Friday, November 14, 2008

Public education vs. the family

Bernard Chapin of the Intellectual Conservative interviews Allan Carlson:
BC: Why does mass schooling equate with a decline in fertility? Wasn't it put into place before the baby boom of the fifties and the Second World War?
Dr. Allan Carlson: The assertion in the book comes from the work of demographer John C. Caldwell. By examining evidence in Australia he came to the strong conclusion that mass schooling is one of the major forces behind a decline in societal
fertility rates. The public schools separate children from their families, and they transfer moral authority from the family to the state. The state then becomes the architect of a child's future. The Caldwell thesis also shows a close correlation in the United States between public schooling and declining fertility. With the baby boom, yes there was a brief surge in the birthrate but that was a product both of good social policy and the unique psychology of those people who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. It was a unique phenomenon in American life and was a fascinating era but did not last. After the 1960s, our society resumed its previous course.
There have been several changes in American education and social policy that are relevant to this issue, including child labor laws, mandatory attendance policies and credentialization. Federal law effectively prohibits those under age 16 from most paid employment. Since the 1970s, a certain mania to reduce high-school dropout rates has led to ever more strict school attendance policies. As the high-school diploma became practically universal (as it had not been prior to the 1970s), young people came under increasing pressure to obtain additional credentials to demonstrate their ability.

During the late 1980s, I worked for a newspaper in Calhoun, Ga., in the heart of the "carpet capital of the world" around Dalton. A boy could go to work for decent wages at the carpet mill at 16 and, if he was reasonably thrifty, by age 19 or 20, he could buy a small plot of rural acreage, get himself a double-wide, marry his sweetheart and start raising children. This common good-old-boy lifestyle annoyed local school officials and various do-gooders to no end, however, so there began a tremendous push to reduce the high-school dropout rate and send more local kids to college. The result? About 15 years later, when I was working in Washington, I picked up the Wall Street Journal and read an article about how the carpet industry was increasingly employing illegal aliens to do the jobs the good old boys used to do. The good old boys? Well, they went off to college -- and a lot of them never came back.

Most of the problems in society today are in one way or another the result of some previous generation's "reform." Go to any high school, and you'll find that at least 25% of the students are only there by compulsion. They're learning nothing. It's mandatory daycare for teenagers or, as Newt Gingrich liked to joke, "subsidized dating." A sane society would allow those kids to start working at 14 -- what, a 14-year-old can't mop floors, wash dishes, do an oil change, or carry lumber at a construction site? -- and everyone would be better off in the long run. But the "reformers" aren't sane, and they've enacted policies that impose their insanity on the rest of us.

Allan Carlson's The Family in America is one of most useful newsletters about marriage, fertility, demographics and social policy you'll ever find. It includes a monthly summary of recent research, as well as essays and articles by Carlson and others. I recommend it highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment