Your recent article on teen pregnancy (Feature, 8/20) was an excellent one. I had not heard of the Ventura County Crisis Pregnancy Center before. I wish them well and hope they will keep up the good work. It is quite sad that our various media have absolutely no such sense of social responsibility for what they publish.
A recent column by Maria Elena Salinas, a nationally syndicated journalist, bears this out. This column, concerning the present Latina birthrate in the United States, was as interesting for what it did not cover as for what it did touch upon. She points out that the Latina birthrate is a high one and still growing, not only in California but in other western states as well.
Our U.S. Census Bureau has found that across the entire United States, at least 25 percent of all children less than five years of age have a Latina mother. At the risk of being called a lot of unpleasant names, I have to say that this high percentage was no surprise to me. In my rambles around Santa Barbara and other California locales, whenever I see a young Latina mother pushing a carriage, there are usually at least one or two other tiny tots in her company as well.
The sad statistic here, that even Ms. Salinas acknowledges, is that the great majority of these young mothers have no husband. So the children will likely grow up with no father in the house. Guess what this means for the rest of us? You are right! We get to pay for their birthing, housing, medical care, schooling and perhaps other less desirable costs down the road of life.
Ms. Salinas shows a rather remarkable but ill-placed optimism throughout the column when she refers to these children as future leaders of this country, as well as potential movers and shakers of our society. Perhaps we should let her know that so far, here as in Santa Barbara, there’s mostly a moving and shaking of the local crime rate, and the only leading many of these kids seem to desire is that of their local neighborhood gang. But why should this surprise her? It’s no surprise to the rest of us.
One statistical study after another makes it very clear that children born to single, uneducated mothers, Latina or otherwise, generally grow up in poverty and ignorance with very little chance of escaping their predictable fates. I myself grew up in conditions of grinding impoverishment during the Great Depression and know firsthand how terribly difficult it was to escape the fate that overtook many of my childhood friends.
Of course, those were also the days when most people believed in family structure and planning ahead, not just counting on government assistance for all their needs. And children, such as those whom Ms. Salinas is now extolling, were in those days quaintly referred to as “illegitimate” or “out-of-wedlock.” These modern days, however, in our much more enlightened and permissive society, with numerous unmarried celebrities having babies like backyard cats, such terms are quite passé.
What our society and Ms. Salinas, as well as all other writers, should be focusing on, in these days of runaway, out-of-control, planetary overpopulation, is to discourage such births, not praise them. She would be doing a far greater service for young Latina women, as well as all others, to encourage abstinence and birth control; get educated, not pregnant. Why not praise education, plus family structure, and expect a father in the house when the time for children arrives? Would that not make for a better life for young women of any background?
In doing so, common sense would tell us that the word leader, or the phrase movers and shakers, would then have some meaning and chance of success. By every measure, children raised in such circumstances would be far more likely to grow into adults to be proud of, not ones to pity or fear.
So please, Ms. Salinas, and all you other writers, let’s have a lot more reality in your future columns. They would then be of much greater value in improving the lives of the young Latina women you are trying hard to reach.
Bud Stuart is a resident of Santa Barbara.