On State Culpability for Social Problems

Boy Scout Building

In Philadelphia, about half of all students in ninth grade will graduate from high school. The dropout rate is especially high among black and Hispanic boys. President Obama’s answer to this problem is typical of the left: compulsion. Make dropping out illegal. In other words, force boys who are learning nothing to remain where they are learning nothing, to help make sure that nobody else learns anything, either. If they drop out anyway, turn them into criminals to be rounded up.

All this would cost a great deal of money, which Philadelphia does not have. And even if you could compel the boy, seething with resentment and contempt, to occupy a desk in a dreary schoolroom, you cannot compel him to learn. To try is a distant, “technological” response to a human problem. It is a way to pretend to generosity, while keeping those who suffer from your heedlessness far from your sight and smell.

Philadelphia has been engaging in a years-long lawsuit, at great expense, to force the Boy Scouts from their headquarters, which they occupy rent-free. Why no rent? Well, back in 1929, the year of the stock market collapse, the city fathers invited the Boy Scouts to occupy land on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Back then, the city fathers actually cared for the well-being of boys.

So the Scouts agreed. They built the building themselves. They then graciously turned ownership over to the city, with the understanding that they might use the building without paying rent. They, not the city, have assumed all the costs of maintenance ever since. It has not cost the city a penny. The Boy Scouts, in other words, did the city a tremendous favor, and are now rewarded for it with contempt.

Why the animus against the Boy Scouts? Because Copernicus was wrong. The world does not revolve around the sun. The world revolves around the predilections of upper- and middle-class feminists and their satellites.

The Boy Scouts retain the commonsense notion that it is not wise to bring boys into close quarters with men who are sexually attracted to boys, regardless of whether they act on those attractions. They retain the commonsense notion that if it were widely known that such men were scoutmasters, the boys would check out. They retain the commonsense notion that boys need fathers, who will teach them to be good men, ready to be fathers of their own families.

But the Philadelphia city council does not care about such things, because, when called upon to choose between their sexual antinomianism and the welfare of boys—many of whom only a group like the Boy Scouts can save from gangs—they will choose their preferred form of lawlessness every time, without regard for the common good.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because for the last fifty years, even before Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous War on Poverty, technocratic managers, mainly but not exclusively on the left, have been building a system of mutual parasitism, funded by taxes.

One group profits, in power, from the profligacy of the other, which it “rewards” with money confiscated from the general public. They thus gain millions of publicly funded jobs to manage the people whom their policies have corrupted, and they move far away from those people, assuaging their consciences by voting correctly and holding correct opinions. Their hands do not get dirty.

What, on the dreadful day of doom, will that boy in Philadelphia say to the rich who have ignored him, or worse, who have profited by his confusion?

“I needed a good school, and you trapped me in a bad one, while you sent your own children elsewhere. When some people suggested a way for me to go to a Catholic school where I’d have a chance of learning something, you cried up the separation of church and state. You didn’t actually believe that you would be setting up any church as a state institution. It is just that you hated the Church a lot more than you loved me.

“I once lived in a real city neighborhood. The houses needed repair, so you called it a slum, and you tore it down. Then you built housing projects with all the beauty and safety of a parking garage. When these became hotbeds of crime, you tore them down too.

“You declared a War on Poverty, aimed at me, when you should have declared a War on Vice, aimed first of all at yourselves.

“You loved your vice more than you loved me. You could afford your vices, but I could not. Your vices made your lives, as you thought, more exciting. I did not have your cushion of wealth, so the same vices destroyed me.

“I was lonely, and you bought me a whore. My sisters were lonely, and you made them into whores.

“I needed the Church, desperately, because when a man is poor, he must face his helplessness every day. But the Church would restrain you, so, at every chance you had, you derided religious faith, and thus you snatched from me my most loyal friend.

“I had no job, and you overtaxed the man who might have given me one. Then you gave the job to someone on the other side of the world, or you winked while men left their families thousands of miles away, crossing the border to work at low wages, and you yourselves hired them, and ducked the taxes that you yourselves established. In this way you managed to do mayhem to two families at once.

“I was in prison, and needed to learn a trade, but you teamed up with union bosses to make sure I would not. You gave me dull and useless classes in communication, and television.

“I was clothed with the remnants of modesty and decency, and you stripped them from me. You praised bad men who celebrated violence in their ‘music,’ and hugged yourselves for your tolerance.

“My forebears lived on a farm, but your collusion with big business made it impossible for them to continue, not to mention your taxes on our land and our inheritances. When we moved to the cities, you moved away.

“I needed to learn to calculate, and you handed me a machine that would do it for me, and prevent me from understanding what I was doing. I needed to learn to read, and would have liked adventure tales for boys, but you gave me feminist propaganda, or comic books.

“I needed a father, but you preferred your fun. You passed laws that would reward my mother for not marrying my father. You hated marriage, because marriage brings a man into a family, and marriage restrains. You winked and smiled while my mother brought a series of irresponsible men into my life, none of whom was my father. They were dangerous. When they grew violent, you herded them into your corral, which you called ‘Domestic Violence.’ You refused to distinguish between husbands and these others. Thus did you continue to tear marriage down, and subject me and mine to more of the violence you pretended to decry.

“I needed a father, and you gave me the gang leader selling crack cocaine.

“I needed a father, and you laughed and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. Then you gave me a prison trusty.

“I needed a coach, to keep me in line during the difficult years, but you cut my teams and rosters. You called it ‘fairness’ to my sisters, and hugged yourselves for your enlightenment.

“I used to have a YMCA, but you turned it into a day-care center for people like you.

“I needed a father to show me how to love women, and you gave me porn.

“I once had virtue, the poor man’s heritage, but you trained me in vice.

“I needed a mother, and you, having taken my father away, did your best to take my mother away also. You had your work as doctors and lawyers, but my mother worked as a cleaning woman in one of your office buildings. When I grew overweight from the junk you made, because she wasn’t around to cook, you declared a War on Obesity, and profited by it.

“I needed a father, I always needed a father, and you turned your back on me, and told me what you knew was a lie, that a mother or two mothers or a mother and a boyfriend would do just as well. When it didn’t work out, you blamed everything but your own selfishness.

“I needed a father, and you were too busy with your sexual innovations to notice it.

“I needed a married mother and father, what every child needs, what every child has a right to, and you told me to go to hell.

“I went to hell, and have brought it back with me.”

Editor’s note: This article first appeared February 8, 2013 on Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, and is published with permission. The image above is of the Boy Scout building in Philadelphia.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, 2010) and, most recently, Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). Professor Esolen has also translated Dante.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Among the best you have ever written, Professor Esolen.

  • John

    This is an extraordinarily prescient insight into the horrors of the dictatorship of relativism. Wow!

  • Old, retired Scoutmaster

    Thank you for this column. One of your best.

  • Keith Parkinson

    Wow, that was awesome. I haven’t heard such an evisceration of bourgeois values and their effect on the inner city since Tupac was alive. And this one actually makes sense.

  • Kristi

    Let’s, for the moment, forget the gratuitous shot at feminism being responsible for all woes and try to figure out how the evil “State” is supposedly responsible for all the above problems. What would happen to these boys (and girls! Remember them?) if the “State” simply kicked them out of the public schools at the age of 10 to fend for themselves? How does the “State” provide gang leaders providing cocaine when so much is spent on reducing drug usage? How is the “State” responsible for obesity? Sorry. This doesn’t make much sense.

    • Tony

      Does the article actually say that feminism is responsible for all woes? I don’t believe it says that. It is responsible for a heck of a lot of woe. I focused on the boys — remember them? — because they are the ones dropping out, they are the ones committing crimes and landing in prison, and they are the ones whom nobody cares about — or else Philly would be finding a way to keep the Scouts where they are, and there really would be YMCA’s again and not day care centers. And yes, the State has caused this trouble and continues to foster it. Who profits from family breakdown, politically? State managers of the chaos that results, and State enablers of the people in the midst of the chaos. You want to drive a stake into the heart of the drug business? Revive the family. But — ahem — that would mean humbly acknowledging that the sexual revolution was a disaster, and all the laws enabling it and fostering it have helped to undermine the common good. Cf. Bryce Christiansen, Utopia Against the Family.

    • ColdStanding

      Your incapacity for reflection is breath-taking.

    • Adam__Baum

      It’s funny how untethered from reality people get when they even sense their false gods being criticized.

  • Bob

    Great article. When Obama was elected, to assuage the public school unions in DC, he helped to eliminate the school voucher system. Parents were using the vouchers to send their kids to good Catholic and private schools instead of the deplorable public ones. When the vouchers where taken away, the private school that Obama was sending his kids to had many empty desks the next day of poor kids that had to leave and go back to poor public schools. One has to wonder sometimes if Obama has any moral conscience at all.

  • cestusdei

    Wow, right on the money.

  • crakpot

    Reagan said that Government’s view of the economy was:
    If it moves, tax it.
    If it keeps moving, regulate it.
    If it stops moving, subsidize it.

    One might say a Liberal’s view of children is:
    If it’s inconvenient, Terminate it.
    If it asks about God, Ridicule it.
    If it wants to pull its own weight and think for itself, Educate and Medicate it.
    If it feels the need to protect others, March Against it.
    If it wants to get married and raise it’s own family, Entertain and Diversify it.
    If it becomes sick and despondent, Euthanize it.

    • Bono95

      He also said that the 9 scariest words in the English language are; “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

      EEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-D

  • jacobum

    An absolutely superb article. One of your very best. It really personalizes the errant impact of “social justice” run amok. It should be required reading for any one who professes to be a responsible adult. The Catholic Bishops would do well to study it and devise programs to address it based on subsidiarity rather than government programs that perpetuate it. The Church has been overly feminized and has been unwittingly complicit. The real scandal is the souls that have been lost and will continue to be lost. The “Church Nice” and “Nanny State” are extreme hazards to the salvation of the soul and survival of the country.

  • http://twitter.com/SoCalAngel SoCalAngel

    If there were any accountability at all, the government would not be running the school system. They are guilty of incompetence, malpractice and malfeasance and have been so for many years. Yet, somehow the parents of this country do not stand up and demand that control of the school system be turned back over to them. Apathy abounds and ruins each successive generation.

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  • TJ

    “President Obama’s answer to this problem is typical of the left: compulsion. Make dropping out illegal. ”
    Bear in mind that school attendance has been compulsory in all states since 1917 (and in many since the 1850s and 1860s) — through left and right administrations. Obama did not introduce compulsory schooling. Federal tax rates are at near-historic lows. Income disparity dropped after WW2 until about 1968, but then began to increase again. Income inequality is now almost what it was 100 years ago. The claim that current joblessness is caused by overtaxing the rich doesn’t make sense economically or historically. Unfortunately, we’re becoming a nation that is making upward mobility harder and harder to achieve. The “American Dream” has died. Other first-world countries are overtaking us in that respect.

    • http://twitter.com/SoCalAngel SoCalAngel

      I am not sure how you made the leap to income inequality from school attendance. But, the reason that income equality was easier to achieve after WW2 was because it was easier to open and run a business. The EPA wasn’t interfering with every single economic activity in the U.S. A person could go out and actually work hard and accomplish something on their own without massive regulatory or tax burdens that strangled any attempts to be a self-sufficient business owner. That has all changed and it will only get worse.

      But, the government wouldn’t be able to corral people into pens if people weren’t behaving like sheep who are willing to follow the easiest path. I really believe that if the Church takes young men under her wing and mentors them and teaches them what it means to be a man once again, we could change things eventually. But it will take another Great Awakening in this country to change course. Parents need to buck the system and take over the responsibility of parenting once again. That takes individual responsibility. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes responsibly parents in each and every family.

    • Chris

      TJ, if you want to know how bad income inequality in this country really is, just check out this video that is going viral across the nation (I gotta warn you, it’s really sad):
      http://mashable.com/2013/03/02/wealth-inequality.
      The top 1% of the country has 40% of the wealth. The bottom 80% has only 7%. CEOs make over 340 times what their average — not their lowest paid, their AVERAGE — workers make. And people ask why we have social problems? What’s next? Workhouses for poor kids? There are a lot of people who would love that idea. What future do kids in the inner cities have if they grow up believing what we have now is their future? I don’t know how we’ve let our nation get like this, but we have to turn the whole thing around.

      • Sean Campbell

        Chris — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, here. I’ve already seen that video on other lists. We all need to see it! What I’ve read is that the one factor that makes the most difference to an at-risk child is the continuous presence of a single loyal mentor. It doesn’t have to be a dad or a mom. It can be a Big Buddy or similar. If you get the right person involved in a child’s life, you can overcome a lot (probably not all, but a lot) of the problems caused by poverty, discrimination, racism, guns, lack of healthcare, unsafe environments, addiction, crime, and so on. I definitely agree we need to get our tax structures back to where they were around the mid-1900s (we are so far from socialism it’s just not funny), but we also need to step in personally and take care of these kids in whatever way we can. If every functioning adult could mentor just one at risk kid, take her to museums, be a friend through think and thin, we’d see some changes. This article explains some of what I’m trying to say http://theadvocate.com/home/2208515-125/its-worse-than-living-in

      • Adam__Baum

        Workhouses would be better than what a lot of inner city kids experience. Unwed (yeah I know the approved term is single) mothers, giving birth while still juveniles themselves, fathers, to the extent they are known are absent and removed. The dominant culture not only tolerates mediocrity and criminality, it insists upon it.

  • Bob

    Bravo!!!!! Always insightful but this article is powerful. Many thanks for your stalwart defense of Faith and dignity.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Once upon a time, felonious do-gooders went to war with poverty. Do-gooders and poverty fought side by side against the poor.

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The roads in Hell are paved with the skulls of do-gooders.

  • Matthew White

    I’m from Philadelphia (now live in Chicago), so I know there are a bunch of YMCA branches in Philadelphia and all are very active in the community. My family did a lot of different sports through our local YMCA. We took a First Aid class there. The state and the YMCAs do a good job of trying to keep young people on track. It’s easy to blame them. It’s easy to blame our churches for not doing a good job of promoting values. I thought about who we should “blame”. I think it’s each one of us. We shouldn’t be pointing fingers. We should be rolling up our sleeves and helping. We could all get into big brother or big sister programs. We could foster or adopt kids. We could have our families each take one kid under their wing and send him or her care packages. It’s you and me that need to make the changes. We can’t criticize the state or the YMCAs until we’re each putting in the time it takes to make a difference.

    • Tony

      Matthew — What I mean about the YMCA is simple enough to see, if you step away from the current YMCA for a moment and try to recall the reasons for which they were built in the first place. The YMCA’s were specifically organized for the benefit of Young Men, to assist them both in their temporal struggles (to provide them with training for jobs, for instance) and their spiritual struggles in the Christian life (to provide them with at least the natural virtues, so that they might become healthy members of the community). Now then, the YMCA doesn’t serve those purposes anymore. It isn’t for Young Men, and it isn’t Christian. So, without taking anything away from what the YMCA’s are, I say we need what the YMCA’s once were. And yes, the YMCA’s now do most of their work with children and women, not with troubled youths. If they did aim to reform troubled youths, the places would not be entirely safe for children and women, after all.
      The state does an AWFUL job at keeping young people “on track,” because the state promotes the sexual revolution and feeds from it, and because the state simply refuses to admit that boys and girls are different, and the state refuses to admit that marriage (biological, natural marriage) is prior to the state and is its foundation.

    • Jeff

      You are right, Matthew. Each and every one of us, as you say, should be reaching out to our deprived youth. We should be helping them out personally, and we should all be fighting for better conditions for them. It is tragic to think of so many young lives being blighted when so many of us could reach out a helping hand. The big brother and big sister programs are a great idea. I took a quick look around on the web. Volunteering for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia (http://www.bgcphila.org/) looks like a great way to go for those in that part of the world. I’m in a part of California where you’d think there aren’t many underprivileged youths, but then you hear things about kids not being able to afford backpacks and needing subsidized school lunch.

      • Tony

        Jeff — Yes, by all means, help out Big Brother or Big Sister. That’s fine. It’s not enough, and it’s not even really close to the problem I am talking about. Many of my students volunteer for Big B or Big S, and we give a lot of donations to Big S. And I’ve got nothing against the Boys and Girls Clubs. But when the boys get big, it’s goodbye Big Brother and goodbye Boys and Girls Club for them. The original Boys Clubs were meant for city youths, toughs, teenage roughnecks — principally. Now they are aimed at the “safer” kids; that became necessary when the sexes were mingled. I return to the matter of the YMCA’s and the Boy Scouts. Fact: there used to be all kinds of Christian organizations aimed at making men out of adolescent boys, especially the ones in worst trouble. No more! Nowadays we can’t even get people to admit that single motherhood is a horrible idea.

        Here’s something — how’s about every one of us refusing from this moment on to lend one ounce of our energy and one free cent of our wealth to the sexual revolution? Give up all the TV, give up all the randy mags, give up the randy music, don’t smile at divorce, teach your kids that sex is for marriage and marriage is for keeps — and get down on the knees and beg forgiveness for all the harm we’ve done. THEN we can do, positively, what the Lord calls us to do to help rebuild things in the middle of the rubble. Each person may be called to a different task, a different sacrifice. But let’s not kid ourselves. Destruction is a lot quicker and easier than building ever is. England is finding that out now. Canada will find it out soon. We should have learned it already.

  • Alecto

    Profound and provocative, Esolen. Bravo. In a society where the query, “What about the children” has been reduced to the butt of a joke, you laid bare the consequences of functionaries substituting their judgment for the loving guidance of parents. Who among them has the wisdom of Solomon to make such decisions?

    • Tony

      Thank you, Alecto. I’m put in mind of an essay I just now graded for my Dante seminar. My student ends each of her paragraphs on various sinners in the Inferno with a variation upon the words, “He is mad.” She sees, correctly I think, that Hell is one big madhouse. It’s less a moral judgment in her essay than a frank appraisal of the sinners’ inability to think — their minds have been warped by sin. That’s where I think we are now. We are quite mad …

      • musicacre

        The scales are on the eyes of those who refuse to see…

  • Cha5678

    A brilliant piece!

  • Jorge

    There is plenty of good news. High school graduation rates are at the highest they have been in over 40 years! Some people are getting something very right. We need to encourage them in their good work. We also need to get more help to the socioeconomic groups that are still struggling. They need better health care, especially better mental health care, and more remedial education to overcome the lack of stimulation in their homes.

    • JMD

      I checked your information. You are right. This is a very poorly researched article, more intended to attack political individuals and structures than to make a moral or theological point.

      • Tony

        You people — did you actually read the article? Did you think that the article was just about high school dropout rates? What do you think graduation from high school implies?

        I am stunned by the hardheartedness. These African American boys are growing up, overwhelmingly, without fathers. No problem, eh? One in ten African American men between the ages of 20 and 30 is in prison. No problem? The article is not about “political individuals”. Please reconsider. It is about, first, the sexual revolution and its disastrous effects upon the poor; second, the general callousness of the managing class toward the human needs of the poor, especially the boys.

        My family and I have been spending all of our summers (and my sabbatical semesters also) in Canada for the last nine years. Canada is a basket case. The nation enjoys some natural protections against the harm done by the sexual revolution and the managing class; it is still far more rural than the US, its urban areas are not so densely populated, and there is still, in many places, a tradition of self-reliance. But those will not stand against the storm, as British manners and British stoicism could not stand against the storm there, either. You have more than half of all children in Quebec now born out of wedlock. Reel things forward one generation, and you will see the ruin. I am already seeing it in my little corner of Cape Breton; the difference between the men and women my age and older, and the young people, is stark — and not at all promising. Few young people are marrying. Children are commonly born out of wedlock. Family chaos is everywhere. The high schools don’t teach much of anything, and nobody learns four or five trades (as the older people did); they hardly learn one.

        You think you can have a “nice” society when in the most intimate sphere of human life the law of the jungle prevails. It cannot be.

        • musicacre

          You’re right. I didn’t see it until my husband and I volunteered to teach a pre-marriage course at a major Cathedral.(in Canada). It was stunning to see that out of about 20 couples, only 2 weren’t living together! They could hardly understand what we were talking about when the issue of abstinence comes up in learning NFP.

    • Lisa Allen

      Here in Canada, with our very heterogenous culture, we have 88% of our kids graduating from high school! We’re very proud of that result. Only 78% of US high school students are doing so. It would be interesting to ferret out the real causes of the discrepancy. As Jorge said, the US is improving rapidly and is on course to catch up with Canada (or even surpass it slightly) by 2020. Thank you for the optimism, Jorge! I’m going to do some research of my own to learn more about this and why the US is zooming upward so quickly.

    • Tony

      Jorge — THEY NEED FAMILIES. THEY NEED FATHERS. No amount of money in the world can take the place of those things. And they will get neither, unless we all repent of the harm we have done to ourselves, harm that has hurt the poor most of all. It wasn’t the poor in the US who pushed for easy divorce; it was the rich, the “intellectuals,” who don’t divorce quite so frequently, and who thus had a nice cushion against immediate harm. It was the poor who suffered worst for it, and still do.

      You will excuse me for not thinking much of an awful high school graduation rate, at a time when to graduate means next to nothing. I am talking about human needs — virtue, the family, marriage, a father to look up to, trades to learn. Why did the Philadelphia council go after the Boy Scouts? We know why. But if they spent one tenth as much energy actually asking the question, “Gee, do you think kids might actually need a married mother and father?” — they might get somewhere.

      • Jeff

        But if they don’t have families or if they have dysfunctional families, why would you want to take away the one thing they have left that could help them achieve success — the public schools? If these kids don’t have stable, healthy homes, what would happen if you took away their education as well? That would be a recipe for absolute disaster.

        • Tony

          So where in my article do you see that I want to take away their education? Did I not explicitly say that I wanted to give them plenty of opportunities for education? I don’t mean to be curt, but do try to read what I actually say. For the record, I don’t think that compulsion does much good, but obviously, when you’re dealing with 16 and 17 year old boys who want to leave the school, to force them to remain there is to harm everybody, if those kids are disruptive, as they will be. This is a human problem, NOT a technological or management problem. The questions are these:

          How do we reverse the harm we have done to the family, especially to the families of the poor?

          How do we “heal” young people who live in moral chaos? Most especially, how do we train young men so that they will become good citizens and not either criminals or perpetually underemployed?

          I want to see MORE education — which I do not necessarily identify with schooling. In any case, there are Catholic schools in the cities that actually could do wonders for some of these kids, but the parents (the mother) can’t afford to send them there, and what with the apostasy and consequent withering away of the teaching orders of sisters, those schools do actually have to pay their teachers some money.

          But then do I have your agreement that the sexual revolution has been a disaster, and that all of us who have partaken in it are to blame — and if we persist in looking the other way, we are to blame for the harm that it does to the least among us? If I have your agreement there, then we can talk about practical measures.

          • musicacre

            Just a comment on education. I had a friend who lived in Germany for a number of years as her husband was serving the Canadian Air Force. She explained that the German way of school was that they started to divide the kids aptitude- wise by grade 4 or 5 and one side would go into the trades and the other continue a more intellectual program. I thought it was an interesting idea. She was happy to put her kids into it.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the upbeat message, Jorge! I read somewhere on this thread that Finland has one of the best education systems in the world with incredible high school graduation rates, great scores, and a huge percentage of kids going on to college, so I took a look at what they’re doing. The schools there are very supportive. The kids get a daily hot meal, health and dental services, psychological counseling, and many other services that involve students and their families. They do very little testing. They just take a set of school leaving exams and the international “PISA” tests. The “special teacher” is very important in every school. This person helps identify the students that need extra help and works with these individuals to give them the support they need. Schools are small and community-oriented. Teachers are recruited from the top 10% of graduates, are well educated, and highly respected. If we had a system like this for our struggling kids, one that gives them that level of care, think how much better they would do.

      • Tony

        Jeff — again, you are thinking technocratically. Finland has a small population, quite homogeneous, and largely rural. Those countries enjoy certain protections against the worst harms of family breakdown. But they aren’t immune from them, either, and they are showing up in Scandinavia, in the plummeting birth rates, in plummeting rates of marriage, in alcoholism, and in the increased government control over every aspect of a person’s life. I am glad that the Finns recruit excellent teachers for their schools. They do not face anything like the problems, yet, that Philadelphia faces. There is no substitute for the family. The challenge I pose to you is this: what will you do to reverse the abominable decisions we have made in the last fifty years, all of which have hurt the family, and have hurt the poor the worst? I am talking about repentance and revival.

    • Adam__Baum

      And while the graduation rate is up, can graduates make change, form a coherent sentence or even tell you the three branches of government? The answer is no, because they are being indoctrinated into things like secularism, relativism and environmentalism and excused from Mathematics, English and what used to be called “Civics”.

  • Tony

    I should like anybody here to focus on one claim the boy makes, and deny it. Just one. For instance: “You gave me porn.” All right — is it not true? It used to be that the safeguarding of children’s innocence was a priority; now it is sacrificed to the lusts of the adult. That, my dear readers, is what I call “the moral structure of pedophilia.” Children’s welfare? Trumped by the sexual gratification of adults. So then: children, you lose, every time. No-fault divorce? You lose. Fornication? You lose. Abortion? You lose. Single parenthood? You lose. Ubiquitous porn? You lose.

    I am told that 2 million of my countrymen are now in prison. Trying to put that in the context of the small town where I grew up — it would have required 40 people to be doing time at any one moment. Unbelievable. And yet — in 1900, among the most wretchedly treated class in America, the blacks, still nine out of ten children were born WITHIN wedlock, and grew up in intact families; and it was NOT then true that one out of three of the males would spend time in prison. It is true now.

  • djpala

    Per-capita, Fayette County in Pa. has a higher major crime rate than Phila. Women having multiple pregnancies with multiple partners & being rewarded by the welfare wizards is & has been the problem. It is not just the absent sperm donors that are to blame. The welfare queens abuse the assistance the State allows, become drug addicts & then prostitutes to feed their habits & having more crack babies. No child living in those conditions can have a normal life. Selling drugs becomes the norm & the most profitable & easy way to exist. Incarceration & gun violence is inevitable. We are into the 4th generation of this farce & the progressives answer is to continue to throw money at it & in effect keep them under their control (modern Slavery). If the politicians really cared as they claim at every opportunity they would stop the welfare waste & go back to the CCC programs or some form of mandatory work. Fathers must be made responsible for their dalliances, support every child created or be punished accordingly. The citizens that are responsible are fed-up with carrying all of the free-loaders that constantly demand more & are kept in place by those that placate them with the taxes of the workers. No matter how much you spend per pupil nothing will change until the fatherless homes are eradicated.

  • Tony

    Alas, alas, more hardness of heart. Kids don’t need fathers, nah. A “mentor” will be enough. Well, a mentor is better than nothing, but he’s not a father. Tell it to O. J. Simpson.
    Another challenge: Everybody here who calls himself a conservative — you are never going to get your wished-for society of self-reliance and small federal government unless you are willing to repudiate the vices that the sexual revolution and its symbiotic government-class have fostered. Everybody here who calls himself a liberal — you are never going to get your wished-for society of strong communities and of people who look out for one another and take care of the places where they live unless you are willing to repudiate the vices that the sexual revolution and the symbiotic entertainment industry and other counterproductive industries have fostered. Pie in the sky, folks. You can’t have a good society without virtuous people, and you cannot have virtuous people whose main answer to greet man’s most powerful drive withal is “Whatever.” Not going to happen. You can bungle in the jungle — then don’t complain that it’s a jungle. You want people to exercise civic responsibility — and you believe that people should be allowed to shrug off their most sacred vows, to “fulfill” themselves, with no fault attached. You are asking for vertebrates without a spine.

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  • Anne

    Ah…vertebrates without a spines brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ men without chests and his prescient book, “Abolition of Man”. So apt for our time. And so scary.

    Thank-you for the analysis and thought you bring to bear on our current times.

  • Billy Bean

    I would have thought that the title of this piece was clear enough, and the points made incontrovertible. Yet, the “progressives” are still sure that the State can be tweaked so as to be the solution to the problems it has fostered. I cannot help but think of the final sentence of Orwell’s “1984”: “He loved Big Brother.” And to think that I had always taken this to be the expression of ultimate human tragedy, when it turns out to have been intended as an edifying and comforting resolution!

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