By Victor Skinner
MUSKEGON, Mich. – Several faith-based websites recently highlighted the growing epidemic of births to unmarried women and the issues associated with single parent households in America.
The faith-based blog Transfigurations points to recent U.S. Census data that shows “fully 40 percent of all babies born in the United States in 2011 were born to unmarried mothers.”
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contends that “In some American neighborhoods, children and teenagers have never even been to a wedding, since marriage has simply ceased to exist as an expectation.”
In other words, the problem isn’t going away. In fact, the percent of births by unwed mothers has increased dramatically since 1980, when it was 18.4 percent, according to census data.
Teachers unions have blamed problems with student achievement in public schools on problems at home, and the census figures certainly lend credence to their argument. It is undoubtedly more difficult for a single parent to attend parent-teacher conferences and review homework while earning a livable wage than it is for two parents.
The epidemic of unwed mothers surely contributes to increasing numbers of students who rely on reduced or free school lunches, lack proper supplies for school, find themselves on the wrong side of the law, or who never pursue education beyond high school.
We agree with teachers unions, and most other education professionals, that parents need to be more involved in their children’s education. But the census data shows that the problem is much deeper than a parent’s desire to help their child succeed in school.
Many single parents likely are not engaged enough because they simply don’t have the time, resources or energy to focus on their children’s education. We suspect most are forced to work full-time (or more) simply to provide food and shelter for their families.
Something must be done to address the growing epidemic of single parent families, and by extension the barriers the problem causes for student learning.
What’s the answer? We’re not sure. Any brilliant ideas out there?