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    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Socrates Cafe

    Kat and I went to the Socrates Cafe. I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of insightful comments on the question "Who should reproduce?" I resisted commenting myself for the most part, mostly because I didn't want to throw a wrench into the discussion by injecting my own peculiar viewpoint. Toward the end I did raise my hand, but I did not get called on.

    I would have said that a large number of people in the room were hung up on the issue of age. There seemed to be a near consensus that the idea of a woman in her 60s having a baby through in vitro fertilization was doing something horribly unfair to the child. I was going to say that none of them had really addressed head on the issues of economics and financial wherewithal of prospective parents. Anyone with the resources to pay for several rounds of in vitro fertilization would likely have the resources to ensure that that any resulting child is also going to be taken care of. (Indeed, there was one man in the room who revealed that he and his wife, in their 40s, had spent over $70,000 out of their own pocket on four rounds that were unsuccessful.) And while we are quick to condemn the 67 year old woman who may not live to see her child reach adulthood, she was most likely in a position to make sure the needs of the child were nonetheless taken care of. I would have then contrasted that with the millions of children born by parents who can't afford to take care of them. Noting that even before the implementation of The Great Society and the welfare state there were plenty of children born by parents who could not afford to take care of them (and plenty of orphanages), we now actually encourage our poor to have children by subsidizing services for them (and at the same time, we don't subsidize abortions for the poor.) While our better intentions are that we don't want poor children to suffer or any child go without nutrition, education or basic health care, we have instead created economic incentives for more children like this to be born -- while we condemn the older woman with the resources to have a baby and not be a drain on society. And those of us financially in between, those truly in the middle class, we get a tax deduction for our own kids, higher taxes to pay for everyone elses kids, and increasing less appealing choices of public schools for all kids.

    Alas, my comment when unaired, but that is ok, because the economics angle did get touched on in the last ten minutes or so, though not as directly as I would have. Plus, being the son of the moderator, I didn't want to seem like a plant. Indeed, at the end of the event, Dad acknowledged that Kat and I were in the room, generally identifying us by the sling on Kat's arm (that's her story to tell.)

    As the room disbursed, a woman came up to me and greeted me by name. She looked familiar but I could not place her. She spoke her first name, and paused, then said her last name. She was a girl I dated in high school. Not just dated, but we went to the prom together as seniors. I totally did not recognize her. She looked very different since the last time I saw her, a wedding in the late 90s, and even at that time, she looked considerably different than she did in high school. Her hair color was different, and she looked like a total mom, complete with bookbag with pictures of her children on it. As I realized who she was, we engaged in about 10 seconds of conversation before she declared she had to go, and in a flash she walked off. Beyond the pleasantries of "how have you been" and the fact that she is now in enrolled in classes at Kent-Ashtabula, I have no idea how or what she is doing otherwise. I felt a little bad that I did not recognize her, but she looked very different, and Kat pointed out that she might only have recognized me because we were acknowledged from the podium.

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    Comments on "Socrates Cafe"


    Blogger melcarrel said ... (8:36 AM, October 05, 2007) : 

    Wow. Had I been there, I probably would have brought up the same issue as you.

    And you do look quite a bit different than you did in high school/college, so I am not surprised if the woman you dated only recognized you from your dad's acknowledgement.


    Blogger Gina Ventre said ... (8:58 AM, October 05, 2007) : 

    very important point. i also think some age-ism comes into play. pregnancy and motherhood are the realm of the young. women who are not mostly gray, i.e. old to the eye. i think it still fucks with our minds when we see a noticeably older pregnant woman.

    sometimes i wonder if that idea of not getting pregnant past a certain age, past 45 or so, is some age-ism mixed in with vague worries over birth defects.

    an idea that i often wrestle with when thinking about a welfare state is how much a govt should take care of its people. i don't know the answer. it's easy to say that the welfare system, especially in terms of taking care of children, is broken but what's the solution?


    Blogger anne said ... (10:51 AM, October 05, 2007) : 

    How much control should any society have over birth? We still fight over the issue of abortion, and most of the people I know feel it is the woman's right to choose. So what is the difference in the choice to HAVE a child vs. NOT have a child?

    I think it is an interesting intellectual discussion, but would much rather see information and education given to poor or older women about risk factors and economic issues.

    I can assume that there weren't many welfare moms attending the seminar? Were there older women there considering having children?


    Blogger Audient said ... (11:31 AM, October 05, 2007) : 

    While I wouldn't call them welfare mothers, a significant portion of the students in attendance were parttimers in nursing or other programs who already have kids. These are people busting their humps trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.


    Blogger Audient said ... (11:32 AM, October 05, 2007) : 

    Mel -- late 80s audient had it goin' on, yeah.


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