Last night I went to dinner with friends and almost lost my cool. In all honesty, I did lose my cool but a kinder, saner friend quietly calmed me down so I didn't say something that I couldn't take back. Here's the basic gist of the story.
As we were sitting around the dinner table, somehow we got onto the conversation of charter schools, public education, urban schools, and the conflicts that exist regarding how to reform schools. One of the women at the table started talking about "all the problems that kids from broken homes" have. She noted that it's sad that schools have to deal with all of their emotional issues and that they can't really focus on teaching. She continued on about how that was the biggest problem, and if "we could just fix the kids from the broken homes" everything would be fine.
The subtext here about broken homes is that they are single parent homes probably as a result of divorce or single motherhood. The home is broken, and therefore the kid is broken. There are a couple things that upset me about this. First and foremost is the assumption that homes aren't broken if the parents are married and living together. In some cases, those families are in as much crisis as the ones that the woman I mention above chooses to blame for the problems in education. There can be substance abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, really unhappy spouses... As a child of one of those broken homes, I can honestly say (and my mother agrees with me) that my father moving out was one of the best things for all of us. It was hard, but believe me, given the home environment was as rough as it was before he left, his departure lifted a very dark cloud.
Secondly, broken homes are homes where mothers are doing it on their own. They act as mother, father, caregiver, and breadwinner. The fact that a woman can keep it all together should be lauded, not labeled to imply it is her fault that her kids have problems. Even more annoying to me about this rhetoric is that people how use the term broken home never use the phrase in conjunction with families in which a parent is absent due to illness, combat service, or death. It's just the single moms who can't keep their men. In fact, one of my best friends is a single parent. HE had been raising his son on his own since the young man was 3. The mom basically abandoned the son, and has had little contact in 15 years. People laud my friend. He is held up as a paragon of parenting. Not to make light of my friend's accomplishments, but can you see the double standard here?
What is really at issue here is a moral judgment that is all-too-often placed on single mothers and their kids. And these moral judgments are made by people who have no idea what a broken home really is, or if they live in one, they are blind to the realities of their own situation. My one friend reminded me of that when he said to me, "Just because there are two parents doesn't mean it's not broken." And he was speaking from his own experience.
I guess what it comes down to is that old idea of walking a mile in another person's shoes. While I think all children should live in homes where there are a number of adults who sharing the in the enormous task of raising them, I know that is rare in today's society. It wasn't much more than 50 years ago, but the evolution of the nuclear family after World War II really changed things. We need to remember that looks can be deceiving.
We need to remind ourselves of that every day.
Into the Future
9 years ago