Culture War
Many from both the right and the left bemoan the state of the American culture today. Whether it is the lack of positive images in TV, movies, music, politicians, sports figures, police in schools and more, freedom and morality are discussed as being in conflict with each other. Benjamin Franklin once wrote on the subject: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need for masters." This should ring true to you today as we debate not only our eroding culture, but the role of government in our lives. Are culture and the need for more government control more connected than we realize?

Children will benefit if we face this fact: Married parents are ideal

from The Washington Post,

let’s talk about family structure. The evidence is overwhelming that the decline of marriage over the past few decades has been very bad for children and, by extension, for society. For various reasons, however, this truth is too often left unsaid. In her new book, “The Two-Parent Privilege,” University of Maryland economist Melissa S. Kearney lays out all the dispiriting facts. My colleague Alyssa Rosenberg has done a wonderful deep dive into the data that Kearney marshals, and I won’t duplicate her efforts here, but to sum up: More than 1 in 5 American children now live with an unpartnered mother. The trend is particularly pronounced among children whose mother does not have a college degree. Forty percent of those children are without the benefit of married parents. And this change is mostly driven not by divorce, nor by partnerships that are marriage-in-everything-but-name, but by the rise in never-married parents. No matter how heroic their efforts, mothers (or fathers) alone cannot muster the resources — emotional as well as financial — of a two-parent family. They are more likely to live in poverty and can spend less time with their children, so their kids start life at a disadvantage. Boys appear to especially suffer from the lack of a father in the home. They are less likely to finish high school or graduate from college, more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to have children of their own outside marriage. And there are spillover effects to the families around them — one of the best predictors of economic mobility is growing up in a neighborhood full of two-parent families. So the decline in marriage has been bad not just for individual kids but for everyone. It amplifies and hardens social inequality and blunts individual potential. We should work as hard as we can to reverse these trends. Yet it feels nearly impossible to say “this is a very bad thing” as frankly — and as often — as we’ll need to if we’re going to address this critical issue, both because the first step to fix any problem is admitting we have one, and because saying “that’s bad, actually” is one of the ways that we remove risky behaviors from our cultural script. Yet the same report suggests, in line with other polls, that today only 30 percent of college-educated liberals agree that it’s important for children to have two married parents. For those on the left, saying such a thing might feel racially loaded, because Black and Hispanic mothers are more likely to be raising children outside of marriage. It might also feel like conceding that social conservatives might have had at least half a point. Yet even those of us on the center-right who privately tell pollsters that marriage is important might be reluctant to say so forthrightly in public. No one wants to add to the burdens of single motherhood by pointing out how risky their situation is for their kids. I cannot get through even half a sentence without an overwhelming urge to load it down with caveats, for example, that no one should ever stay with an abusive partner for the sake of the children. So the temptation is to talk about something else, to play down the facts or, at least, sugarcoat them. In the introduction to her book, Kearney talks about the urge to keep the discussion with other economists behind closed doors, centered on dry data. It is tempting now, in writing this, to focus on policy rather than culture. It would be much more comfortable to drop the “unmarried parenting is bad” frame and just talk about how we could make up for the time and financial deficits of single parenting with government programs like expanded child tax credits and mentoring. Alternatively, I could discuss the structural economic changes, such as stagnant wages for working class men, that have made marriage less attractive to working class women. Or advocate for an end to the marriage penalties embedded in tax codes and various government programs. We should absolutely spend more and do more to lift children out of poverty, and make up for all sorts of disadvantages, including family structure. We should reform any program that penalizes a couple for marrying. And I’m all for raising the wages of working class men, if anyone can figure out how to do it. But no government program can replicate the benefits of two parents in the home, and no amount of economic tinkering will keep both parents there unless we can also change the culture. Obviously, this change will not happen overnight — it took decades to get here, and it will probably take decades to get back. Also, change won’t come simply because a columnist says “this is bad.” But it will come if a lot of people say “this is bad” and act as if they mean it — especially the progressive tastemakers of the entertainment industry, who spin the stories and live the lives that shape our dreams. These people used to treat two-parent families as the ideal, even if one that was sometimes honored in the breach. If all of us would do so again, it could help a lot of kids.

More From The Washington Post (subscription required):

365 Days Page
Comment ( 0 )