Mary Had a Little Lamb


Notes From a University Student  6

Illustration Kate Greenaway

One of the first days on my job as librarian at that small high school, I was sitting behind my desk, sorting catalog cards – yes, cards in 1995!—and some students were sitting at a table near me, showing each other pictures.

One girl who couldn’t have been more than fifteen asked me if I wanted to see pictures of her son. I started to laugh, and then remembered that America has a problem with teen pregnancies. I quickly turned it into a cough. She wasn’t joking.

According to Nationmaster, a statistics website, America rated by far the highest in teen pregnancies out of 28 western countries around this time. (Holland was number 19.) And they only counted girls between 15 and 19, so those numbers didn’t  include the even younger ones.

Within America Texas is one of the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates, and poor communities also have higher rates, of course, and this school district was one of the poorest in the state, so voilà, this kid had a baby.

When I was taking the world history class that I described two posts ago, the professor would tell us before taking a test that she would give zero points if a question remained blank, but if you tried to answer, you would get points for trying. “Even if you just write ‘Mary had a little lamb,’ I will give you a few points, so make sure to fill something in.”

I told T later that I wondered if a surgeon who messes up an operation because he has no clue what he’s doing would expect to get points for trying. I was joking.

Now back to the school library. The girls’ coach was also the health teacher, but she didn’t have a classroom. When she had class, she and the girls would come to the library.

One day they were doing research. I was shelving some returned books when I heard one of the girls tell the coach that she couldn’t find anything about how the rhythm method worked.

Ah, good. They were researching contraceptives. The coach mumbled something, and I moved a little closer, not wanting to intrude, but making myself available.

“But Coach, how does it work?” the girl insisted. “Well, it pretty much works the way you would think it does,” the coach answered evasively. The girl wasn’t satisfied. “But I don’t know how it would work, Coach,” she says.

I moved to right next to the table, because we had now clearly come to the moment where the coach would say “Let’s ask the librarian.” But no. “Well, it means that when you make love in a certain rhythm, you don’t get pregnant, and if you do it in other rhythms, you can.” She wasn’t joking.

So there you have it. I’m largely generalizing here, of course, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want: the “professors” at the “university” encourage the students who don’t know the answer to something to answer anyway, it doesn’t matter what — the most blatant nonsense is better than admitting you don’t know.

Those students then go off to school to be teachers. And coaches. And health teachers. Who are responsible for sex education. And they still get points for trying–they’re called paychecks.

Read all about my fury at graduating Magna Cum Laude in the next post in this series.

3 responses to “Mary Had a Little Lamb

  1. Pingback: Watch Out For Inflation | Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America

  2. Pingback: Follow the Money | Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America

  3. Pingback: Is Our Children Learning? | Resident Alien — Being Dutch in America

I would love to know what you think, even about old posts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s