May 15, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
So often I write about the effects of fatherlessness. Being who I am, I tend to express myself from the standpoint of the social science on the matter. I’ll point out that children raised without both parents tend more to commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, be unemployed, etc. than their peers raised in intact families. I say that because it’s true. I know it’s true because decades of social science establish the facts. Fine.
But occasionally, something comes along that hits the nail harder than I do (Meridian Star, 4/21/16).
I read that in a survey of public school teachers in 1940, the top disciplinary problems listed included talking out of turn, chewing gum, running in the halls, dress-code violations, and littering. More than a half century later, the problems teachers contend with are drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault. Teachers and administrators say that things are worse for students now than ever before. One junior high school teacher commented, “I can’t believe the things they do to themselves and to each other.” A kindergarten teacher recently told me that her five and six year old students are restless, angry, and some even have the addictive habit of cutting themselves. A grandmother told me that her grandson, whom she is raising, has admitted to having suicidal thoughts. He is ten years old.
What a comparison. What teacher today wouldn’t fall on her knees and shout Hosannas to have the problems teachers did in 1940? “Andy, is that gum in your mouth?” “Yes, teacher.” “Go to the principal’s office!” Can anyone even imagine?
Of course, many things have changed since FDR was in office, so there’s no single trend we can point to that’s caused the drastic change in our children and the world they face every day. But one of the main things that’s changed for kids is that so many of them have either no father in their lives or one who’s so remote as to be ineffective at being the father they need. Fatherlessness produces exactly the type of dysfunctional behavior in children that we see every day to our dismay and that the Meridian Star writer so aptly describes.
The only thing more astonishing than the comparison between 1940s bad behavior and that of today is that we know what’s wrong and how to fix it, but we don’t. I’m not sure what it says about a society that so doggedly ignores the obvious facts about fatherlessness and yet promotes it at every opportunity. Future historians will have their say about that, but today’s United States looks very much like a person driving an automobile slowly toward a 1,000-foot precipice knowing it’s there. Destruction awaits, but the person drives on and on. There’s plenty of time to stop and turn back, but the driver refuses.
We know the damage fatherlessness does to children. We know the toll it takes on society. We at least have an idea of what it costs us to attempt to treat its many symptoms – bad educational outcomes, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, bad mental health and the like. And yet we prefer to continue our destructive behavior when stopping and turning around would be relatively simple.
Changing laws on parenting time would be the most obvious thing and most people support doing so. A pop culture that didn’t routinely denigrate fathers would be another. That same pop culture could also take a stab at depicting women as something other than frail, helpless victims of whatever wind blows their way. Education beginning at an early age could help too. Kids could learn the value of fathers to children, that’s it’s not OK to father a child and then turn your back on it, that it’s not acceptable for a mother to refuse a dad contact with his child, that both parents need to provide financial as well as emotional support to their kids.
Nothing about any of that is complicated or even hard. And yet, with the exception of shared parenting bills, essentially none of it appears anywhere in our public discourse. We just don’t talk about it.
A friend of the National Parents Organization sent me a link to the Meridian Star article. Along with it he pointed out what we are talking about in lieu of the vital issues I’ve mentioned here – Donald Trump’s fingers. Yes, the news media tell us that the length of The Donald’s fingers is of vital national importance, particularly since he seems to be poised to become the GOP presidential nominee. Over two generations of fatherless children? Not so much.
That’s outrageous. The triviality of the news media never ceases to amaze. But let’s not allow our attention to be diverted by it, shocking as it is. Let’s remember that fatherlessness is public policy. It’s gone on too long and too many attempts have been made to correct it for us to pretend that political and media elites don’t know the facts. They do.
Therefore, we must conclude that those elites are essentially content with the status quo as it relates to fathers and children. Given that conclusion, we can then start to wonder why that might be, who might be served, who might benefit and why the most basic institution of social stability has been deemed expendable.
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