Praising marriage in the classroom - 9/22/99
Wed Sep 22 15:16:40 EDT 1999
from: Smart Marriages
Praising marriage in the classroom
Marilyn Gardner, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Wedding bells and vows of "I do" bear little connection to the three R's
a typical school curriculum. But starting next September, teachers in
Britain will be required to spend time extolling the benefits of marriage
to their classes. Even students as young as 7 will learn about the
importance of family life and loving relationships.
Defending the curriculum revisions announced this month, Prime Minister
Tony Blair explains that Britain needs "a new sense of moral purpose for
today's young generation." He calls it "morally wrong" for government to
indifferent to problems of family instability and unwed teenage pregnancy.
Schools, he adds, are not "value-free zones."
Government officials insist they are not dictating behavior but merely
offering guidelines for stable relationships. Yet critics, including
teachers' unions and an organization of single parents, complain that
promoting marriage in schools risks stigmatizing the one-third of British
children born out of wedlock and the one-quarter who are growing up in
Some opponents accuse the government of "moral preaching." Others view
lifelong marriage as increasingly irrelevant in an age of cohabitation and
Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples
Education in Washington, opposes that kind of casual, anything-goes
approach to relationships. "It is wrong and misleading to tell kids that
all family forms are equally beneficial," she says. "It's wrong not to
them information about the benefits of certain family forms over others."
While she applauds Britain's curriculum on marriage, Ms. Sollee would like
to see its focus extended. Simply telling students about the benefits of
staying married isn't enough, she says. They also need skill training on
how to make it work. Last year Florida became the first state to require
that marriage skills be taught in all public and private high schools.
Other states are considering similar legislation.
Marriage is getting another boost in a report being released today by the
nonpartisan Institute for American Values in New York. The study, "The Age
of Unwed Mothers," concludes that what is termed a teen pregnancy "crisis"
in the United States is not really about teenagers or pregnancy. Rather,
is about the decline of marriage.
Maggie Gallagher, director of the institute's Marriage Project, points out
that the number of young women who have their first child during their
years is about the same today as it was in the early 1970s. The single
biggest change in recent decades, she explains, has been the declining
proportion of pregnant single teens who marry.
Today the majority of unwed births in the US are to adult women in their
20s. "These are not 'children having children,' nor are they 'Murphy
Browns,' " Ms. Gallagher says.
She sees the teen pregnancy problem in American society as inseparable
from a much larger marriage problem. "Changing adult ideas about marriage
its relationship to procreation have directly guided the entire cluster of
trends in teen behavior," she states. These trends include rising rates of
unmarried sex and a weak motivation to use contraceptives.
Getting teenagers and young adults to postpone having a baby while they
wait for a good marriage "should become our highest priority," Gallagher
concludes. Changing the cavalier "I won't" to a committed "I do" will
require a wide-ranging collective effort. Beleaguered teachers, already
performing more and more nonacademic duties, can hardly be blamed for
resisting another role as classroom defenders of marriage.
But at a time when movies, television, and magazines glorify singlehood,
including single motherhood, and when commitment sometimes seems to be a
vanishing art and a scary word, marriage needs all the advocates it can
find. Hollywood, are you listening?
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