George F. Will [op-ed, Sept. 13] rejects Sen. Barack Obama's opinion that racism is a factor in urban poverty, then turns a snippet of sociology into a sermon for the poor: "Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager."

Good ideas, but no answer to poverty and an insult to many. How many teens in middle-class neighborhoods would stay the course in schools available to the poor? How many middle-class teens would have babies if not for adequate medical care, including access to sound information, contraception and abortion? Adolescent sexual activity does not differ between rich and poor as much as pregnancy outcome does. Many conservatives oppose abortion rights and support abstinence-only sex education, only increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy. Over 80 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted; pregnancy is not a reliable deterrent to sex, especially among young people who have little hope for the future.

A disproportionate number of troops risking their lives in Iraq are teenagers looking for a way out of poverty. Make war, not love? If they (or their parents) had heeded Will's advice, would there be more middle-class adolescents serving in the military, or perhaps fewer wars?

-- E. James Lieberman

-- Carol S. Lieberman



When George F. Will is done despairing of American humanity because of all the Hobbes he's read, maybe he can explain how the president's fervor for a remote and straitened government has in any instance helped the poor people of New Orleans before or since Hurricane Katrina.

I'll grant that too many of "liberalism's 'caring professions' " are grossly oblivious to the familial mores Will pines for; the protection racket we call public education in this country alone deserves his contempt. But citing illegitimacy rates amid such vast ruination, whatever the cause, does more than belabor the obvious with embarrassing clinical detachment. It's too much like kicking a man when he's down.

-- David Bulgin

Greensboro, N.C.