Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sexual Misconduct, (but not by priests)

The AP did an investigation of sexual misconduct by educators. Guess what? Many, many public schools have sexually abusive teachers. According to one investigator,
From my own experience — this could get me in trouble — I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one," says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating abuse and misconduct in schools. "It doesn't matter if it's urban or rural or suburban.

Some school districts have histories of of shuffling perpetrators around.
Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district.
"They might deal with it internally, suspending the person or having the person move on. So their license is never investigated," says Charol Shakeshaft, a leading expert in teacher sex abuse who heads the educational leadership department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
It's a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames — "passing the trash" or the "mobile molester."
Laws in several states require that even an allegation of sexual misconduct be reported to the state departments that oversee teacher licenses. But there's no consistent enforcement, so such laws are easy to ignore.
School officials fear public embarrassment as much as the perpetrators do, Shakeshaft says. They want to avoid the fallout from going up against a popular teacher. They also don't want to get sued by teachers or victims, and they don't want to face a challenge from a strong union.

I'm glad somebody is finally looking at this. But I have to be a little suspicious about the timing. The Catholic Church has been raked over the coals for the last 5 years, at least. Justifiably. It is good that the Church is being held accountable, and is now holding itself accountable for agressive prevention programs. But why are we only now asking about sexual abuse in public schools?
Some of us in California have been cynical about this subject because the state legislature revoked the statute of limitations, specifically so that civil suits against old clergy abuse cases could go forward. But that law exempted public institutions. People were suspicious that the reason for the exemption is that the state of California did not want to make its own public schools liable for similar claims and similar awards.
That suspicion looks all the more justified now that this AP report is coming out, just as the largest of the CA clergy abuse cases has been settled in San Diego and Los Angeles.
If public school districts shuffled abusive teachers, they should be held accountable every bit as much as the Catholic schools have been.
One report mandated by Congress estimated that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that's sexual in nature.

About 10%? 9%, to be exact. That's alot, though I can't tell how many cases are verbal harrassment.
By contrast:
The findings draw obvious comparisons to sex abuse scandals in other institutions, among them the Roman Catholic Church. A review by America's Catholic bishops found that about 4,400 of 110,000 priests were accused of molesting minors from 1950 through 2002.

That amounts to 4% of priests were identified as perpetrators. Now, one statistic is the percentage of children abused by teachers and the other is the percentage of priests who perpetrated. But even allowing for the possibility that each perpetrator may have multiple victims, it still looks like the problem is at least as serious in the public schools as among the Catholic clergy.
Where's the outrage? It is ok for public school teachers to molest children, but not ok for priests? It is ok to bankrupt the Catholic church, but it is not ok to bankrupt public school districts to pay settlements and give justice to victims?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ask Dr J

Dear Dr J

I’m looking for information on dating women with children from a previous marriage or who are widowed. I’m a single, never-married 46 year old and not sure it would be smart to have children of my own at this point. I want to educate myself on the issues when children have step-fathers. I think Dr. Laura advises women not to marry again until their children are grown. Are you of this opinion? Any info you could point me to would be appreciated.
V from Boston

Dear V,

The best I can tell you is this: there are a distinct set of problems that children face in step-father families. Most of those problems can be overcome if the husband and wife collaborate well, and if the stepfather spends sufficient time and energy on the kids. The main source of problems in my opinion: the mother doesn’t allow her new husband to be involved appropriately. The mother tries to shield the children from discipline, on the theory that “they aren’t your kids; you don’t know them.” She fails to realize that biological mothers and fathers often have conflict over discipline on exactly this issue. The mother wants to children to feel good. The father wants them to behave. Hence, moms often have the impulse to shield children from fathers, even non-abusive fathers.

This is an area where our feminist theory that men and women are identical and interchangeable has caused enormous mischief. Mothers and fathers should not be freaked out over the perfectly normal fact that they tend to parent differently. The conflict may have nothing to do with the fact that the father is a stepfather instead of a bio-dad.

So, my advice is this: if you have a particular woman in mind, and you trust each other, you have a good shot at being successful. But if she will not allow you to parent, for whatever reason, the blended family will be headed for trouble.
All the best!
Dr J

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Barriers to Fertility

I've been concerned for some time about how difficult it is for young couples to start families, and then take care of them properly. I got an e-mail today on this very topic.

Much of what you cover resonates with me, especially as a young mom and a social worker who has worked with many emotionally disturbed children. One of the areas I'm passionate about is reactive attachment disorder, and both treatment and prevention/education in this area.

One of the issues my husband and I have struggled with is making ends meet while spending as much time as possible with our daughter. I believe in the importance of advocating for systems change, which is part of what you seem to be doing in your article on moms in the workplace. At this point in my career, I have left the social work field and luckily have some journalism skills to fall back on and use. I would love to return to the social work field at some point and feel it is very much a part of my vocation. At this time, however, the position I had was simply not conducive to being a mom and taking care of my child - so I went elsewhere....
I would love to stay home with my daughter full-time and recognize both intrinsically, through experience and research the value in doing so. At the same time, my husband teaches in a Catholic school and it just is not feasible for us to live on his income alone. We have cut corners which has allowed me to take a part-time position, and one that allows me to do some of my work at home, taking less time away from our family....
I have a hard time reading articles that carry the implication I'm not fulfilling my obligation as a mom since I'm not at home with my children, even though in some ways I believe it to be true. Falling back on my husband's income and "allowing him to take care of me" just isn't an option for my family, and I'm sure we are not the only ones.

OK. She's right. This is, unfortunately, one of the legacies of feminism. the message to women is: Motherhood is for ninnies. Get back to work. The message to employers is: treat men and women the same, at every point in their lives, no matter what their family situations and responsibilities might be.
The corollaries to this are: we can't take into account the special needs that mothers have for flexibility, although some people are grudgingly beginning to do so. What we really can't do, is to take into account the special needs that fathers have for supporting their families, including their wives, who are trying to take the best care possible of their kids. We can barely even allow ourselves to formulate the thought "Family Wage." We have made the two-earner family a social norm, much to the detriment of many women and children.
Among the difficulties:
The high cost of housing. The demand for housing is highly sensitive to income. High-earning, DINKS push up the price of housing for everyone. Why isn't there more housing for people of modest means?
The high cost of taxes: the median income family pays almost 40% of their income in taxes. That means the secondary earner is working to pay the taxes.
Student loans: many young people graduate with $80,000 or more of college debt. They are reluctant to start families with this kind of debt hanging over their heads.
I would love to see these issues adressed as part of the problem of the collapse of fertility. There is something slightly bizarre about people in the richest countries the world has ever known, feeling that "they can't afford children." These people are not just whining. Something is seriously not right in the balance in the economy between the needs of families with small children, and everybody els.

Broken Heart Risk Management

My latest is up on Mercator Net.
Feminism has never been a coherent ideology but it has broadly come to mean that men and women are identical, except that women are better. This was the starting point for a speech I gave recently at the Case Western Reserve Law School in Cleveland, as the guest of the Federalist Society. Under the heading, "Humane Alternatives to Feminism", I argued that we would be better off embracing the reality of gender differences, rather than a) denying them, b) suppressing them and c) feigning surprise when they emerge anyhow.
One of my questioners asked the fairly standard feminist question of whether these gender differences I cited weren't simply all products of cultural conditioning. I asked her what she would be willing to accept as evidence that some gender differences are not cultural artifacts, but actual differences. She didn't have an answer.
I got to thinking afterwards: answers based on evidence never seem to be convincing to someone who is already committed to radical androgyny.

Read it all here.

Contraceptive Fraud

This article was recently published in the Legatus magazine, an exclusively print magazine. I am reprinting it here, as many of my newsletter subscribers have expressed an interest in being able to link to an on-line version. Readers may also be interested in a similar article I did last summer on townhall.
That article caused near hysteria on the part of the left-wing nut-roots. This article actually deals with some of the common questions that the previous article raised. So, if you read the two articles together, you should have a pretty clear picture of my interpretation of this important set of data.
Contraception Fraud
Americans now believe that care-free sex is an entitlement. Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancies. In the unlikely event of contraceptive failure, abortion can end a pregnancy. The belief that pregnancy is unlikely induces women to have sex in relationships that can not possibly support a pregnancy.
But is contraceptive failure all that unlikely? The most recently available statistics suggest that the young, the unmarried and the poor are more apt to get pregnant than they supposed.
Contraception advocates frequently offer statistics like those in Table 1, to convince young women that they can safely engage in sex. This Table shows the percentage of women who experience a pregnancy after a year of using birth control. The overall failure rate is 12.9%, meaning that 13 out of a hundred sexually active, contracepting women will be pregnant within 12 months. The “reversible” methods have failure rates ranging from 8% for the pill and 27% for withdrawal. Women look at charts like this, and conclude that pills or condoms protect them.
Advocates of contraception seldom provide information like that contained in Table 2. This table shows the contraceptive failure rates, broken down by relationship type, age and broad income categories. This study, published by the research arm of Planned Parenthood, allows a woman to see the failure rate most applicable to her own situation.
If a poor cohabiting teenager, for instance, looked at this data, she would find that for her, the Pill has a failure rate of 48.4%. You read that correctly: nearly half of poor cohabiting teenagers get pregnant during their first year using the Pill. If she kicked her boyfriend out of the house, or if she married him, her probability of pregnancy drops to 12.9%. At the other extreme, a middle-aged, middle-class married woman has a 3% chance of getting pregnant after a year on the Pill.
The results for the condom are even more dramatic. Over 70% of poor, cohabiting teenagers using the male condom will be pregnant within a year. By contrast, the middle-aged, middle-class married woman has a 6% chance of pregnancy after a year of condom use.
What is going on here? You wouldn’t think that the hormones in the pill could “know” whether a woman is married or not. Several factors are driving the differences in failure rates: fertility, maturity, commitment and amount of sexual activity.
Young women are more fertile than older women. Therefore, young women are more likely to get pregnant from any given act of intercourse, no matter what contraceptive method they use. The less mature, and possibly less stable individuals may not be using their contraception correctly or regularly. The commitment of married couples to each other makes it easier for married women to negotiate regular condom use. Finally, cohabiting women have sex more frequently than single women, so they have a greater chance of getting pregnant.
The government promotes contraception most heavily among the poor, the young, and the single, because their children are the most likely to become dependent on state support. Yet these targeted groups are the ones most likely to experience contraceptive failure. The commonly quoted failure rates of 8% for the Pill and 15% for the condom are inflated by the highly successful use by middle-aged, middle-class married couples. The “overall failure rates” are simply not relevant to this target population.
The false sense of security created by these inflated success rates of contraception may very well be seducing women to be sexually active in situations that can’t sustain the care of a child. These women would be far better off postponing sexual activity, or developing healthy relationship, or finishing high school. Yet the federal government spends approximately $12 on contraceptive education for every dollar it spends on abstinence education.
The government should insist that their programs provide demographically relevant information.
Otherwise, the rest of us should insist that the government get out of the sex ed business altogether.

“Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates From the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Haisahn Fu, Jacqueline E. Darroch, Taylor Haas, and Nalini Ranjit, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol 31, No. 2. March/April 1999, pp. 56-63.

Male Biological Clock

We are all familiar with teh fact that women's fertility declines with age. We are now discovering that male fertility does as well. And worse, the damage to male sperm may do more than reduce the likelihood of conception. Advanced paternal age has been implicated in a number of birth defects. From an article in Psychology Today:
Nonetheless, a virtual tidal wave of recent research has made it irrefutable: Not only does male fertility decrease decade by decade, especially after age 35, but aging sperm can be a significant and sometimes the only cause of severe health and developmental problems in offspring, including autism, schizophrenia, and cancer. The older the father, the higher the risk. But what's truly noteworthy is not that infertility increases with age—to some degree, we've known that all along—but rather that older men who can still conceive may have such damaged sperm that they put their offspring at risk for many types of disorders and disabilities.

The mechanism seems to be that as men age, their DNA does not replicate as accurately as at earlier ages. Therefore, small abnormalities in the genetic struction which are not large enough to be fatal, can cause a wide array of damage to the child:
These mutations could reflect the differences in male and female reproduction, notes Jabs (Ethylin Wang Jabs, professor of pediatric genetics at Johns Hopkins University). By the time females reach their teen years, their eggs have already been formed—just one new egg matures each month. Men, on the other hand, produce millions of sperm cells every time they ejaculate. After each ejaculation, they must literally replicate those cells, and each replication multiplies the chance for a DNA "copy error"—a genetic chink in the sperm DNA. The more ejaculations a man produces, the greater the chance for chinks to arise, leading to increased point mutation and thus increased infertility and birth defects. While a woman's reproductive capacity halts more or less abruptly after all her eggs have been used up somewhere in their forties or fifties, men experience a longer, more gradual winnowing and disintegration. "We believe that something in men's DNA replication machinery keeps becoming less efficient and less accurate with age, and the problems accumulate," says Jabs.

This is yet another unintended consequence of delaying childbirth, a delay made possible by conctraception. We are increasingly organizing society around the premise that sex is essentially a sterile activity, with childbearing thrown in as an after-thought, if you happen to like that sort of thing. Widespread access to contraception has made indefinite postponement of childbearing the norm, not the exception among the educated classes.
It is time to rethink this.