NYC Human Resources Administration

Self-control in the city


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took some well-deserved ridicule over outlawing tank-size sodas, only to see the ban struck down at the eleventh hour by a judge.  It’s fun to see nanny-state nit-picking take a hit every now and then. The mayor still has battles to fight against unsaturated fats and overweight kids, and we haven’t seen the end of soda-bans, either. But more recently he took on a much bigger threat to the city’s future than Big Gulps.

It might be called the “Big Gap” between single teen moms and their more far-sighted peers. Recently, photos of sad-faced toddlers began appearing on New York City subways and at bus stops, all warning potential moms of their limited future if marriage isn’t in the picture: “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.” “Honestly, Mom … chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”

Sure as night follows day, protestors started lining up with objections about the “shame campaign.” Haydee Morales of Planned Parenthood complained of the “negative public opinions about teen pregnancy” the ads were likely to create. (I had the impression Planned Parenthood was itself pretty negative about teen pregnancy, or why is it so eager to peddle contraceptives and abortions?) A better solution, according to Morales, would be to help teens “access healthcare, birth control, and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education.”  Since New York City leads the nation in school-based clinics and free birth control, as well as abortions, it seems that option is getting a fair trial. But Mayor Bloomberg’s ad campaign attempts to reach the rational side of its intended audience, not just the emotional, impulsive side.

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The tagline reads, “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you?” In other words, “What are you thinking?” Unlike the soda ban, which simply says, “No!” this approach addresses kids as integrated persons capable of thinking ahead. And they are. Rationality is our human heritage, a dimension of God’s image that yields positive results when encouraged and trained. One of the posters reads, “If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98 percent chance of not being in poverty.” Provided the young woman can read, and understands the basic idea behind percentages, that’s pretty clear.

The rest is up to her, and that’s where the responsibility ultimately belongs. The mayor deserves credit for trying to raise consciousness, but young ladies (and ideally young men, too) will have to follow through. “A [teen] without self-control is like a city broken in and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28)—too many of them leave a whole city defenseless.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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