Cheerleaders and Crime:

The Middle Class and the Underclass

When school opened this year, four cheerleaders showed up at a Texas high school visibly pregnant. The school board kicked them off the team, announcing that no student office was open to any girl or boy who has a child outside of wedlock.

Immediately the protectors of liberalism took up arms. And what they said reveals a lot about why the social fabric in America is unravelling.

The National Organization for Women threatened a lawsuit, forcing the board to lift the ban. The New York Times scolded the school board for even thinking of banning the cheerleaders. “The realities of American adolescents’ sex lives are understandably hard to confront,” the Times intoned. “But confront them we must.”

Yet it seems to me that the school board did confront adolescent sexuality—and in a very direct way. Cheerleaders are looked up to as student leaders, and leadership positions ought to be reserved for students who model exemplary behavior. Getting pregnant outside marriage is not exemplary behavior.

But that’s not what the New York Times had in mind when it talked about “confronting” teenage sexuality. What it really meant is that we must accept it. “These girls should neither be stigmatized nor stopped from joining in any school activity,” the Times editorialized.

But in today’s cultural climate, a little “stigmatizing” might not be such a bad thing. Throughout history, one of the most powerful ways of maintaining social order has been through expressions of social approval and disapproval.

And illegitimacy is one thing every healthy society has disapproved.

Modern social science shows us why. Studies reveal that children without fathers are more likely to grow up in poverty, to have problems in school, and to commit crimes. Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute recently wrote that “illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time—more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare, or homelessness.” Why? Because illegitimacy “drives everything else.”

In fact, David Blankenhorn of the Institute of American Values says, “Fatherlessness is . . . the most important predictor of juvenile crime—a greater predictor than either race or income.” The major reason the ghettos are the focus of violent crime is that they have the highest rates of illegitimacy.

What that tells us is that as illegitimacy spreads to the middle class, so will crime and poverty and all the rest. Crime begins when the middle and upper classes allow the moral consensus to break down . . . when urbane and well-educated people like the editors of the New York Times defend pregnant teenagers . . . when powerful groups like the National Organization for Women beat down adults who take a moral stand.

But the brutal truth is that if society does not take a moral stand, then the pathology of the underclass will spread to the middle class. Crime and poverty are not restricted to the ghettos by some magic fence. They follow inevitably in the wake of family breakdown.

So if we’re worried about crime, there’s something you and I can do about it: We can bring biblical ideals of marriage and family to our own neighborhoods, our own high schools.

Starting with the cheerleaders and football players.


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