Last December I was in a church meeting and had an idea: I knew what I thought the biggest factor was in our problems with education as institution around here, but nobody was talking about it. Nevada’s huge divorce rate (and, based on informal observation, cohabitation rate), was creating a poor environment for learning. Awareness needed to be raised.
So in my spare time I worked on a letter asking local leaders to familiarize themselves with the problem and address it. A week and a half ago it was finished and I sent it out. I included excerpts from summaries of dozens of studies that backed up the obvious–family structure is a major factor in educational success.
But so far, zero response. I’m not sure what I expected. Is it asking too much that a city in an academic disaster take seriously a critical but neglected cause of that problem? I suppose the budget crisis is more glamorous to report on, and my issue can’t compete with the political drama these days.
Here’s the letter I sent, along with the 25 recipients, who maybe just haven’t gotten around to it, yet. Maybe I need to take more of a grassroots approach. Right now, I’m just sorry I spent half of my personal allowance for the month on postage for this!
March 31, 2011
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Education in Nevada is unacceptably unsuccessful. We are near or in last place for student proficiency, achievement, and graduation rates. Recent budget problems have many worried that things may get even worse. Our children’s future is in a state of emergency.
While many in our area wonder why students aren’t more successful, there’s one important factor that is usually ignored: too many students fall behind and fail because their parents aren’t married. Several other factors are often mentioned, such as poverty, but, as seen in the enclosed materials, a major cause of poverty is fractured families.
I’ve seen proof of this in the lives of many, many young people—I have been a teacher here for over a decade, and a lot of my colleagues and I know that the primary predictor of student success is the marital status of their parents. I’m writing to people in our valley to ask that we all do what we can to promote the kind of traditional, intact family that will help young people in Southern Nevada be as successful as possible.
I’m including excerpts from a few summaries of studies that show quite clearly that children are by far most likely to thrive academically when their family is a traditional, intact nuclear unit. The rest of these reports, their sources, and many more agreeing with them are readily available online. (Note: here, here, and here)
This is not to judge anybody who has been divorced, had a child out of wedlock, or anybody else (I was divorced myself once), nor is this a plea for any legislation or funding. I am only asking that we realize that some of our life choices are bad for children, and that we do whatever it takes to fix this. Our community needs to reform if our children are to do better, in school and in life.
What can we do? Here are some ideas for how we can improve our community:
- We should each, personally, start where we are and live as closely to the ideal of the traditional nuclear family unit as possible.
- Encourage—by our examples and, when appropriate, our advice and counsel—others within our spheres of influence to do the same.
- Share the kinds of facts, research, and stories included here as much as possible.
- Promote activities, discussions, programs, and anything else that falls under the descriptions of our work with the community that will strengthen traditional families. We need to talk about this with everyone we can reach, consistently, and not let it go until the youth of Southern Nevada have the world they deserve.
This may bother some adults, but it will absolutely improve the education of our children. Some may counter this by pointing out that many children of divorced or never-married parents are very successful, and that many intact homes are dysfunctional and harm children. I don’t disagree about the existence of these exceptions, but based on all available experience, reason, and evidence, intact homes are by far the most likely environment in which children may thrive.
Below is a list of everybody receiving this letter. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of leaders in the valley; it’s just a start.
Each of you reading this has a strong influence in our community. You can inspire us. Your voices make a difference. Please discuss this with your peers and colleagues, and do whatever you can with them, as well as your clients, customers, associates, congregations, audiences, employees, or whomever you can reach to rebuild the foundation of our children’s lives.
As a teacher and a father of five who is saddened by seeing too many children sold short by our choices, I thank you in advance for any time, effort, and care that you can put into helping strengthen the families (and, therefore, the lives and education of children) in our community.
- Las Vegas Urban League
- Southern Nevada AFL-CIO—Roberta West, President
- KNPR 88.9 FM—Florence Rogers, President
- KDWN 720 AM—Tum Humm, General Manager
- El Mundo—Eddie Escobedo, Publisher
- Stephens Media (Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas CityLife)
- Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly—Brian Greenspun, Publisher
- Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
- Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department—Douglas Gillespie, Sheriff
- Valley Health System
- Mayor Oscar Goodman and Las Vegas City Council
- Mayor Shari Buck and North Las Vegas City Council
- Central Christian Church—Jud Wilhite, Senior Pastor
- Canyon Ridge Christian Church—Kevin Odor, Senior Pastor
- KSNV Channel 3—James Rogers, Owner
- KVVU Channel 5
- KLAS Channel 8
- KLVX Channel 10—Tom Axtell, General Manager
- KTNV Channel 13—Jim Prather, General Manager
- KINC-Univision Channel 15
- Las Vegas Sands Corp—Sheldon Adelson, CEO
- MGM Resorts International—James Murren, CEO
- Caesar’s Entertainment, Inc—Gary Loveman, CEO
- Station Casinos—Frank Fertitta III, CEO
- Boyd Gaming Corp—Keith Smith, CEO