IQ and Fatherlessness

Nicholas Kristof writes a fascinating article in the NY Times today about the success of three disparate groups in America: Asian-Americans, Jews and West Indian Blacks (think Gen. Colin Powell). His deduction: education, education, education. That’s what keeps those in poverty still in poverty: lack of education.

From a policy standpoint, he says:

It’s that the most decisive weapons in the war on poverty aren’t transfer payments but education, education, education. For at-risk households, that starts with social workers making visits to encourage such basic practices as talking to children. One study found that a child of professionals (disproportionately white) has heard about 30 million words spoken by age 3; a black child raised on welfare has heard only 10 million words, leaving that child at a disadvantage in school.

Why does the social worker have to do this? I ask.

Kristof does mention intact families as a formidable help in the success of people. And I’m glad for that. From my limited experience, I think Jews and Asian-Americans also have strong commitments to families, and fathers who take part in child-rearing (I don’t really know anything, by experience or study, about West Indian Blacks). In the circles of poverty I know, the fathers are gone–in prison, with their biological mothers, or with the mothers of their children, cyclically. From one place to another, around and around. And when the latest babymama doesn’t want him around, he finds another, because women are so hungry to be loved, because they didn’t have a father, because he was in prison, with his biological mother, or with the mother of his latest child, because . . . .

Education is great, and I believe a significant help to those in poverty. But what about helping boys become men? And what about the church? Where are we in this relational pandemic? Happily tucked away in our subdivisions? Sub-divided from anyone who isn’t like us?

Ugh, I’m aching for my girls today, can you tell?

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