Last night, I watched the movie “Coach Carter”. It is a movie about a tough basketball coach in a tough school that instills respect and educational standards into students that normally don’t have any hope. It is a real positive story and teaches about hard work, expectations, consequences and respect. It stresses education over basketball. This is the guy who cancelled games because the team didn’t maintain a 2.3 grade point average.
One of the side stories in this movie is that one of the star basketball players finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant. She fully intends on having the baby. In fact, there are scenes where she has bought the baby shoes and a scene where her and her girlfriends are trying to figure out a name for the baby. The basketball player, having already accepted his role as father is trying to come to grips with his new situation. Before Coach Carter entered his life, he never thought of college. Now that he was taking steps in the classroom to become successful, college looked like a possibility. He started looking at a future that was totally different than the mentality of the neighborhood he grew up in. Here he was working hard so that there may be a possibility of college in his future and he was wondering how he was going to go to college and support a girlfriend and baby at the same time. When he confronted his girlfriend about this, she was in denial. He asked her, “You want to go to Junior College, how are you going to go to college with a baby? How are you going to take care of the baby and go to school? You have it all figured out, so after you have the baby – then what?” He wanted her to take a look at a bigger world. To step back and see long term and not so short term. When they both did, a baby didn’t look so attractive.
( Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie then this last bit will be a spoiler. I only write this because it has been out long enough so if you wanted to see it, you should have already seen it. )
Eventually, the basketball player is offered a full-ride scholarship. He tells the college about his situation and they are going to help him with his baby and girlfriend. When he tells his girlfriend about it, she informs him that she had an abortion. Apparently she also started thinking about the future. She didn’t want to end up like her cousin who had two kids by the time she was 19. She didn’t want to be inconvenienced.
I watched this with sadness because what was left unsaid was that she had made the choice to end the life of her child so she wouldn’t be inconvenienced. In the movie, abortion was the solution. Killing the child whom they had already named and bought clothes for was the option. The movie didn’t spell it out like that. They made it seem as though that was the best option for the two high school students. Now they could go on with their lives without the inconvenience of a baby. How sad. With the positive message of self-respect and responsibility, it also showed the ugliness of selfishness.
After the movie, I was left with a lot of impressions. I thought it told a great story of how, when we have high expectations for kids in school, they can meet those expectations. It showed me that if you teach kids to have respect for elders, others and themselves, they act differently in all situations. They aren’t punks. It showed me that nothing worthwhile comes without hard work and that you live with the decisions you make in life. It showed me that no matter where you come from, in America, everyone can have an opportunity to succeed. There were so many lessons illustrated in this movie.
When I woke up this morning, I kept thinking about what the movie didn’t say. I thought how this movie could be a great movie to watch with high school students. To get them talking about decisions, responsibility. To get them talking about premarital sex. Abortion. The big question for me is “Why, when everyone wanted the baby, it was a baby. Then when they didn’t want the baby, it was just a procedure?” What happened to “the baby”?
That is the question I want every teenager to have to answer. If you are someone who works with youth, ask that question to them. Ask them to wrestle with what it means to have an abortion. Then talk about positive alternatives. There are so many lessons to be taught here. Lessons that aren’t being taught in school.