A generation ago Americans undertook a revolutionary experiment to redefine marriage. Where historically men and women had sought a permanent bond centered on the rearing of children, the new arrangement called for a provisional union of two adults centered on themselves. Now, as Kay Hymowitz argues in “Marriage and Caste in America,” the results of this experiment separating marriage from child-rearing are in, and they turn out to be bad news not only for children but also, in ways little understood, for the country as a whole — playing a central role in high rates of poverty, crime, and other social pathologies.
When Americans began their family revolution, Hymowitz explains, they forgot how it organized men and women around what she calls “The Mission” — nurturing their children’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development. More than anything, it is The Mission that separates middle-class kids — who for all their over-scheduling are doing very well indeed — from their less-parented and lower-achieving peers. Our great family experiment threatens to turn what the founders imagined as an opportunity-rich republic of equal citizens into a hereditary caste society. “When the poor lost the language of American marriage, they lost a great deal more than a spouse, ” writes Hymowitz. They lost touch with the values of self-sufficiency and individual ambition. They lost a life script. They lost the rules of The Mission. And they lost the language of opportunity.”
Marriage and Caste in America also reveals:
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