In today’s NYT op-ed, David Brooks responds to growing literature by Charles Murray and Robert Putnam that the divergence in opportunities for high and low income students is stark and growing. In his usual attempt to straddle the political divide, Brooks writes:
“Liberals are going to have to be willing to champion norms that say marriage should come before childrearing and be morally tough about it. Conservatives are going to have to be willing to accept tax increases or benefit cuts so that more can be spent on the earned-income tax credit and other programs that benefit the working class.”
Is there really a plausible case to be made that liberals “championing” marriage could somehow improve this trend? Would teen parents have responded to tax incentives to marry first? Would shaming from politicians trickle down to our poorest neighborhoods and change behavior? The thought is bizarre, even comical. How about, you know, adequate sex-ed? Access to birth control? More early childhood education? Cheaper day-care? I usually respect Brooks’ attempts to show both sides of a story, but I really am unable to see a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve a vast expansion of government social spending and a contraction of its moral crusading. Moreover, I would imagine virtually all sides of the educational debate would agree. It’d be nice if that common ground were recognized and discussed more by competing educational thinkers.