The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Cast the First Stone

My father always told me that I mumbled.

I used to fight him on it, but the fact of the matter was that I did.

Maybe I was afraid of saying something ridiculous or having my voice crack in front of him. Whatever the reasons were, the facts were the facts and I mostly spoke as if my lips were glued shut.

It was a nudge, constant and mostly annoying at the time, in a direction I didn’t completely understand. But that nudge eventually helped me open my mouth and was the first step in teaching me to say what I meant, the precursor to articulate speech and thought.

Being polite, eating my greens, brushing my teeth and washing behind my ears most likely came from my mother, though I hesitate to only mention those four lessons because it belittles her tremendous impact on my life.

The truth is though that important life lessons, like standing up for myself, listening first and responding later, never striking a woman, and living with humility and respect, were lessons that came directly from my father, whether it was by words or by action.

It is for this reason that children need both their parents to serve as just that, parents. Not friends, not buddies, and certainly not burdens or non-existent entities.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Washington Post columnist George Will noted that 76 percent of births to Louisiana’s African-Americans are to unmarried women.

“That translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males, and that translates into chaos, in neighborhoods and schools, come rain or come shine,” Will wrote.

Though Will offered the Katrina situation as an example, the fact is that the discussion is not based on race but instead about the problem of family structure or as we have seen countless times, the lack of it.

Social scientists, after more than 20 years of research, have found that family formation has a serious impact on children, much more so than income and race.

A policy brief released by the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy on Sept. 21, 2005, found after 23 studies dealing with family structure and youth crime that children from broken or single-parent families had a higher rate of crime. Also, adolescents in single-parent families were almost twice as likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in the past year.

John Leo, a columnist for U.S News and World Report, mentioned in his column about the policy brief, “the ‘single most important variable’ in gang involvement was found to be family structure. In other words, the greater the number of parents at home, the lower the level of gang involvement.”

As these studies suggest America has a problem that needs more than money and trite, political rhetoric from our elected officials. As Leo wrote: If you want to avoid poverty, finish high school, don’t have kids in your teens, and get married.

A bit rigid for my taste but nevertheless an excellent point.

Dissidents of this idea, such as Peggy Drexler, the author of Raising Boys Without Men, claim that raising children does not require both parents, saying that people who promote intact families are playing a “blame game" against single mothers.

Drexler states on her Web site that eating dinner regularly with children is more important than the number or gender of adults in the home and boys “have an innate ability to become men, even without a man in the house.”

Tell that to America’s nearly 10 million single mothers (US Census Bureau Household and Family Characteristics March 1998) and I would venture to guess that they would still favor a strong two-parent household over one in which they were depended on for everything.

As the Editor in Chief of The Torch I don’t know what I would do without the Managing Editor to help share the load and I certainly can’t begin to understand what a single parent must go through.

Without my father’s stabilizing influence there is no doubt in my mind that I would be much less of a man than I am today. Like many of my peers I have an innate respect and almost a fear of disappointing both of my parents – but it’s that combination of fear and respect that has helped guide me to this point.

Without that respect, without that fear you have chaos, of that I am convinced and if I was saying it to you in person I would say it loud and clear, without any mumbling whatsoever.


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