A recent New York Times column written by David Brooks looked at the growing divisions in American culture. People are becoming more polarized over more than just politics. Recent research out of Harvard University has made the impact of these divisions even more clear. And when these divisions affect our children, It is even frightening.
It’s hard for anyone to deny the divisions in our country, but what isn’t being looked at is how this division is creating an opportunity gap for our children. Our kids no longer have an equal opportunity for success regardless of their economic status. What the researchers are seeing, and what we may even be seeing in our own experience, is that the children of the affluent, and whose parents are college-graduates, are raised quite differently than the children of the less affluent, whose parents are high-school graduates. And what that means is that children’s opportunities for success, and even for a wide variety of experiences, are no longer equal.
It wasn’t that long ago that this wasn’t true. Opportunities used to be equal, regardless of the economics. But over the past few decades, the gap in opportunity has grown. For example, college-educated parents have radically increased the time they spend with their children, doing things with them like reading to them. They have increased the money they spend on their children’s enrichment activities. A generation ago there was little differences between these two groups in either of these categories.
The researchers found that there are other differences as well. Kids from wealthier homes play more after-school sports and are more likely to participate in non-sport activities, like theatre and scouting. They even are more likely to attend religious services. At the same time, the kids from poorer homes have become less involved, and are more pessimistic and detached. Their tests scores lag behind as well. All of these things result in these kids from poorer homes having more limited opportunities in life.
What’s caused this big change? It’s interesting that a big part of this problem relates to our culture’s abandonment of traditional social norms, in particular that of the role of marriage in family. More and more children are intentionally born out of wedlock. What used to be considered a social stigma has become accepted as being perfectly normal. Other research has shown that this is typically a fast-track to becoming poor, or staying poor, as single moms have less time and resources available for themselves as well as for their kids. Our culture’s move away from marriage coming before childbearing hasn’t worked.
In addition, the political climate in our culture has become increasingly more divisive, and there doesn’t seem to be any interest in healing that division. Political candidates are more interested in exploiting divisions as a way of winning elections. There seems to be little interest in addressing the problem. Unfortunately, not facing the problem may lead to being elected, but it may also lead to, what the author of the column pointedly said, national suicide.
Question: What are you seeing as some of the consequences of the increasing divisions in our country?