Shame Is Not a Four-Letter Word

New York is deploying a powerful weapon to reduce teen pregnancy: shame. New advertisements around the city dramatize the truncated life chances of children born to teenagers; in one, a tear-stained toddler stares out, declaring: “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”

Nobody is arguing the facts. But plenty of people are furious at the decision to highlight them. “Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down,” declared Haydee Morales, the vice president for education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

This is the allegedly “liberal” response. But liberals should think twice: shame is an essential ingredient of a healthy society, particularly a liberal one. It acts as a form of moral regulation, or social “nudge,” encouraging good behavior while guarding individual freedom.

Read the rest of the op-ed at the New York Times website »