ON-Lion Letter
"One of the dramatic social developments of our time -- family breakdown, now known by the term of art family fragmentation -- is seldom touched on by our top politicians," begins Mitch Pearlstein in an article in the November 26 issue of The Weekly Standard.  "Yet with the United States probably leading the industrial world in this amalgam of out-of-wedlock births, divorces, and short-lived cohabiting relationships, it would be valuable for our leaders to find a way around the political pitfalls that dissuade them from addressing a consequential subject."

Pearlstein is president of Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports some of his work at the Center on family fragmentation.

"One obvious reason for the prevailing presidential silence and inaction on family breakdown is that government is ill suited to orchestrate social behavior," according to Pearlstein in "The Disappearing-Family Problem."  "Yet there are areas where public policy can influence family culture, and prominent among them is education.  Our stubborn achievement gaps are related to family fragmentation:  On average, children from fragmented families do less well in school than children growing up with their married father and mother.  And for children who are short one parent in their lives -- which often means short of structure as well -- there is promise in pedagogical approaches aptly described as paternalistic."

Teachers, he writes, "need not work in religious schools in order to view their profession as a ministry, but it is only teachers in religious schools who are free to invoke in the classroom what they see as their and their students' obligation to God.  Neither sound arguments from economists nor well-established research findings that disadvantaged children, especially African-American girls and boys, tend to do better in private and religious schools will avail for more than small numbers of such students, of course, unless some form of public support -- vouchers, tax credits, or 'scholarships' -- is made available, and these are anathema to liberal orthodoxy.

"One would like to believe that a lame-duck liberal White House, with less to fear from the big teachers' unions," Pearlstein concludes, "would feel free to think anew.  It is unlikely.  More realistic may be the possibility that President Obama, in discussing the education of children in broken homes, might return to the kind of morally rich and compelling rhetoric he used over four years ago in speaking about fathers.  If he did -- and especially if he were also willing to speak plainly about the benefits of marriage -- even that modest step would be worth applauding."
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |