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November 30, 2011 Print

The Best Kind of Education Reform— Strengthening Marriages

by Candi Cushman

There’s an interesting paradox in the ongoing debate among nationwide education and social reformers: Generally speaking, on the one hand, there are those who argue that education is the key to overcoming poverty and empowering people to rise above the economic circumstances into which they were born.

On the other hand, there are education reformers who insist that schools cannot adequately educate kids unless social problems, such as rising child-poverty rates, are first addressed. After all, a child who has not had breakfast or lunch that day cannot be expected to concentrate on classroom lessons, no matter how dedicated the teacher is.

While both camps make extremely compelling points, I’d like to throw another thought into the mix: If you look at statistics, it’s clear that one of the best ways to both improve education and alleviate poverty is to promote and strengthen marriages.

A few days ago, CitizenLink reported the heartbreaking results of a study from the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute: Only 46 percent of children will reach the age of 17 in intact homes with married biological parents. Combine that statistic with the fact that child poverty rates rise as the percentage of intact households falls.

Many people are pointing at falling income levels as a current social issue that hurts our schools. But should they be looking even deeper at the wound beneath the poverty symptom—the unprecedented breakup of families in this nation?

Columnist George Will said it well: “The best predictor of SAT scores is family income, which generally correlates with family structure—two parents in the home. Family structure is pertinent to the 9/91 factor—between their births and their 19th birthdays, children spend 9 percent of their time in school and 91 percent elsewhere. For many children, elsewhere is not an intact family.”

For more information on protecting and strengthening marriages and families, check out these resources:

CitizenLink’s analysis section on marriage topics

Focus on the Family resources and articles on marriage