ERIC Number: EJ1061816
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Reference Count: N/A
How Can Schools Address America's Marriage Crisis? Prepare Young People for Rewarding Careers
Petrilli, Michael P.
Education Next, v15 n2 p56-62 Spr 2015
There are no obvious or easy prescriptions for reversing the trends of the familial challenges that have grown deeper and wider in the last fifty years in regard to the number of babies born to unwed mothers, with the majority of all children born to women in their 20s. This article discusses the challenges regarding the marriage crisis in America, as well as solutions. The author asks, "What can schools do to encourage young people to follow the success sequence, including putting marriage before children?" The success sequence is described as the following: (1) Get at least a high school diploma; (2) Work full time; and (3) Be at least 21 years old and married before having children. Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution estimate that 98 percent of those who follow the "success sequence" will not be poor, and almost three-quarters will be solidly middle class. On the flip side, three-quarters of young people who fail to follow any of those norms will be poor, and almost none will be middle class. One could argue that reducing teenage pregnancy is a reasonable job for the education system, and that if girls were encouraged to wait until they were in their 20s, and educated, to have babies, they might also wait for marriage. Teenage pregnancy rates are down 50 percent from their peak in 1990. High-school graduation rates are up, from 65 percent in the early 1990s to 80 percent today. Yet out-of-wedlock birth rates are as high as ever--the early childbearing age was merely pushed from the late teens to the early 20s. The young adults who are having babies before marriage haven't had any contact with the K-12 system for two years or more. Yet for educators and education policymakers to ignore the issue of marriage seems irresponsible. The author suggests using "marriage as a springboard to the middle class" (particularly marriage before childbearing) as a strategy in addition to the "college as a springboard to the middle class" strategy. The author suggests the following solutions that schools can offer: (1) Boost the education and employment prospects of disadvantaged youth; (2) Offer high-quality career and technical education (CTE); and (3) Help students develop "performance character"--drive and prudence in particular--both via classroom instruction and through extracurricular activities. All of these actions, done well, are almost certain to help push back the average age of childbearing, which will help the next generation do better academically and economically. Fixing the marriage problem isn't a job for schools alone. Schools can help give graduates a reason to wait to become parents, and possibly put them on a path to saying "I do."
Descriptors: Marriage, Graduation, High School Students, Employment, Marital Status, Unwed Mothers, Pregnancy, Adolescents, Disadvantaged Youth, Vocational Education, Values Education, Extracurricular Activities, Charter Schools
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A