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Fast Times at Gloucester High

It's not teen celebrities or hit movies who are to blame for the reported "pregnancy pact." The true culprits are much closer to home.

by
Michele Catalano

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June 21, 2008 - 6:01 am
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At an age when most teens are making plans for college and careers, 17 teenagers from Gloucester had a very different plan for their lives; they wanted to become mothers. Not after college, not even after high school, but now, while they were still teenagers. Soon, the girls were appearing in the school nurse’s office for pregnancy tests. Instead of scared young girls frightened at the prospect of a positive test, the nurse was faced with teens who were high fiving each other at the news they were expecting.

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.

Gloucester is a small fishing community in Massachusetts. It’s a predominantly white and very Catholic town, not the usual kind of place where you hear about teen pregnancy epidemics. But that is not all that makes it a very unusual story, which is why it has been on every news show and in every paper across the country. People are disturbed, horrified and outraged that so many girls living in one town could not only come up with this idea, but pull it off and with very little of that outrage coming from their own community.

Yet in an interview on May 30, (school superintendent Christopher) Farmer said he has heard relatively little from parents or concerned community members. Though the local newspaper has run numerous stories and editorials about the issue, there have been just two letters to the editor published about it since March. Overall, the community seems to be ambivalent, Daly said. “There isn’t necessarily shock and outrage when they see it,” she said.

Have they given up? Have they decided that it’s just not worth it to teach their children well? Or are they so eager to blame outside forces that they feel there is nothing they can do? Of course, the maelstrom of blame ensued as soon as this story hit, and most of the finger pointing was aimed at pop culture, as always. It’s the fault of the media for glorifying the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears, 17-year-old pop star. It’s the fault of the media for bringing us movies like Juno and Knocked Up, both of which can be interpreted as making pregnancy look like a barrel of fun.

Well, I have news for those blame shifters. Not every teen girl who sees Juno or is a fan of Jamie Spears is going to go out and get pregnant, in much the same way not every kid who plays Grand Theft Auto is going to go out and stuff hookers in their car trunks, and not every kid who listens to Judas Priest is going to hang themselves. The immature decision making, the naiveté, the skewed morality and lack of reality-based thinking has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is home.

Considering Gloucester is a predominantly Catholic community — and devoutly Catholic at that — it is surprising to see that so many young girls are engaging in sexual activity. It’s not only the eagerness to become pregnant here that is alarming — have they not been taught about unprotected sex? Or is the refusal by parents to have birth control available in the schools a sign that they don’t believe their kids are engaging in sex, so why bother talking about it? One has to wonder what the sex education curriculum — which ends in 9th grade in this school district — entails. The fact that one of the girls used a 24 year old homeless man to get her pregnant speaks volumes about the ignorance of these kids when it comes to sex. What is — or isn’t — taught in their sex ed classes that these girls weren’t afraid of AIDS or another other sexually contracted disease, let alone being afraid of having a baby at 16?

How can a community be so complacent about this?

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