A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) paints an unflattering picture of the United States and the United Kingdom. In “An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries,” UNICEF claims that the two nations rank dead last in providing for young people’s welfare. Citing the lack of government-sponsored day care and “economic inequality,” a spokesman for UNICEF said, “They don’t invest as much in children as continental European countries do.” The U.S. should take some exception to this comment as money is not the only accurate measure of a child’s well-being. Unlike most Europeans, Americans don’t rely on a socialist system to provide for their families’ needs. In this study, only government funds were measured. The money provided from other sources was ignored. Assessing factors such as health, safety, family relationships, risk behaviors, and education, the study did cite the overwhelming number of single parents in the U.S. as cause for concern. Coupled with the alarming rates of teen promiscuity and substance abuse, the breakdown of the family must be addressed. Having said that, the government is not most Americans’ first choice when it comes to creating wealth, raising children, or making decisions about their health. As we’ve seen from the recent HPV vaccine mandates, Americans are not ready to let the government decide every issue for our children. If that’s the benchmark for high grades from UNICEF, then the U.S. is far better off than this study suggests.
But fewer and fewer of our young men are capable of this long haul. Consider how teenage boys are being scripted. How many pick up the message that it is best to have as many women as possible, versus those who pick up the message to find their one and only true love? How many get the predator/hunter message instead of the message to become the protector of their love?
It is easy for men to take to the predator message; it may even seem to be hardwired. By contrast it takes a massive cultural effort to make the protector lesson take hold among men. Most cultures (not ours anymore, alas) have put enormous energy into the protector message because the children of each generation need their fathers at home with them. Almost a quarter of our children are aborted today, 80 percent outside of marriage, while 60 percent of those who do manage to make it alive through the birth canal eventually end up with their parents rejecting each other. We, the United States, have become one huge culture of rejection.
At least eight states including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian homes for unwed mothers and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion. As a condition of the grants, counselors are often barred from referring women to any clinic that provides abortions; in some cases, they may not discuss contraception either.
Most states still spend far more money subsidizing comprehensive family planning, but the flow of tax dollars to antiabortion groups has surged in recent months, as programs have taken effect in Texas and Minnesota.
Which group doesn’t like this trend of using state funds to encourage women not to have abortions? It’s none other than the number one foe of unplanned childhood everywhere — Planned Parenthood. The nation’s leading abortion provider is apparently sour on its newfound competition:
In 2005, Texas lawmakers redirected $25 million that was to have gone to Planned Parenthood over two years. Most went instead to primary-care health clinics (which provide contraception but not abortion). But $5 million of the money was set aside for antiabortion centers that do not provide medical care and will not refer clients to clinics that prescribe birth control.
To deal with its 62% budget cut, the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Austin began charging for services long offered free to low-income women. Since the fees took effect, the clinic has distributed 40% fewer birth control pills and has conducted 50% fewer Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Several thousand patients have stopped coming.
While the article makes Planned Parenthood seem as if it were ready to cut off the heat and make its staff work for free, it does point out that the national organization did receive over $280 million in public funds last year — hardly a pittance. The article quotes Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, as saying, “It’s reprehensible that taxpayer dollars are going to organizations that regularly and deliberately deceive women.”
Every year thousands of babies, predominately from poor African-American families, are born at risk of developing HIV. Many of these children develop HIV related infections that could have easily been prevented by prenatal testing and treatment. States that have implemented HIV testing for infants have seen their infections rates drop dramatically. Such success even inspired Congress to pass the Ryan White Early Diagnosis Grant Program. The program authorized $30 million in funding to states with infant HIV testing in order to ensure that these vulnerable children are protected.
The program was created just two months ago yet someone has already included language in the appropriations bill to prohibit funding for the Baby Aids program. Section 20613(b) of H.J.Res. 20 states:
(b) None of the funds appropriated by this division may be used to: (1) implement section 2625 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300ff-33; relating to the Ryan White early diagnosis grant program)…
This provision does not save any money but simply prohibits funds to help identify these toddlers. In fact, the funding was already included in President Bushs FY08 budget request. So why would anyone insert this language into the bill?
Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) attempted to add an amendment to restore the funding. Unfortunately, Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) never allowed the amendment to be included before the bill reached the Senate floor for a vote.
One would think that protecting sick babies is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans would fully endorse. So who inserted this language? And why wasnt Sen. Coburn’s amendment added? Every American who cares about children should be asking that question and demanding that Congress give us an answer.
Elizabeth Marquardt at the always excellent Family Scholars Blog notes that people tend to associate negative connotations to the concept of commuter marriages. Marquardt believes that many people think that somehow, at the very least, the physical presence of a couple together is what makes a marriage real. She goes on to note that we take a quite different view when it comes to the children of divorce:
When it comes to children whose parents part, most people will concede that something sad has happened but these days many people will also add something like this: well, divorce happens a lot. Children of divorce know a lot of other kids growing up the same way. Its not such a big deal nowadays. Its normal.
In other words, when it comes to the parent-child relationship we dont think much of the fact that for many children today even the simple physical presence of both parents in their daily lives cannot be taken for granted. Some who support widespread divorce might even argue that the daily presence of their parent is not all that critical to the parent-child relationship. The parent-child relationship is no less real simply because they dont live together.
A commuter childhood is just another way of growing up these days. But a commuter marriage? Well, what adult wants to live in that?
Indeed, children of divorce are often expected to endure a situation that most adults would never willingly choose for themselves. Edith from Monastic Musings adds an insightful point:
When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher told my mother that my grades would improve if I only applied myself to my schoolwork. Oh no, hes applying himself, mom would tell my exasperated teacher. Hes just really that dumb.
Mom believed that effort was more important than intelligence. And as Po Bronson writes in New York magazine, she might be right:
When parents praise their childrens intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think its important to tell their kids that theyre smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.
But a growing body of researchand a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school systemstrongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of smart does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
According to the article, psychologist Carol Dweck says that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids reasoning goes; I dont need to put out effort.
The need to solve cultural problems for today's family is great, urgent, and possible.
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