There is power in the negative example, and my kids have witnessed it first hand.
Seriously? Yes, she’s serious:
In the recently published How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough argues that rich kids get the encouragement and poor ones get the grit, and he claims that one without the other gets no one very far. It is hard to spot the millionaire’s kid who mows the lawn or the middle-schooler on a free-lunch program who sees his parents before nine at night. I would maintain that children with a single parent get the winning combination.
This is not even worth arguing with. Single parents have a tough row to hoe, and nobody should want to add to their burdens. But claiming that kids raised by a single parent are better off than kids with two parents because it makes them more resilient? That’s ridiculous. As if Dad (or Mom) were a luxury.
Note well that Pamela Kripke lives in Highland Park, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Dallas. I wonder if she would feel the way she does if she lived in West Dallas, one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. Actually, no, I don’t wonder that at all.
I’ve been in bed with a terrible cold and sinus headache for two days. This has been yet another opportunity to realize what a blessing it is to have a wife, a partner in raising our kids. I have been out of commission these past two days, so she has handled everything herself. Aside from those times when one of us is out of commission, in so many ways, each of us gives something to our kids that the other one really can’t.
It may be the case that Kripke’s kids are better off without having their particular father living with them. We aren’t told the circumstances of their parents’ divorce. It may be the case as well that these girls will emerge from their life with a single parent with certain strengths. Maybe. But to claim that these kids are better off without a dad at all? Did I mention that Pamela Kripke lives in the poshest part of Dallas, a place other Dallasites call “The Bubble”?
That’s not entirely fair. She teaches English in a Dallas middle school that serves the poor, and has written about those experiences on the Huffington Post. She’s a good writer, but I find it hard to believe that she thinks the kids in her class, who have so many, many problems, would be better off without a father. From her first HuffPo dispatch:
I took a job at a middle school where about 90 percent of the kids qualify for free breakfast and lunch. That is how “poverty” is calibrated, in pancakes. All but a few students are Hispanic, and most arrive each morning by bus, eight-hour refugees from gangs and drugs and upset. Their mothers, if they are at home, don’t let them outside after school. They know whom to avoid, by the color of the bandanas.
Before many of these kids sit in front of my blackboard, they have had a day. They have had 13 years. They are in no shape to learn about pronouns. Write about a time when your family did something funny, I instruct them.
“I can’t,” one girl whispers in my ear. “My dad does drugs.”
“Can you write about that?”
“He sold my phone to buy pills.”
I think that Michael Bloomberg could put an air conditioning repair man in the chancellor’s seat. Or a neuroscientist. Or, frankly, a university president. It doesn’t much matter, and here is why: They do not know Miguel. Or Maria. They are just too far away. They do not know that these kids’ survival, right now, is not derived from brilliant test scores or good grades, even. Or, the allocation of money from one place to another.
Kripke doesn’t actually make an argument in her Slate piece about the superiority of single parenthood, just takes umbrage at the social scientist Brad Wilcox’s argument, from social science data, that children raised by single moms are twice as likely to have serious problems when they’re older. Wilcox points out that he was raised by a single mom, and turned out well, so being the child of a single parent is no more rigidly determinative than being a child of an intact family. But it does make the odds against you much worse.
Children can learn particular strengths from growing up deaf, blind, or legless. But no one could plausibly argue for the superiority of growing up without hearing, sight, or the ability to walk.