Pregnant with Meaning: Teen Mothers and the Politics of Inclusive Schooling

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction: Locating the Study in Historical and Political Context

On April 28, 1998, the topic for an internationally televised debate was the character of Amanda Lemon, age 18, of Xenia, Ohio. Lemon's 3.8 grade point average and community volunteer work caused her to be invited to join the local chapter of the National Honor Society, but that decision was reversed on the grounds that the graduating senior was also a mother. The existence of her child was proof that Amanda Lemon had engaged in sex, which was reason enough for the teachers who made up the honor society selection committee to rule her inadequate in the character department. The ensuing controversy landed Lemon on CNN's Talk Back Live program, an orchestrated management of public discourses meant to appear as a kind of electronic town hall meeting beamed throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond. 1

Invited to consider just how much stigma should be applied to Amanda Lemon for conceiving, bearing, and then raising a 9-month-old child, the millions of viewers heard Dr. James Smith, Superintendent of Xenia Schools, explain why he wasn't budging: “[T]here's [sic] four components of a National Honor Society student and again it can not only be just academics, but also character and service and leadership. When that was reviewed, again she did not meet the character component of those four.” Viewers heard a radio talk show host named Steve Malzberg say, “Pregnancy and sexual conduct is taken into consideration so ... she has to suffer the consequences of that.... She should be applauded because she didn't dump her baby in a dumpster. She didn't throw her baby out the window when it was born or strangle it and throw it in the toilet. But not rewarded for that.” Viewers heard an audience member named Gail say,

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