I am always happy to receive letters that begin "Your oversimplification of . . . " and "As an engineer, I resent . . . " because they promise, if nothing else, the basic materials for a follow-up column, thereby prolonging my career for yet another day.
The letters, two of many, were in response to a recent column relevant to the proposed establishment of a high school birth-control clinic in Los Angeles.
The school board voted 6 to 1 to create a kind of contraceptive cafeteria that would dispense condoms to swaggery young men with lofty notions of their own sexual virtuosities, as well as to those who simply want something to keep their pencils in.
I took a position on the subject that was firmly ambivalent. It was not dissimilar, in fact, from the stance once assumed by former Gov. Pat Brown when asked if he thought he was ambivalent. Pat replied, "Well, yes and no."
I thought that in this case I would emerge unscathed by remaining sweetly indifferent to both the sexual perverts and the reborn Christians lining up on either side of the current furor uterinus. That, however, is not the case.
The cards and letters just keep on coming.
Most of the mail is of the kin d pencil-printed on butcher paper. It is either indecipherable, pretentious or overloaded with unnecessary quotation marks. I am not likely to read letters that misuse "quotation marks."
The letters I have chosen to answer, however, possess a special elan of their own, as well as suggestions to minimize teen-age pregnancy. One: Do away with high schools. Two: Put the fathers in jail. Three: Make sex readily available to the young.
Taking them one at a time, a lady named Pauline suggests that, by eliminating high school, you eliminate high school promiscuity.
Its premise embraces the rationale offered by Santa Monica Police Chief James Keane, whose idea of crime control was to send the criminals to Miami.
Pauline would let ninth-graders chose whether they want to work or attend college from then on. Given the right of choice, her theory goes, they will plunge into their occupation with the concentration of a heart surgeon calculating his fee.
Pauline reasons that kids indulge in carnal behavior because they are bored, and, if they are doing what they want and are not bored, they won't, well, mess aroun'. Not quite, ma'am.
You can send a guy to MIT or hire him for the job he has dreamed of all his young life, but the minute he spots an available female he is going to drop everything and risk his life to have her.
Logic flies out the window when sex walks in the door.
Letter Two, from an engineer named Art, comes out fighting: "For every teen-age pregnancy there should be a teen-age boy in jail!"
Art is the letter writer who resented my previous birth-control column because it offered no solutions. He therefore apparently felt compelled to offer a solution of his own.
Unfortunately, however, Art's idea won't wash. In addition to closing the barn door after the horse has become pregnant, incarceration seems somewhat excessive, especially since we cannot always determine who the father is. The girl might have taken on the entire defensive backfield of the Polytechnic Parrots.
However, acknowledging the spirit of Art's suggestion, perhaps a solution might be found in putting the teen-age mother in jail.
That would serve the triple purpose of punishing the young for indulging in sex, keeping the girl off the streets for a while and serving notice to any infant born in jail that a prurient attitude will not be tolerated. You have to look ahead.
Letter Three, from Andria, suggests that, if sex is made easily available to the young, they will lose interest in it.
"Haven't you ever put something on a high shelf to keep away from a child?" she asks. "The child then wants it more than ever. Perhaps we should apply that to sex. If it's easy to get, they won't want it."
I mentioned her idea to a teen-age boy who lives in the neighborhood. His eyes lit up and he said yeahhhh in a way that indicated to me that sex probably ought to be kept on the shelf for a little while longer.
Andria's idea presupposes, as did Pauline's, that kids will lose interest in coupling by clever diversionary ploys. Well, they won't.
Sex, as someone once observed, is America's only amateur art. True. Almost anyone can participate without prior training.
In view of that, I don't know how you control youthful carnality. The problem isn't so much in their natural instincts as it is in their inability to perceive the price of concupiscence.
Putting them in jail won't help, eliminating high school won't help and putting sex on a lower shelf has already been tried. But what might help is a law that forces a teen-age boy to marry and support the teen-age girl he has impregnated.
There is nothing like the reality of a rent payment to take the misty edges off of what last night seemed a dream without end.