Letter from the Editor 

I remember when Betty Parker got pregnant in our senior year of high school. Her last name wasn't really Parker, but the fact that her first name was Betty will give you an idea of how long ago this was. They aren't naming baby girls Betty anymore.

Betty got "knocked-up," as we used to say, by a football player. We knew this because it was a small-town Midwestern high school where everybody knew everybody's business. And evidence of actual sex taking place among our friends was big news, since most of us could only imagine such a thing in theory. (Some of my classmates imagined every day. Or so I've heard.)

Betty went away in October and never returned to school, though she did reportedly graduate from a school for "wayward mothers." The child was given up for adoption, and Betty went on to college and, as far as I know, has had a "normal" life since.

Pregnant girls weren't allowed to stay in school back in those days. We studied Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in English class, and as far as girls like Betty were concerned, things hadn't changed much from the Puritan era. Her name might as well have been Hester Prynne. The father, on the other hand, stayed in school, and though his reputation took a hit, he still got to wear his letter jacket. It had a scarlet "M" on it, for the record.

How things have changed. If there were a school for "wayward mothers" in Memphis, it would probably be one of the larger schools in the system. A couple of weeks ago, it was famously reported by a local television station that there were 90 pregnant girls at Frayser High School. That number has since been disputed by Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash, but he was unable or unwilling to state a different number. And so, the "90 girls pregnant at one Memphis high school" meme has become a scarlet letter of sorts for the city, as the national media jumped all over the story.

If nothing else, the recent publicity may have stirred up enough people so that the problem will get the attention it deserves. "Babies making babies," Cash called it. He's right. But he has the power to make a significant change: The schools need a realistic, system-wide, sex education program rather than the inconsistent approach we now have, where each school sets its own curriculum. Time to get it done.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Music Blog

Listen Up: Nathan McHenry

News Blog

Rate Changes to Come for Metered Parking Downtown

Intermission Impossible

The Winners for the 2017 High School Musical Theatre Awards

Hungry Memphis

Ghost River's Grindhouse Headed to a Can Near You

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

The Lovers

Music Blog

The Restoration of John Gary Williams

News Blog

MLGW and UPS Receive Sustainability Award

Hungry Memphis

Shipt Launching June 1st

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Remembering Irvin Salky: One of a Kind

    • May 18, 2017
  • Have Yourselves an Angry Little Christmas

    In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...

    • Dec 10, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation