We live in nutty times. Recently bureaucrats in New York instituted elaborate rules to supervise camps which allow kids to play what the bureaucrats deem "nonpassive recreational activities with significant risk of injury" such as kickball, capture the flag, and whiffle ball. Fees and increased adult supervision, as well as other requirements, were issued supposedly to ensure children would not be injured by playing such "risky" activities.
At the same time, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been in the news for funding "Maria Talks" , a website featuring a perky 18 year old girl who talks breezily and graphically about teenage sex. To Maria, teenage sex in all its forms is an ordinary, expected, pleasurable activity teenagers can choose with little guilt or risk.
So, this is the story: capture the flag poses a substantial risk of injury to kids but sexual activity among teenagers is not only condoned, but celebrated. Teenage sex poses dangers of terrible infections and diseases, the danger of unwanted pregnancy, family collapse, and the real danger of serious emotional injury. And for what? At least children's games like kickball promote socialization, exercise and other healthy benefits. Teenagers engage in sexual activity mostly for unhealthy reasons: wanting to be popular, giving into peer pressure, wanting to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend. In fact, if whiffle ball poses a serious risk of injury and must require state sanctioned adult supervision, then under that criterion, teenage sex should be banned.
Our society bans all kinds of activities deemed risky to teenagers: drinking, drugs, cigarette smoking to name a few. Other activities are outlawed for all of us, including teenagers: speeding, riding bikes without a helmet, riding in a car without seatbelts. Indeed, all of those risky activities are sanctioned with fines and even criminal penalties. To be sure, bans against risky activities do not eliminate them altogether, but they do decrease their incidence, and our society believes that enforcing bans on such activities is worth the effort. Society believes that teenagers can abstain from many dangerous activies, yet bureaucrats pretend that it is impossible, even risky, to encourage sexual abstinence among teenagers. Indeed, Maria and her compatriots at Departments of Health across the nation condone and even encourage sexual behavior outside of marriage. The result has been a startling increase in unwed pregnancies, from 7% in 1960's to 40% now. In black households, the rate is 72%
Unwed pregnancies are the ultimate activity that poses a "substantial risk of injury". Children who grow up with a single mother risk many dangers: more poverty, drug use, alcoholism, higher school drop out rates, higher risk of incarceration.
And of course sexually transmitted infections pose all kinds of risks, even the risks of sterility and death.
So, in our risk averse society, we protect our children from dangers unheard of and certainly un-thought of by our parents and grandparents. Yet, we allow our children--and especially our daughters--to be exposed to the enormous risks of teenage sexual activity with a shrug of the shoulders. It's time to return some judgment in assessing the real risks to our children, not the phony risks of whiffle ball and capture the flag.