Just to jump on the whole married parents vs. unmarried parents debate between Charlotte and Anne, I don’ think there is much doubt that kids from parents with married parents tend to achieve more academically then kids who lack that support. There is a pretty robust literature on the subject (see this article from the Journal of Marriage and Family, the Heritage Foundation has written much on the subject, and I am sure there are lots of other sources if you google around). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, there are single parents who are totally dedicated to their child’s intellectual development and their children thrive, but in general they have less resources financially and less time to spend on monitoring their child’s education. That has consequences for their children.
This isn’t meant to impugn single parents but I do think this is a conversation worth having. People should be aware of the benefits of marriage (and staying married) for kids. Much of our culture seems to discourage couples contemplating divorce from considering staying together for the sake of the kids, yet it in many circumstances it might make sense to do just that. Of course there are many cases of marriage that just need to be over, but many rocky marriages are worth preserving. Studies have shown that the majority of unhappy marriages don?t stay unhappy over the long term and some couples who get divorce later wish they had worked harder to preserve their marriage. (I write about this a bit in my book and if you are really interested in this check out The Case for Marriage.)
Certainly the increase in failed or never formed families puts a strain on our education system, but that’s not an excuse for the poor services offered in too many of our public schools. We need to change the dynamic behind our system of schooling so that schools have to work to retain kids. That begins by creating more options for how parents can select schools for their children. Right now, for the most part, where I child goes to school is based on where he or she lives. That makes it tough for parents, particularly low income parents, to switch schools if they are dissatisfied with the education their child is receiving.
Someone reading this might say if part of the problem with educational attainment rests with the parents, why would we think that things would get better if parents got to select their child?s school. The good thing about a marketplace is that you don’t have to know everything about a service or product to benefit from the market dynamic. The fact that there are some people who know a good mechanic from a bad one means that someone like me (totally uninformed about such things) is more likely to get a good mechanic because those who knew what they were doing made informed choices and drove the worst mechanics out of business.
No system is going to be perfect, but as we have seen with just about all other areas of life, markets generate better outcomes than the government.