs to be changed is people’s way of thinking and that those classes might not be the best solution.
Also, as I was doing some research for this post, I found that the company that provides those fake babies also has an “Empathy Belly Pregnancy Simulator“! They let you “know what it feels like to be pregnant. It is a multi-component, weighted ‘garment’ that will – through medically accurate simulation – enable men, women, teenage girls and boys to experience over 20 symptoms and effect of pregnancy”. Interesting, right?!
Now it is your turn to tell me what you think about it.