Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Letters to the Editor are Always Fun!

By "always" in the title up there, I of course mean "never."

Honestly, I feel sort of bad picking on people who write letters to the editor. Yeah, 95% of the time they probably deserve it because they're just totally insane, but it still feels sort of like a cheap shot to address a simple letter-writer instead of the propaganda-spewing paper itself.

But here we have an interesting case.

Obviously, people who write letters to the editor don't provide a title for the paper to use as its headline. So you can sort of tell the political inclination of the paper just by seeing how they interpret the letter. Allow me to provide an example!

In this case, here are two quotes from a recent letter to the editor in the S&E dealing with teen pregnancies. Together, they make up the majority of the letter.

Quote 1:
I think there is a larger influence at work that I have not yet heard blamed: music.

I am personally disgusted with most of the music that is on the radio.

Songs introduces sexual themes to younger and younger audiences, and so they feel ready to expirement [sic] when their parents haven't yet talked about safe sex with their children.
This part is obviously pretty dumb. It's the typical blaming of pop culture for whatever ills you perceive in society.

Presumably, the letter-writer is an older person who finds hip-hop frightening and has forgotten that the only reason most people need to engage in sex is that it's really a whole lot of fun.

It also misses that perhaps "younger and younger" children maybe shouldn't be listening to the Lords of Acid (or whatever kids listen to these days). Which is a parenting issue more than a music issue.

Quote 2 (starts right where Quote 1 ended):
Also I think with the rise in teen pregnancies comes parent paranoia. I feel, in complete disagreement with your article, that parents who continually advocate a no-sex policy with their teens -- and I'm talking older teens not 13- and 14-year-olds -- will only push their kids to have sex behind their backs.

That will only make things worse because teens will then be embarrassed to ask for birth control and condoms, because they don't feel they can talk to parents about it.

I think the best way to prevent teenage pregnancy is to be very open with your children about sex.
Now, this second part is not just larger than the first part, but it's actually pretty sensible (though starting earlier than 13 or 14 would be preferable, kids can already get pregnant at those ages). Abstinence-only education is a huge failure, any way you look at it. And being open with your children about sex is good advice.

Guess which part of this letter the Sentinel decided to focus on? The part criticizing abstinence-only sex ed?

Here's the letter: Reader: Popular music to blame for teen pregnancy increase.

I guess what I'm getting at is that if you write a letter to the editor expressing criticism of a policy that the editor endorses, stick to just that topic. If you mix in anything else, it's going to get the headline. Especially if it's crazy.