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Tupac Versus Hagelin On Sex Education In America - With A Free Essay Review
If someone was trying to gather facts and research to determine the state of sexual education in the United States he or she might contact The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institute, and speak with Rebecca Hagelin their vice president. One place most people might not think to look for information on this contentious topic is in the song lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur. While Hagelin and Shakur seem like diametrical opposites, they surprisingly share some similar views on this issue. Their views converge in the areas of educational responsibility as well as the negative consequences associated with improper sex education. However, as one might expect, several contrasts are found between them, primarily due to the drastically different socio-economic lenses they are appear to be looking through.
In Rebecca Hagelin’s article “Just Say ‘No’ to ‘Modern Sex-Ed’” she makes the statement that, “we shouldn’t have to opt out of sexual education. We should have to opt in.” This was in reference to her county’s public school sex education program. The program required a parent to opt their child out of taking the course if they didn’t want him or her to participate. She goes on to say that, “the state should focus on teaching our children history, literature…etc. Providing kids with information on sex…is our job as parents.” Similarly, Shakur in his song “Brenda’s Got a Baby” feels that the family is responsible for the education of the children. The speaker in the song says, “The girl can barely spell her name (That’s not her problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family).” This insinuates that Brenda’s lack of instruction from her parents precipitate the course of events that unfold in this song and ultimately lead to Brenda’s demise. Here we see compatible views on the educational responsibility of the parents in a child’s life.
Hagelin and Shakur also express similar opinions on the negative consequences that can result from improper sex education. The speaker in Shakur’s song makes the statement, “Well let me show you how it affects the whole community.” From there the speaker explains Brenda’s dysfunctional family situation and how she ends up with a boyfriend (who’s also her cousin). She gets pregnant at age 12 and, after her boyfriend leaves her, she ends up becoming a single mother. She ends up getting kicked out of her house and eventually starts to sell drugs in order to survive. Finally, once her drugs and money are stolen from her, she turns to prostitution. We see clearly how her lack of education resulted in the selling of drugs and sex to her community. Hagelin also alludes to the negative consequences that an improper sex education can produce. She mentions a scathing review conducted by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead about New Jersey’s school sex education program. She writes, “‘In 1980, 67.6 percent of teen-age births in New Jersey were to unmarried mothers – 11 years of enlightening comprehensive sex ed later, the figure had jumped to 84 percent.’” She also points out that New Jersey pushed this modern approach early and aggressively and “has the dismal teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases rates to show for it.” Clearly they both agree that the lack of a proper sex education can negatively affect not just an individual, but entire communities.
One of the biggest contrasts between Shakur’s song and Hagelin’s article is regarding the setting in which each takes place. The speaker in Shakur’s song says, “Just cause you’re in the ghetto doesn’t mean ya can’t grow.” The point of view that Shakur is using is one of a low income, impoverished community. As one continues to read the lyrics to this song he or she realizes that this is a place where people survive off of welfare checks and several relatives live together in one household to reap this benefit. Parents are uninvolved in their children’s lives or absent entirely. Hagelin’s perspective is from that of a loving mother and father. At one point in the article she says, “My husband and I take the blame for the ridicule because we’re the ones who made him opt out.” The fact they feel remorse about the treatment their son received as a result of their decision displays their love for him. Hagelin’s entire position seems to be based on the idealistic view that all parents love and care for their children. The issue here is that Brenda does not have loving parents like Hagelin and her husband appear to be. At one point the speaker in Shakur’s song says, “She never knew her mother and her father is a drug addict.” If sex education class is something that parents have to opt their children into, a girl in Brenda’s situation may find herself in a position where she gets this education neither from her absentee parents nor from her schools.
Another contrast between the two is in the underlying message presented in each writing. While the dominant message of both has to do with sex education, the subtle message reflects two different relationship perspectives. Hagelin’s presentation is from an idealized perspective that an individual remains a virgin until marriage (abstinence). Hagelin expresses that, “What schools should be telling our children…is that sex outside of marriage is harmful, and just plain wrong.” The hope then is that a long-lasting relationship can be cultivated that will lead to marriage and eventually children. The perspective in Shakur’s song is reversed. Brenda is a young girl without loving parents and particularly a father. Seemingly driven by the need for that male presence in her life Brenda makes the assumption that because she’s going to have this baby her boyfriend will commit to a long-term relationship. Here the belief seems to be that the sex comes first. Once the physical relationship is established then a pregnancy is the means to a long lasting relationship and possibly marriage. These are very different worlds that Hagelin and Shakur come from, which leads to unavoidable contrasts.
Both Hagelin and Shakur express very passionate views on the potential outcomes of improper sex education. They both agree that the educational responsibility lies squarely with the parents. They also have compatible views on the negative consequences that can result if a child is left without a proper sex education. The difficulty comes in when you consider the perspectives from which their viewpoints derive. The lifestyle expectations of the average suburban family with both parents present might appear to be merely fiction to those who live in the confines of the ghetto.
I was confused a little at the outset. I’m not really sure that a person - a sane person, say - would consider contacting The Heritage Foundation, or just Rebecca Hagelin, if such a person wanted anything like a reasonable assessment of the state of sexual education in the United States. I point this out only to forewarn you of a certain bias (for sanity!) that will doubtless color a little my response to your essay.
It seems to me that if Tupac's song shines any light on the opinions of Hagelin, it is a harsh and critical light. To be sure, Tupac, like Hagelin, thinks a child ought in some respects to be educated by its family, but if Tupac’s song shows anything (that is to say, if its subject is not fanciful but actually representative of a situation that is not so exceptionally rare as to be irrelevant in any consideration of public policy), it shows that families cannot in fact be relied upon to educate their children about sex or anything else. The reason we have education in schools is for this reason. Parents are often not intellectually equipped and in some case not adequately motivated, not sufficiently caring, to educate their own children properly. Perhaps the same is true of some teachers, but the idea that when it comes to sex education, where the consequences of ignorance can be extremely negative, as perhaps Tupac wanted to point out, we should leave it up to families and just hope they do a good enough job - well that idea seems to me profoundly stupid, and the justification of it, including Hagelin’s wholly misleading invocation of statistical evidence, if it is not intentionally misleading, then equally stupid. The weakest part of your essay, for me, is the uncritical manner in which you report that "evidence." It is as though you agreed that the "dismal teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases rates" supported the "opt-in" position that Hagelin espouses.
Your essay ultimately arrives at a conclusion about the inadequacies of Hagelin's proposal that is reasonable, even if your treatment of Hagelin is a lot more generous than my own would be. Your critique is intelligent and pointed and is, in my view, the most compelling part of your essay. The rest of the essay is, of course, well written, but the conlusion is really the only part of the essay that makes complete sense to me. That is to say, I find the whole comparison between Hagelin and Tupac a little artificial and superficial. You see agreement, I think, when essentially there is none. To say that that both are concerned with the negative consequences of inadequate education and that both think parents should take responsibility for their children's education is to say something that is true enough, but, I think, points to an agreement of opinion that is merely superficial. Every reasonable person would be concerned about inadequate education, so pointing out the fact that Hagelin (whom we assume just in this sentence, and for the sake of argument, is reasonable) and Tupac share a concern that everyone shares is hardly worth remarking. Moreover, when Tupac suggests that Brenda's parents should have educated her (which is not in fact what the line you quote says; it says rather that they are responsible for the fact that she cannot read, which, moreover, does not deny the possibility that one can meet one's responsibility to one's child in that regard without actually teaching the child how to read oneself), he is not saying anything like the claim that parents, not schools, should educate their children about sex. So your first point of comparison between Hagelin and Tupac seems forced. Tupac points out that Brenda's parents were irresponsible. This says nothing about his opinion on sex education in schools.
Your second point of comparison is equally problematic. You say they "express similar opinions on the negative consequences that can result from improper sex education." The problem with this comparison is that it assumes that the phrase "improper sex education" can apply equally to the sex education that children receive in school, on the one hand, and the complete lack of any education whatsoever that the protagonist of Tupac's song gets. Obviously, there is no similarity. Tupac is talking about a child who gets no education. Hagelin is talking about children who are in fact educated about sex, and she is arguing, very tendentiously, that they shouldn't be getting that education in school, and presumably that schools do a worse job of providing such education than parents would do. It is in the context of this comparison that you introduce Hagelin's citation of Whitehead's review. But again how is any kind of comparison to be made between the life of Brenda in Tupac's song and the fact, if it is a fact, that teenage mothers today are less likely to be married that they previously were. To come to any conclusion on the basis of the evidence cited by Hagelin, one would need also, at the very least, to see a comparison of absolute numbers of teen pregnancy without considering the marital status of the teens. But even such a figure would be a completely meaningless measure of the efficacy of sex-education in school without massive historical, contextual analysis. The statistics reported by Hagelin, as presented in your essay, have no scientific significance whatsoever. It seems to me that you can legitimately compare Hagelin's professed concern with supposed negative consequence of alleged improper sexual eduction, on the one hand, with Tupac's concerns about patently tragic consequences of obviously poor general (not sex-) education on the other, but that is all, and such a comparison is not clearly in any way useful.
Because you are smart, you’re able to find fairly high-level, general points of comparison between a song and a pseudo-essay beyond the loose thematic similarity. But because you’re smart, you probably also recognize that those points of comparison are forced and, largely, meaningless. At a high enough level of generalization, you can find points of comparison between any two things. You wouldn’t have to think hard, for example, to come up with a dozen things that Hitler and Gandhi had in common. (Gandhi and Hitler, two great motivational speakers who appealed to the ordinary people, shared a professed interest in the peaceful resolution of the differences between them and their people, on the one hand, and the British, on the other. Hitler was talking about peace up until the day he invaded Poland, and Gandhi never stopped talking about peace. They both also wanted self-determination for their people and believed in direct action to get it. They also believed in the importance of sacrifice for what they considered a higher good. And so on.) If comparisons are always possible, it’s important to distinguish between ones that are meaningful, and ones that are not. Your essay does not really do that.