Re-valu-ing the Family, Part Five: The “Curse” That Dooms American Families (Continued)
by Richard and Linda Eyre

The social problems that are overwhelming this country must be cured. But the medicine we’re using isn’t working. We’re treating the symptoms. We’re taking aspirin.

Note: In this sixteen-part column, Richard and Linda Eyre explore the recent revolution of the family from the honored centerpiece of society to a disrespected and seemingly redundant appendage to the larger corporate and cultural institutions of our new world. Re-valu-ing the family, the Eyres believe, is the only alternative to America’s demise. The sequence of the column is: 1. Re-valu-ing the family (part one); 2. The “crux” (parts 2 and 3 — why family is the foundation for everything, including happiness); 3. The “curse” (parts 4 and 5 — the social problems that plague our society today); 4. The “crisis” (parts 6 and 7 — the breakdown and breakup of families that allows and leads to the social problems); 5. The “cause” (parts 8 and 9 — the reasons our families are failing); 6. The “culprits” (parts 10 and 11 — how our new, large institutions are destroying the small, most basic institution of family); 7. The “cure” (parts 12, 13, and 14 — what you as a parent can do about it); and 8. The “case” (parts 15 and 16 — a case for government and big corporations to pay more positive attention).

Future Projections of Present Statistics
Frightening as the statistics stated in the last column are, the real wake up call comes when we project some of the trends into the future. Because of their geometric growth over the last thirty years, a continued, projected “steepening” curve becomes downright disastrous over the next thirty years. The projections are pushed even higher by the fact that the baby boomlet of the ’80s and ’90s will cause the adolescent population to swell by 25 percent over the next decade. Based on this and on rates of increase from the recent past, here is just a sample of what one can expect by the year 2020 if we come up with no workable answers or solutions:

1. Child homicide will happen ten times as often as it did in the 1980s.

2. Violent crime among adolescents will be up 900 percent from 1990.

3. Twenty-five thousand babies per year will be born to unmarried girls age fifteen or younger.

4. Glue sniffing and other “inhaling” will be engaged in by five times s many eighth graders as in 1990. And marijuana use by high school students will be nine times as high.

5. The number of adolescents in private psychiatric hospitals will be fourteen times as high as it is today.

6. Teen suicides will be three times as high as today.

7. SAT scores will be 90 points lover than they are now — 160 points (nearly 20 percent) lower than they were in 1970.

8. Only 60 percent of kids who start high school will graduate — 16 percent less than in 1980.

9. Twenty-eight percent of children in America will live below the poverty line — up from 20 percent now and up from 13 percent in 1970.

Discuss where you’ll be in 2020. Will your grand children be part of these projected statistics? How does your parenting today affect the kind of parents your children will be to your grandkids?

Symptoms and Aspirins vs. Causes and Cures
The social problems that are overwhelming this country must be cured. But the medicine we’re using isn’t working. We’re treating the symptoms. We’re taking aspirin. And in this case the aspirin is incredibly expensive and seems to have negative long-term effects — actually making the problems worse. Our welfare system and tax laws, even as they threaten to bankrupt us, actually destroy initiative and encourage people not to work. Our expensive criminal justice system doesn’t rehabilitate, doesn’t deter, and actually creates a culture of crime (especially in our prisons which are an inbred training ground for living outside the law).

The reason we look for causes is to permit the intelligent search for cures. In medicine, in business, in sports, if something is wrong, we have to isolate the cause before we can find a cure.

It’s common (and popular) to blame problems on poverty or on the growing gap between rich and poor. But to say that economic conditions cause the social problems may be a little like saying that the rash and the fever cause the illness. Economic conditions are a result rather than a cause far more often than popular thinking (and popular media) suggest. All of the social problems alluded to over the past several pages have economic costs and financial consequences.

But whether economic problems cause social problems or social problems cause economic problems (or whether the two repeatedly cause and exacerbate each other in a cause-and-effect spiral) the bigger question is . . . what underlying cause is there for both of them? What brings to pass the social and economic curse? What is the deeper spiritual crisis?

As a regular reader of this column, discuss the symptoms and causes analogy with someone. Think about whether it is fair to call massive, expensive federal programs “aspirins”? Why can’t widespread social problems be solved by government?

In next week’s column (#6), we will move from the “curse” to the “crisis.”


2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.