Failing Schools or Failing Families?
By: Eileen Gallagher, Intern
On June 20 the Gallup Poll stated that only 29% of Americans have confidence in our public school system, a new low.
Meanwhile Pew Research Center reported that “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”
These two facts appear to be unrelated, but last year The Heritage Foundation published an article on education which pointed out that “In 2009, white public school eighth-graders outscored their black classmates by one standard deviation (equivalent to roughly two and a half years of learning) on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test.”
Meanwhile, “according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, by the age of thirty nearly 81 percent of white women … will marry, but that only 52 percent of black women will marry by that age.”
Are these two facts also unrelated?
Confidence in public schools system is very low, and the marriage rate is also very low. African America students are, academically, far behind white students, and the African American marriage rate is very far behind the white marriage rate. The first rule of statistics is that correlation is not causation. While there may be a correlation between marriage rates and educational outcomes, it does not follow that one causes the other.
The family and the school are both institutions in society, and as such each has a specific role to play in the development of people in a society. Institutions are connected to one another, but each institution must fulfill its individual function for society as a whole to thrive. The family is the most important institution because it is the first and the most natural. Children spend the first 5 years of their life participating mainly in that institution because all the others, such as education, government, the market, and even religion, have more of an impact later in life. Each family is responsible for the initial formation of a person, and if that formation does not take place, every other institution will struggle to fulfill its role in the formation of the same person. An analogy will make this more clear. Two sculptors are working on a statue. One is more capable of shaping the marble into the figure of a person, but the other sculptor is better at sculpting details. It is necessary for the first sculptor to shape the person well enough so that the second sculptor can begin where he left off. If the first does not shape the head of the statue, how can the second make a nose for the statue? In the same way, if the family does not lay the foundations well, the other institutions will have a very difficult, and perhaps impossible, task.
Social Science proves that an intact family structure is highly correlated with educational outcomes. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute found that children from intact families who worship weekly are more likely to receive a Bachelor’s Degree and to receive A’s in school.
The next Gallup Poll should assess confidence in the family. If families are doing well it is very likely that schools will start succeeding as well.