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What Father’s Day Means to the Fatherless

Fatherlessness is a root cause of many of our social ills.


Father’s Day reminds me that I haven’t spoken to my father in four years.

It actually feels like even longer, as my experience with fatherlessness goes back much further than the final conversation I had with the man who sired me. When my father dropped me off on my grandmother’s doorstep at age 18 and told me not to come home, it had already been many years since I truly had a dad.

I moved in with him at age 13, shortly after my parents’ divorce. Over the course of the following five years, my father failed me.

He failed as a dad, failed as a man, and failed to fulfill even the most minimal moral obligations of any parent. During that half-decade of my life, I was verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abused by my homophobic and hateful stepmother. My father watched in apathy—then, when push truly came to shove, cast me aside rather than stand up for his son.

What I needed in that dark time was a parent, a role model, an advocate—a dad. But the one thing I needed was the one thing I never had.

My father never taught me how to be a man. He never showed me more than fleeting moments of kindness and affection. Instead, he convinced me that the abuse I suffered was my own fault—if I could just stop provoking my stepmother, stop asking for it, the firestorm burning through our household would be extinguished. I believed him.

My father’s failures led to years of tumult in my teenage life. Even afterward, he left a gaping hole in my own development as a person and as a man that has taken me years to overcome—and I’m far luckier than most who have experienced fatherlessness. I had a supportive and loving mother, access to a good high school and a college education, the resources of a middle-class family, and more. I turned out just fine.

Suffice it to say many are not so fortunate.

More than 25 percent of children in the United States, 20 million, grow up in a home without a father. Beyond that, untold millions more have fathers who are abusive, neglectful, inattentive, or otherwise inadequate. In all its forms, fatherlessness takes a serious toll on young people, particularly young men and boys, that can quite literally ruin lives.

As noted by the National Fatherhood Initiative, fatherlessness strongly corresponds to higher poverty rates, increased rates of teenage pregnancy, behavioral problems, abuse, and neglect. Children without fathers are much more likely to end up incarcerated, get addicted to drugs, commit suicide, or drop out of high school.

Fatherlessness is a sickness of our culture. It’s hard to imagine a more glaring indication of this cultural failing than the fact that when a man who grew up with no father and now has kids started a YouTube channel named “Dad, how do I?” he quickly amassed more than 2 million followers. His videos, such as “How to change a tire” and “I’m proud of you,” have been viewed millions of times.

This deep hole in the soul of our culture has no easy answer. One way we can begin healing is through initiatives such as fatherhood involvement programs, community-level programs in place across the country where stepfathers, neighbors, and other men in the community step up and provide father-like role models for fatherless kids.

But the government has also caused fatherlessness and enshrined it as a perennial problem in our society through structural flaws in public policy.

A generation of children has had to grow up without fathers because of the failures of our criminal justice system. We have locked up millions of men (disproportionately African-American men) over nonviolent and victimless crimes through the failed War on Drugs, with no thought for the consequences this had on families and children left with no man in the home.

There’s another problem with our legal system that contributes to fatherlessness as well. In family court divorce proceedings, courts are overwhelmingly biased in custodial decision-making in favor of mothers over fathers. Of course, in cases where truly only the mother is capable of providing a safe home, giving her primary or sole custody is entirely warranted. But it’s sadly quite common for family courts to limit even a loving and capable father to seeing his children every other weekend—leaving those kids with a gaping hole in their day-to-day lives.

Moreover, our welfare system has long encouraged, enabled, and exacerbated single motherhood because the benefit levels of various government programs skew higher when no male is present in the household. As Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley wrote of the welfare state,

“The government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home—and paid them well.”

Unfortunately, it worked.

These areas offer fertile ground for reform, but they are by no means the only cause of this problem. Repairing this crisis will take time and long-term efforts. But even just raising awareness of the issue is an important place to start, and Father’s Day offers an opportunity to do just that.

People should certainly celebrate Father’s Day and recognize the dads who have played such an important role in their lives. Yet no one should forget that for millions of people like me, Father’s Day is a holiday filled with emptiness and regret—and that as a country, we still have much to do to remedy this crisis.

This article was reprinted from the Washington Examiner.

AUTHOR

Brad Polumbo

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Policy Correspondent at the Foundation for Economic Education.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Wanted: ‘Infuriated young men’ to join ISIS

While the mainstream media will likely report this as a sign that ISIS is not truly Islamic, one can only wonder what is actually being discussed in Europe’s prisons, given the shocking numbers of how many Muslims are imprisoned in Europe.

Keep in mind:

Belgium – 35% of inmates are Muslim
UK – 44% of high-security inmates are Muslim
France – 70% of inmates are Muslim
Spain – 70% of inmates are Muslim
Germany – 30% of inmates “foreign”

“Studie: IS wirft ein Auge auf Europas Gefängnisse”, Krone.at , October 11, 2016:

Study: ISIS is using Europe’s prisons to recruit future jihadists

In Europe’s prisons, radical Islam is becoming more and more of a threat. The prisons have evolved into recruiting centers for jihadists, according to a study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (UK). The study looked into the developments of 79 jihadists from Belgium, the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. 57 percent of those investigated were imprisoned before radicalization. A minimum of 27 percent became radicalized in prison.

The Islamic State’s recruitment is not as focused on colleges or mosques as it is on criminals and those who are from lower economic backgrounds. In prisons it is easy to find “infuriated young men” who are “ripe” for radicalization. Jihadists can fall back on their reliable skills in weapons training and criminal fundraising.

Since 2011, approximately 5000 people from Western Europe traveled to the Middle East to join jihadist groups.

RELATED ARTICLE: Germany: Manhunt on for Muslim migrant who plotted airport jihad massacre

Bernie Sanders Is Wrong on College and Jail by Kevin Currie-Knight

In a December 15 tweet, Senator Bernie Sanders intimated that graduating from college decreases the likelihood that you will go to jail:

Sanders has long supported dubious measures for making college more affordable and hence accessible to all, and this may be why: he believes that “no college” is a path to jail.

Mike Rowe, the former TV host of the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs and a longtime opponent of the “college for all” message, responded to Sanders with outrage. Rowe challenged Sanders’s idea that the most viable option without a college degree is jail. He also brought home a favorite point of his, to throw into question whether a cost-benefit analysis of college really shows that college is the best path to a successful career.

I’ve written before against the “academic training for all” mentality that Sanders and so many others seems set in, but Rowe, unfortunately, also gets a few things wrong.

Upcredentialing and Downvaluing

While Sanders is right that college degrees significantly increase one’s job prospects, he’s wrong to think that “college for all” will increase job prospects for everyone. Rowe is right to note that there are viable career options that don’t require college degrees, but he overlooks that they are vanishing by the year.

We all strive to “outcredential” each other, and in short order, the college degree is the new high school diploma. 

As a recent study documents, more employers are demanding a college degree as a qualification for careers that never used to require one — from positions at an IT help desk to positions as a receptionist, office manager, or file clerk. What is behind this “upcredentialing” phenomenon?

College degrees and other certificates of learning are what economists call positional goods: their value partly hinges on how they stack up relative to what others have. If I live in an area where few have finished college, my degree will be of great value and probably open many doors. But if I live where college degrees are commonplace, mine will do little more than put me on an even footing with my equally credentialed peers. In that case, distinguishing myself from others may require me to get still more education than my peers.

The Education Arms Race

We can think of higher education as a game of chicken, where each person’s strategy is to outdo others without completely breaking their bank. Since I want to compete in the job market, and I have reason to think that many other people are getting college degrees, my strategy should be to get one, too, and perhaps one more impressive than theirs. But my competitors are probably thinking the same thing, and each of us knows what the other is thinking. We all strive to “outcredential” each other, and in short order, the college degree is the new high school diploma.

This is basically what Americans have done for the last several decades, at least since the GI Bill expanded college accessibility.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, college enrollment in 1983 was 10.6 million, and, after a small dip between 1984 and 1985, it has steadily increased each year. In 2012, the number stood at 17.7 million. Data also show that more Americans than ever have college degrees, though the percentage of people with college degrees (20 percent to 40 percent) varies by state.

Upcredentialing occurs because it can. Employers want ways to differentiate candidates. When college degrees were scarce, the candidate with the college degree distinguished himself from everyone else right off the bat. But when more and more people have a college degree, employers can afford to make having one a requirement.

If this process looks circular, that’s because it is. Bachelor’s degrees are a pathway to many more career options because many careers now require bachelor’s degrees. But the reason many careers now require bachelor’s degrees is because people en masse get bachelor’s degrees because they are a path to a better future.

Trapped in a Vicious Circle

While I generally support Rowe’s “college isn’t the only way” message, I am more pessimistic than he is because I don’t see the circle breaking easily.

If the best way to have the best career prospects is to outdo my competition, how likely is it that I will decide not to go to college if I suspect that others are better satisfying employers’ expectations by going? I could take a chance, but it’d be a big chance; if I’m right, I save a lot of tuition money, still get a decent job, and accumulate four extra years of earnings and experience, but if I’m wrong, my career prospects are slim. Rowe might point out that many careers don’t require a college degree, but I’d remind him that the pool of such jobs is shrinking. Fifteen years ago, those jobs included file clerks and construction supervisors, both of which now require degrees.

If this process looks circular, that’s because it is.

Some companies are bucking the upcredentialing trend and recognizing that there is little reason for them to require college degrees for certain positions. I hope that as those companies find success with that model, others will follow suit and we will reach a tipping point. Rowe probably shares that hope.

None of this lets Sanders off the hook. Not only is his tweet horribly oversimplified (and to be fair, one can’t be terribly nuanced in a tweet). But “college for all” ceases to look so good when you understand that education is a positional good. Increasing college access to all will do little more than deflate the value of a college degree for everyone by fueling the very upcredentialing that is already making the degree ever less meaningful.

“At the end of the day,” some future tweet may opine, “a second PhD is a helluva lot cheaper than prison.”

Kevin Currie-KnightKevin Currie-Knight

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

The Prison Called Cuba

mandela-obama-castro

President Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro, at a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in 2013. REUTERS TV/REUTERS

We are told we need to feel sympathy for the Cuban people who have suffered from a U.S. embargo and lack of diplomatic recognition. That ignores a long history of oppression in Cuba no matter who was in charge.

Prior to Fidel Castro, Cubans were in the grip of Flugencio Batista who overthrew the existing government in September 1933 and then dominated Cuban politics for the next 25 years until Castro’s revolutionary movement took control of the capitol in January 1959.

Fifty-six years ago in 1959, I was about to graduate from the University of Miami and among my friends were young Cubans sent there to get a degree. I have often wondered which among them returned to Cuba and which, like those who could afford it, were joined by their family who fled Cuba.

The U.S. had been involved with Cuba from the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 when Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam for $20 million. We stayed in Cuba until it was granted independence in 1902 as the Republic of Cuba. Its first president faced an armed revolt in 1906 so we returned to briefly occupy Cuba to restore some stability, but they never really got the hand of being a democratic self-governing nation.

How much better it would have been for the Cubans if the U.S. had decided to make the island a territory like Puerto Rico. Then we could have let the island prosper without having to end up with becoming a Communist nation closely allied, first with the Soviet Union and after its collapse in 1991, with others like China and Venezuela.

The lesson we might be expected to draw from this is that Communism does not work. It is an utterly failed economic and social system that can only stay in power by jailing or executing anyone who resists. That is exactly what the brothers, Fidel and Raul Castro, have done since seizing power. One consistency of the past five decades has been the anti-America policies they have pursued.

The reason given by Obama was that U.S. policies toward Cuba “have not worked” and that it is time for a change. There is some truth in this and it should be noted that Canada has long had good relations with Cuba as have European and, of course, Latin and South American nations.

Even so, what are we to conclude from the report that Russia plans to join military drills with Cuba and North Korea that may also include Vietnam and Brazil? Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has left it sanctioned and isolated, so the military drills send a message that it still has nations friendly to it, but what nations!

Cuba was caught not long ago when it attempted to ship weapons to North Korea, so we are talking about two dedicated Communist nations. Over the years, it has more than demonstrated its anti-American hostility.

Generally, there is little to be gained by exchanging embassies or relieving Cuba. Lifting our embargo and other sanctions leaves the U.S. with even less leverage, if any.

What has been largely overlooked since Obama’s announcement is the fact that Cuba is still ruled by a Castro and is likely to remain so because Raul’s son, Alejandro Castro Espin, a colonel in Cuba’s intelligence apparatus is likely being groomed to take over after becoming a general and a member of the Communist Party Politburo, Cuba’s ruling body. As noted in an article in The Atlantic, it is the Cuban military not only that plays a major role in the Politburo, it also controls at least sixty percent of the island nation’s economy.

I have no doubt that reaching out to Cuba ranks just below reaching out to Iran as Obama contemplates his “legacy.” Both are notorious enemies of the U.S. Nor would it surprise me if Obama would try to unilaterally shut down Guantanamo. Failing that, he will do everything he can to empty it by the time he leaves office.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba has had to struggle to survive economically. Its earlier behavior got it banned from the Organization of American States that was not lifted until 2009, but which did not confer full membership until it was deemed to be “in conformity with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS.” At the time, Fidel said he was not interested in joining.

Not much has changed in terms of the enmity the Castro brothers have expressed toward the U.S. but practical considerations to keep unrest among elements of Cuba’s population under control require them to ease some of the earlier control over being able to travel and likely who Cubans can do business with would improve whatever commerce will be permitted.

At this point, the only “winner” is Cuba.

© Alan Caruba, 2015