To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Here's an interesting article: Law allows babies to be adopted without notifying unwed fathers.

I have some strange ideas.

What if an unwed mother has no right to financial support from the father of her child, other than what he chooses to give her, and she knows that from the get-go.

What if an unwed father has no custodial or visitation rights and no rights to block adoption, other than what the mother gives him.

We have a framework in which the law can regulate relationships between men and women and their rights regarding offspring: it's called marriage. Don't want to get married, fine, but then perhaps the courts should not be called upon to sort things out.

Just, you know, some ideas. I imagine there would be a lot of hungry lawyers.


Jason said...

some lawyers might be hungry, but more children would be hungry. people now know all the risks that go with sex, and they still do it. plus, people in relationships don't always think rationally.

the deadbeat dad types would love this law.

and it wouldn't change anything.
except for hungry children, and perhaps our welfare systems.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

jason, it's just a thought experiment and you're probably right. But things aren't perfect and wonderful the way they are. I wonder if people would act more responsibly if they knew that they were on their own as far as providing for their kids or having access to them, if they have them without getting married.

The number of children born out of wedlock has skyrocketed since the law has made it feasible to have those rights without getting married. I don't think that's a positive thing.

Jason said...

meh, i don't think that the law's existence has caused the skyrocketing pregnancy rate. you're confusing correlation for causation. there may be a minority of women who say "I want child support so i'm getting pregnant." but that's rare. plus, there are things called condoms--the father still has responsibility.

there are other cultural factors. consider the reluctance of some to teach realistic sex education (something other than abstinence only). there are many other factors. i don't think everything would be wonderful if we all waited to have sex until we're married (divorce lawyers may like that).

sorry for the rant, but the "thought experiment" sounds too much like some conservative's approach to social issues--which is to abandon people (unless they commit a crime or want an abortion, then the government can get involved). research your neighboring state of mississippi and their underfunded child welfare system. that's a policy experiment that's killing children and fostering abuse. (an there's an extra irony in that ole miss is one of the states trying to oust abortion--"you'll have the baby, but we don't care what you do to it afterwards.")

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I'm not saying that women have babies in order to get child support. I mean that if they had to support their kids without help they might take it upon themselves to use birth control and to consider getting married before starting their families. It would be a huge improvement in my neck of the woods if women would just wait until they are adults before they start their families. There's just no incentive to have any responsibility about these things as long as no one has to count the cost.

I think that when the government steps in to "help" people some people use that help in a responsible manner, i.e., as little as possible, and for others it discourages them ever from acting like grownups.

As for sounding like some of those hard-hearted conservatives, well, I think it's important to think outside the box. Sometimes liberals sound to me like they think that as long as their intentions are pure then their actions will only have good outcomes. I point to the poisonous UN-drilled drinking-water wells in Bangladesh as an example of this kind of thinking.

jason said...

you're right many libs think their intentions excuse any of their actions--i'm not one of them.

as for "thinking outside the box"--most conservatives aren't--the cut all social support services crowd has been around for a long time and the real motive behind it is greed--they don't want to pay taxes for anything.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Well, jason, I'm going to issue a challenge to you.

The next time you hear a conservative question some program that is dear to the heart of liberals, rather than to assume that the conservative just doesn't want to pay taxes, LISTEN to the arguments he puts forth. Consider whether he might be right. You may end up disagreeing, but you'll know why.

There was a horrifying group of articles in our local paper about the infant mortality rate in certain parts of Shelby County and about the efforts of various people to do something about that. And there are significant efforts - vans, for example, that go around offering prenatal screening for hypertension and diabetes - but the problem persists and is worsening. One man described in these articles has some sort of program and he was quoted as saying "I don't ask whether I am effective, only faithful." I don't want to disrespect him because his heart's in the right place and he may indeed be making a difference. But if he's not doing any kind of follow-up or any comparison between girls in his program and not in his program, he doesn't know that he isn't doing more harm than good. If I or anyone else actually should question whether he is effective, his response would probably be that since my precious tax dollars aren't involved it's not my concern. But it is, if I care about poor teenagers and their even poorer babies.

I think it's a bad idea to assume that all arguments that come from a conservative perspective are based on taxes and the desire not to pay them. It prevents some important questions from being asked. Not that even taxes do not become a valid concern when we see money being thrown away with no more thought given to accountability than that it looks like somebody cares.

jason said...

of course i think the programs should be effective. but in the cases i refer to, i don't see any alternative to existing programs offered. i don't think throwing money at the problem--which many libs want to do (i'm independent btw)--is the solution. but the only alternative i ever see from most, not all, conservatives is to abolish all programs.

believe me, i do listen to the reasons; it's the warrants, the underlying motives for their arguments that never change.

take the no child left behind act (which i think has support from both parties). i'm all for finding ways of addressing and measuring school effectiveness, but standardized tests aren't it. NCLB is a simple solution to a complex problem. the tests don't address the facts that many students don't care, don't try as hard on them, or even the problem of tests on students to measure teacher/school effectiveness. you're a scientist (or work in a scientific field) does this sound like an effective way to measure school performance? which schools typically have the worst performance? those in the poorest districts. does it seem right to take away their funding for not performing? shouldn't there be some other way of addressing these schools' "failures"? Consider that statistically students in the lowest socioeconomic levels perform the worst--why is that? i would say that there are many factors contributing to that. parents, students, and the schools all share the blame.

many people who push for charter schools have an ultimate goal: remove public funding for schools. Consider this: parents who care about their children's education would send them to charter schools (if they haven't already put their children in a "good" school district). what happens to the children whose parents don't care? they stay in the "worst" schools. statistically, what kind of lives will they live?

i do listen to all group's arguments. in some ways, your initial proposal (which i realize wasn't really serious) has the same type of thinking that many liberal programs do: gun control--i don't like guns or gun violence, so i don't think anyone should have guns(nevermind the millions of law abiding, non-nutcase gun owners)--i don't like violent video games, nudity, etc so these things should be censored or have warnings (insert hilary's or lieberman's voice here). in your case it's i don't like babies born outside of marriage (i feel the same way-my town's teen preg rate is the highest in the state), so i we should take away all unwed person's legal rights.

do you see the similarity--something one group doesn't like should be handled by the government--not always the best choice. not the best way to act in a "free" country. keep in my mind, that while we disagree on the solution to the initial problem, the problem disturbs me as much as it does you.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I go back and forth on NCLB. The public high school my daughter attended is a school-within-a-school. The program she was in is open to any child who tests into it, even those who live out-of-state. And this school regularly graduates the highest number of National Merit scholars in the state of Tennessee of any high school, public or private. But the kids in the standard program, who attend this school because they live in the district, are buried in the stellar performance of the optional kids. When NCLB forced the breakdown of test scores by race - well, I think the state already did but no one paid much attention - it was painfully obvious that the stellar education wasn't getting to everyone in the school.

Let me add here - the total population of this school is right about 50/50 black and white. There are other optional schools in this city that are close to 100% black, and a lot of the high-performing black kids go to those other schools. If all the high-performing black kids went to this school, the standard-program kids would be hidden in the statistics.

As a scientist, I do agree that there are major problems using standardized tests to measure school performance.
1 - Kids are not uniformly motivated to do well on them.
2 - In the lowest SES schools particularly, there's so much movement between schools that some teachers in the school year with >50% turnover in their classes. Therefore test scores have very little to say about those teachers' performance, although they may measure the effectiveness of the city school system as a whole.
3 - Children with IQ of 60 and up have to take these tests. How meaningful is it to say that a school is meeting the needs of kids with 1Q 100 or 120 or 140 if the standards are such that kids with IQ 60 can meet them? Don't get me wrong - I want every child educated to the limit of his ability and ambition. I'm talking about setting meangful standards here.

But you have got to take some kind of measurement to assess whether you're making progress, standing still, or going backwards. I wish there was another way to do it. I can't think of one.

Vouchers make me ill, I know I'll get thrown off the conservative bus for saying it. The state provides a public education for every child. You can avail yourself of it, or not. If not, you are on your own. I don't know why that's not good enough. If every public school were replaced by a charter school today, where do these people think the teachers would come from, or the administrators? Mars? And I do worry about the kids who would be left behind if all the kids whose parents care pulled them out of the schools.

As to low-performing schools being in low SES areas: There is an inheritable component to IQ. It's not the whole story but I think it's really not deniable. Besides IQ, there are all kinds of character traits related to the ability to manage one's life and provide for one's family and those are bound to affect school performance. These may be genetically inherited - I doubt it, but they may be - but they're definitely learned at one's mother's knee. The people who live in those areas are there because they don't have what it takes to live elsewhere, whether it's raw intelligence or ability to manage their lives or get-up-and-go or whatever it is. They would if they could. It's not reasonable to think that their kids are going to be academic stars. Once again - I think about those kids all the time. They're American kids who deserve the best we can do for them, they deserve their crack at the American dream just like my kid does, and I don't want a single one to be cheated out of the chance to go as far as his innate ability and ambition will take him. And some do. Lots of kids come from those depressed areas and do extraordinary things. But if you're looking at test scores in the aggregate, those schools will have lower average scores. I don't think blaming and threatening the teachers is helpful. It's like "beatings will continue until morale improves".

Of course, if you could force busing for economic integration, which you can't because people won't stand for it, you could mix those low-performing kids with the kids from wealthier families, and average scores would probably go up, but that doesn't mean the poor kids would be any smarter or better-educated. It just means their scores would be averaged in with the others and we'd be back to square one.