“Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister”
An urban high school teacher in Connecticut talks about unwed motherhood, fatherlessness, and how it affects the kids in his classroom.
…Here’s my prediction: the money, the reforms, the gleaming porcelain, the hopeful rhetoric about saving our children—all of it will have a limited impact, at best, on most city schoolchildren. Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch…
…Connecticut is among the most generous of the states to out-of-wedlock mothers. Teenage girls like Nicole qualify for a vast array of welfare benefits from the state and federal governments….In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills. The safety net has become a hammock….
…Boys without fathers, like David, cultivate an overweening bravado to overcome a deeper sense of vulnerability and male confusion. They strut, swear, and swagger. There’s a he-man thing to getting a girl pregnant that marks you as an adult in the eyes of your equally unmoored peers….As for girls without fathers, they are often among my most disruptive students. You walk on eggshells with them….Their anger toward male authority can be lacerating. They view trips to the principal’s office like victory laps…..