"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Monday, May 14, 2012

Letter to Michelle Obama from a Montana Educator

What did Moynihan  predict 47 years ago about society?
A commenter in the Missoulian wants the First Lady to come up with a program to "make marriage cool again", as she believes the break down of the traditional family structure has led to poor academic achievement.  She believes the First Family epitomizes Norman Rockwell-esque family values, in fact, she writes no one in America embodies these values more than the President and the First Lady.  She writes:

I’ve often heard the statistic that the best predictor of academic success is classroom size. I disagree. From 47 years of personal observation and experience, it’s the two-parent family.

Read here in The Missoulian how the writer wants Michelle Obama to emphasize traditional relationships to children as a precursor to academic success.

I suspect the First Lady believes governmental control and programs (she emphasizes food control/choice in school and increased  physical activity paid for by federal grants in school that can be tracked) are the keys to academic success, not family structure.   Her passions seem to lie with "Let's Move" and her $4.5 Billion Healthy Initiatives Bill directing how/what children must eat in school.  These "choices", along with tracked physical activity will help children learn more and behave better in school.

His social prophecy, which columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak labeled “The Moynihan Report,” was released as a seemingly bland government report in March 1965 by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Policy Planning and Research under the title “The Negro Family. The Case for National Action.” At the time not even Moynihan saw the implications of his analysis for the wider society. His report isolated the problem to the African American community; only later did Moynihan see that the incipient trend would have society-wide implications.

By 1970 the out-of-wedlock birth rate had climbed to 38% among African Americans and was rising for all groups. Moynihan eventually came around to the idea that the trend that affected all groups.

By 2008 everyone else caught up to the out-of-wedlock birth rates that had provoked a panic in Moynihan in 1965. For all Americans the out-of-wedlock birth rate hit 41% and among African Americans it was 72%.

From the Moynihan report:

The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence — not final, but powerfully persuasive — is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.

The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure.

This would be a new departure for Federal policy. And a difficult one. But it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem. 

Moynihan and the commenter agree stable family structures are important for children and society.  Even if the writer has some good ideas on promoting marriage to help students succeed, I wouldn't look to the First Lady for help in talking to children about getting married and delaying having children until they are married.  

Moynihan believed the Federal government should make some sort of national effort to establish a stable family structure.  As we've written previously, can the Federal government mandate marriage and stability in family structures?   It's a tongue in cheek posting, but think about it:  

If there  are mandates on student personal behavior taught in school (healthy eating stressed and food controlled by adults, physical activity data tracked, sexual education introduced in kindergarten) then why not mandate parental behavior to help ensure a child's outcome in society?  Would it be labeled "Character Education for Adults"?  

Then again, that might involve a judgment in adult choices...but don't we make that judgment when smoking legislation is adopted for private businesses?
  "No Smoking" is for the "good for society" and those affected by second hand smoke.  Aren't children educated for the "good for society" and affected by poor choices of their parents as well? 
Encouraging Americans to accept personal responsibility to provide stable relationships doesn't seem to be high on Mrs. Obama's list.  Making decisions for schools/parents or "nudging" them to do the "right" thing with government funding and mandates for food and exercise that are supposed to make a discernible difference in educational results, well, that's another story.

1 comment:

  1. Whatever you subsidize, you will get more of it.Until we wake up to the fact that paying unwed mothers ADC checks will beget more and more ADC checks and absolutely no claim or responsibility taken by fathers. Thus, our government is largely responsible for the increase in out-of-wedlock births. Teaching a couple of years ago, one of my male students was being congradulated by fellow classmates because his girlfriend had a baby the night before. I asked him who was going to pay for the care and upbringing of this newborn. He turned to me, pointed a finger at me and said, "you are". This is where our society is now.


Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter