CRITICAL ISSUES: VOLUME I, ISSUE 2
Ask your typical, proper, New York Times reading citizen if popular culture and government policies pose a real threat to family life in America today, and you're likely to get a response of eyes rolled upwards in exasperation. It's not that most Americans don't believe the traditional family of husband, wife and kids is the preferred household arrangement. In polls taken after the 1992 elections for the major networks, the overwhelming majority of voters (68 percent) said they want government to promote traditional rather than nontraditional families. But - for the typical, proper, New York Times reading American - one senses this promoting should be done quietly, without an abundance of enthusiasm. The vehemence of what the press christened "the two Pats" (Robertson and Buchanan) at the Republican National Convention is at all costs to be avoided. So is the spectacle the press made of Vice President Dan Quayle, when he fired the first salvo of the family values war by taking television character "Murphy Brown" to task for glorifying single motherhood to America's young. The New York Daily News headline reporting on Quayle's Murphy Brown speech said most succinctly the sentiment expressed that day in columns and editorials in newspapers all over the country: "QUAYLE TO MURPHY BROWN: YOU TRAMP!" The headline summed up perfectly the major media's two axioms on the family values movement: (1) It is an ugly and mean-spirited exercise in bashing single mothers, and (2) It is a rather ridiculous expense of effort on a wholly imaginary threat. The existence of such headlines goes a long way towards explaining why those trying to reinsert family values into the public debate are often treated with the exasperation usually reserved for those out canvassing for Lyndon LaRouche. Of course, given the coverage of the media (and perhaps even the sometimes overzealous remarks of defenders of the traditional family) some exasperation is understandable. But as a logical response to supporters of profamily policies, it is simply not sustainable. Despite the headlines of the Daily News or the editorials of the New York Times, the family is indeed in trouble. To say this is not to attack often heroic single moms, who labor to rear upstanding children. Instead, it is to warn of the danger posed by those implementing political, cultural, and educational policies geared towards uprooting what both tradition and social science point to as the breeding ground for healthy kids: a home with a mom and a dad. The Importance of Family
Over three thousand years ago, the author of Genesis wrote of the divinely sanctioned order in a man's cleaving to his wife. The social sciences have been proving the importance of this cleaving for decades. By virtually any standard, a child is far, far better off if he or she lives in a household with both a mother and father. This is most easily seen on the economic level. Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty: a rate five to six times that of kids living with two parents. In 1991, 60 percent of all poor families with children were headed by single mothers. Having an intact household is such a key to economic success that scholar Lawrence Mead has remarked: The main challenge [for social policy] is no longer to expand economic opportunity but to overcome social weaknesses that stem from the 'post-marital' family and the inability of many people to get through school. The inequalities that stem from the workplace are now trivial in comparison to those stemming from family structure. What matters for success is less whether your father was rich or poor than whether you knew your father at all.  But it's not only in their pocketbooks and checking accounts that kids from single parent homes suffer. Consider the following: * An Australian study of over 2,100 adolescents found that...