Friday, April 7, 2017

A Failed Experiment, and an Exception

When The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes from her heart, few can pen more moving prose. This week she writes about the American dream, the idea that however poor your beginnings or roots, you can with perseverance and focus become someone with self-respect who achieves substantial goals, perhaps even great ones.

She poses the question: what has gone wrong with the American dream, what makes it available to fewer of us than before? In addition to the usual answers to that question, she adds:
What ails the dream is a worthy debate. I’d include this: The dream requires adults who can launch kids sturdily into Dream-land.

When kids have one or two parents who are functioning, reliable, affectionate—who will stand in line for the charter-school lottery, who will fill out the forms, who will see that the football uniform gets washed and is folded on the stairs in the morning—there’s a good chance they’ll be OK.

What I see more and more in America is damaged or absent parents. (snip) Insufficient parents used to be able to tell their kids to go out, go play in America, go play in its culture. (snip) Now we have stressed kids operating within a nihilistic popular culture that can harm them.

This is not a failure of policy but a failure of love. And it’s hard to change national policy on a problem like that.
Our dilemma: people who should be having the kids, who would do a good job with them, mostly are childless. In too many cases, people who should not be having kids, who do a poor job raising them, are the parents. Their damaged offspring bog down our struggling public schools, swell our welfare rolls, clog our courts and prisons.

The glaring exception: my Mormon neighbors, the Latter Day Saints. I know of no group that takes parenting more seriously, does more of it, or rewards it more richly. As a non-Mormon observer, I infer - from their behavior - child raising might be their number one duty to God. And it pays off big time in amazing young adults for whom the American Dream persists.