Brian Goldman | Why family is not the f-word
The Gold Standard | The religious should not be the only ones to support family values
April 9, 2012, 12:40 am · Updated April 11, 2012, 12:14 am·
This past weekend, like many Jewish students, I went home to celebrate Passover. With Easter falling on the same weekend, hopefully many other students had the same opportunity to spend time with family.
It was nice to be home. I’ve always felt that familial bonds are one of the strongest magnets that keep us grounded, focused and driven. We want to succeed not only for ourselves, but for our families. When we’re young we want to make them proud, and when we’re older, this feeling translates into a desire to support them.
Nowadays, we hear a lot about the deterioration of the American family in the media. Divorce is an often-cited example of this trend. The Americans for Divorce Reform estimate that “40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.”
Other research shows that single-parent households, on average, face more daily hurdles than two-parent households. Given that they only have one source of income, its not surprising that 32 percent of single parents with children live below the poverty line, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, while only 6 percent of married couples with children fall under the same category.
Being born into poverty lowers a child’s chance of receiving a top-notch education, which in turn affects his or her future income level and the likelihood that he or she will go to jail at some point. That’s not to say that single parents are bad people. They just have to deal with the responsibilities that two parents traditionally shoulder together.
Reinforcing family values and stable two-parent households shouldn’t be as politically poisonous a topic as assumed. Sentiments promoting family values are often couched in religious semantics, but that rhetoric is misguided.
Family values don’t necessarily come from religion. Families who don’t adhere to specific religious values can have bonds just as strong as families that do. Religion does not make a family strong and tight. The individuals do. A family can be strong and be composed of religious folks or atheists, gay or straight individuals.
Extremism on both sides produces a mirage of contention and partisanship. The Family Research Council, a far right organization led by Tony Perkins, claims to promote “family values” but believes these values can exist only if you practice a “proper” religion and are of a “certain” sexual orientation.
On the left, there are those such as New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who tweeted in February during a Republican presidential debate, “Let me just tell you this Mitt ‘Muddle Mouth’: I’m a single parent and my kids are amazing! Stick that in your magic underwear.”
Blow — as an obvious exception to the data surrounding single parents and poverty — irresponsibly diverted the issue at hand. It has nothing to do with whether children raised in single parent households are “amazing” or not, but everything to do with the fact that a large number of these children are raised in poverty.
Contrary to what Blow suggests, the prevalence of single-parent households and their correlation to poverty is something we should tackle. Parents —whether gay or straight — should be incentivized to marry.
Our tax code is a convoluted mess full of loopholes and carve-outs, but one thing it does get right is the emphasis on family: deductions for marriage, for having children, for investing in a home.
There is a lot of discussion in Washington about (badly needed) reforms for the tax code, but these deductions shouldn’t be laid by the wayside.
I did not always recognize the influence that a strong and secure family has on one’s upbringing. I used to subscribe to Ayn Rand’s tenets of individualism, especially after reading her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.
However, Rand always underestimated, or blatantly ignored, the strength of families and close-knit communities. Although some have the innate ability to succeed against all odds, this is rare. Children are much more likely to reach their full potential if they are surrounded by a family that is strong and intact.
This is not to say that the government should be involved in every facet of a child’s upbringing. Rather, it should incentivize mothers, fathers and caretakers to act responsibly. Their decisions, after all, are informed by intricacies of their lives that the government simply cannot account for.
If you’re lucky to have a tight, strong family — single parent or not — chances are that upbringing was vital in allowing you to attend Penn.
Just think: Would you be here without them?
Brian Goldman is a College senior from Queens, N.Y. His email address is email@example.com. The Gold Standard appears every Monday.