Let it never be said that we at the IWF march in lockstep. Stepford wonks we aren’t. I’d like to respond to Anne’s response to an item I posted on education. In talking about failures in education, I referred to “unmarried parents who don’t provide an environment in which homework can be done, indeed, don’t provide an environment where kids are even urged to doing their homework.” Anne responded with an item headlined “Unmarried Parents are a Red Herring in Education Reform:”
I would argue, and yes it does seem I do that a lot on this blog, that the marital status of a parent has less to do with a parent encouraging a child to complete their homework assignments than other factors. Yes, being a child of a single or unmarried parent can have its difficulties and ideally every child would live in a loving, nurturing household, under the watchful caring eye of both a mother and father, but welcome to the real world. During my formative years I knew many kids from single parent households who excelled in their studies. I also knew kids from typical two-parent, nuclear families who lived in chaos that was reflected in their, let’s not say intelligence, but their drive to achieve. My point being, I don’t see the correlation.
Working to instill in children the importance of education and learning is part of being a good parent, single or married, mother or father. I would argue, it isn’t that there are too many unmarried parents; there are too many parents with misguided priorities. These priorities are indeed a product of society as a whole.
I would argue that if you are an unwed parent (and I refer to never-married parents, not those who have tried and failed), then ipso facto you have “misguided priorities.” Many children from marriageless households, especially those, I would guess, of affluent unmarried parents, do quite well. But a chaotic family life, and single-parenthood is all too often a prescription for chaos, is harmful to a child’s education. I want to quote some things I noted in a review of Kay Hymowitz’s very important book, “Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marriage Age:”
For Ms. Hymowitz, the two Americas do not divide between the poor who are supposedly in need of government assistance and the rest of us. The division is best defined in another way: between those who see marriage as an indispensable condition of child-rearing and those who don’t. If we are becoming two Americas, it is one America in which parents are married and another in which they are not. The Marriage Gap, as Ms. Hymowitz calls it, appears likely to have a more profound effect on the future of both Americas than the gender gap so lamented by the feminists.
The Mission [of child-rearing], notes Ms. Hymowitz, requires not a village but two married parents. And, no, cohabitation doesn’t do the trick. Even cohabiters who have the education levels of their married counterparts are less effective as parents. ‘As the core cultural institution,’ Ms. Hymowitz writes, ‘marriage orders life in ways that we only dimly understand. It carries with it signals about how we should live, signals that are in line with both our economy and our politics in the largest sense.”