I had lessons in maths at the age of five, yet I didn't become a mathematician at the age of five. I had lessons in French at the age of 11, yet didn't become French. But...
...of course. Having lessons in parenting at 14 will make you become a parent at 14, won't it? Won't it? No, I imagine it won't. But that's the leap of logic we're meant to try and achieve with this story. Here are the ingredients the story has going for it, as far as the Mail's concerned:
teenagers having immoral sex
teh evil state (even, remarkably, being a 'nanny' state by somehow encouraging teenagers to be parents. Is that what nannies do nowadays?)
liberals secretly running our country
poor people all want to live on benefits (and guess who's paying?!)
And here comes the conjuring trick:
Watch that 'alarming rise'... watch it... keep your eyes on it... are you watching it...?
Inner-city areas are more likely to have teenage pregnancy than the Cotswolds... wow, who knew? But hang on, where's that 'alarming rise' gone? Like any great conjurer, the Mail distracts you with the "Look at the difference between nice rural people and EVIL URBAN TYPES, MANY OF WHOM ARE PROBABLY... WELL YOU KNOW" bit of misdirection, and then, all of a sudden, the 'alarming rise' is gone. Now for all I know there may be an alarming rise, but it's not mentioned in the story, or referenced anywhere. Those figures are just comparing different regions, not plotting a 'rise' of any kind. The Mail's said it's there, it's told you it's there, and then... all of a sudden, it's not there. But you're too busy being angry about the poor people on benefits to notice.
The moral compass of the story comes here:
Who are these experts? Expert experts or just someone from a pressure group who could be found to prop up the Mail's pearl-clutching panic? I sense you know the answer to this already, but:
It 'might create an interest where the was none', according to someone somewhere. Because that's what happens. Children live in this isolated bubble where they don't notice things like babies and families, and then all of a sudden school tells them it exists, so they decide that they're going to be a parent. Is that what we're expected to believe? Is that really what happens? And what if the 'parenting' lessons are going to reflect the true difficulties of parenthood, the financial costs, the strain on relationships and so on? Will that really make it more attractive?
It's such a piss-weak argument, the Mail can't even get the Tories to back them up:
A neat side-step there from Michael Gove, who fails to join in with the outrage but attempts to make a political point anyway - which is fair enough.
What the story promised, though, has failed to materialise. There is, as far as we can see, no 'alarming rise' in teenage pregnancies referenced anywhere. There isn't even much outrage over the plans - even the Tories fail to agree with the Mail's argument, and the only 'experts' they can find to back it up are a single pressure group. Indeed, of the sources named in the story - Margaret Morrissey, Michael Gove, David Paton and Lynn Edwards - only one spoke out against the plan, two expressed neutral views (though David Paton asserted that sex education has very little impact on behaviour) and one spoke in favour. The elements of the story, then, are balanced - but the presentation doesn't quite appear that way, does it?
This whole diabolical mess is backed up by a screamingly angry comment piece, though:
Not content with imposing lessons on sex, 'relationships' and domestic violence, Children's Secretary Ed Balls is adding yet another subject to the overcrowded school curriculum.
Incredibly, this inveterate social engineer wants 14-year-olds to be given compulsory lessons on parenting.
There's a childishness about the presentation of this whole policy as being Ed Balls's idea as a 'social engineer' - as if Government policies are things that are dreamt up by one person acting alone. The Mail says schools should concentrate on the "Three Rs" instead, which is face-slappingly stupid - if you need to do that by the age of 14 then pupils are really beyond help; but it's the kind of 'common sense back to basics never did me any harm' attitude to schooling that the Mail probably thinks its readers hold dear.
That aside, it's still trying to squeeze the outrage out of the situation of children and young adults being given some preparation for the world they'll face outside. Which doesn't seem like such a bad idea to me at all. But no, let's just manufacture some pointless outrage instead, shall we?