Old lesson: Stupid ideas have stupid results.
New lesson: We don’t care.
There are a couple of big ideas that we’ve been running with as a culture over the years. Some would say since the 1960s; others could effectively argue for their roots back in the early eugenics crusade of the 1920s and 1930s.
The stupid ideas are these: Sexual expression should be totally separated from procreation. This is meant to liberate sexual expression from the idea of the propagation of the species, despite the fact that this is how we propagate the species.
Second, sexual expression therefore must be liberated from marriage. The belief that sexual expression should be confined to the marriage bed is supposedly unrealistic and allegedly creates all kinds of ill-defined but worrisome problems.
What do we now have to show for those two stupid ideas combined? Well, we have now the fact that over 40 percent of all births in the United States are outside of marriage. And the result is poverty for women, poverty for their children and an invisible fatherhood that is just about the single most potent social indicator for the breakdown in family.
Other than that, those were two pretty good ideas weren’t they?
A recent story in The New York Times (“Two classes, Divided by ‘I Do,’” July 15, Page A1) “discovered” this problem.
Three decades ago, about 17 percent of births took place outside of marriage. Today that number stands at 41 percent.
What’s the cause? The Times blames economic opportunity. College-educated women have a far lower rate of births outside of marriage than women with high school degrees or less.
As a result, they also have stable marriages and better opportunities for themselves and their kids.
But the Times is confusing the chicken with the egg.
It acknowledges that the greatest growth in the rate of births outside of marriage is not with the poor, but with those women who had opportunity in their lives, but ended up getting pregnant and having children, often with multiple fathers, and never marrying.
The woman the Times profiles is a classic example. She’s not some poor kid born with two strikes against her from a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional neighborhood.
She grew up in a safe and secure small town with hard working blue-collar parents and grandparents that lived next door.
Her parents scratched together enough that she had the chance to go to college. But early on she got pregnant, no doubt after a careful brainwashing that sex is liberating and need not be confined to marriage.
Though she lived with the father for a while, they never married. (Another social indicator — nearly half of unmarried parents that live together break up in less than five years.) In the meantime, she had two more kids. Now, she’s barely above water and trying to raise three kids on food stamps.
And now, of course, we are on to our third stupid idea.
As marriage is collapsing and 40 percent of kids are born outside of marriage, throwing more and more women and children into poverty, what are we focusing on? What does the Times consider the great social issue of our era? Gay marriage.
But I suppose it works in the grand secular scheme of things.
First we separate sex from procreation, then we separate sex from marriage, and when we have a 40 percent out of wedlock birth rate and celebrate gay marriage we now formally, officially and socially conclude the triumvirate of stupid ideas: We have now effectively separated procreation itself from marriage.
With stupid — and tragic — results.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.