Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dr. Mitch Pearlstein’s From Family Collapse to America’s Decline makes an unapologetic attempt to soberly address one of America’s most tragic, yet largely ignored, shortcomings over the last half of the last century: the decline and collapse of the American family. It is the erosion of marriage and family, argues Pearlstein, which can be found at the root of coinciding declines in educational performance, and subsequently economic performance of the generations of American children raised in broken or never-formed families.

The true pearl of this book is its section on strengthening marriage. Although Pearlstein can’t offer a universal solution to reorient American culture toward what really matters, he does offer three themes for repairing marriage, or at the very least repairing people—especially young men—so that they are fit to be married.

First, young men in America are in terrible shape, and the near and medium term outlook looks even worse. Young men have serious achievement gaps in education, are more frequently diagnosed with learning disabilities, have a much higher rate of expulsion from schools, and have an astonishingly higher propensity to commit suicide.

Hordes of males are seeing their lives hamstrung by getting tangled up with the law at a young age and having no clear path to restoring their good name in society thereafter. The United States has seven times the incarceration rate of Western Europe, as of the early 2000’s eleven percent of American males could expect to go to prison at some point in their lives.

Developing programs to rehabilitate offenders, especially the huge numbers of minor drug offenders and other non-violent criminals (my note), provide an incentive for convicts to stay out of trouble, it gives them hope for a stable future free of social stigma. It should be noted that Pearlstein advocates for this to be done in the safest possible way, so that the result is not the release of those who pose a threat to society back into society. Without this, those that run afoul of the law, especially those that do so at a young age, will remain second-class citizens in the US, at a grave social cost, and needless to say, will make terrible marriage material as well.

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