Desperately racing to catch up with the conservative sociologist Charles Murray whom they so despise, the leftist New York Times front-paged a story Saturday that basically bore out the central findings of Murray’s new book Coming Apart.
More than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. … The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s. … One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.
The leftist Times adds:
The shift is affecting children’s lives. Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.
In other words, educated people do better because they marry more. They’re also, according to Murray, more religious and industrious, which further improves their lives.
The leftist Times, of course — and many of Murray’s leftist reviewers — try to slant these findings to suggest poor people are somehow being made to suffer by society’s unfair privileging of the marriage state. We can soon expect to hear a good deal about how a more tolerant Europe does illegitimacy better. It is frustrating to know we will have to wait at least a decade before the Times and its leftist camp followers are proven — as they are always ultimately proven in these social matters — wrong yet again.
Those unwilling to wait that long can turn directly to Murray, who tends to go blithely about getting things right even as the left excoriates him. Murray understands that the debilitating shifts of poorer people away from marriage and religion are culturally induced and that the prescriptions to reverse them must be cultural as well. Among those fixes, as he said in a recent article in the paper of record (the Wall Street Journal):
The best thing that the new upper class can do… is to drop its condescending “non-judgmentalism.” Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.
This is so clearly true that the only real question is: why don’t they? If marriage and religion give smart people joy and improve their living standards, why don’t they spread the word?
I believe one reason is the Tyranny of Hip: the unwillingness of grownups to be thought of as uncool. We seem to have a horror of shedding the mantles of the heroes of romance in order to take on the roles of the crusty but wise chaperones. Even when Red State’s Erick Erickson and cultural blogger Dr. Melissa Clouthier among others courageously grasped the nettle recently and took the girls and boys of CPAC to task for dressing like hookers and acting like johns, they were at pains to explain that they were talking about time and place appropriateness not morals — which still didn’t protect them from the usual hail of superior-sounding irony that followed.
No one wants to be the butt of the cool kids’ jokes like that. No critic who values his relevance wants to point out that Bridesmaids soiling themselves while in wedding regalia is not really funny; or that Katy Perry’s hummable hit tunes peddling alcohol abuse and cheap sex to 12-year-olds are reprehensible; or that Sacha Baron Cohen mocking ordinary people for their non-ironic faith, manners or dedication can be at once hilarious and morally wrong — like laughing at a slapstick accident that leaves someone dead. No one wants to turn into the old man waving his cane from the porch rocking chair shouting at the young folks to stop all their goldarned canoodling and quit parading around with their hoo-has and what-nots hanging out, for the love of Mike.
And yet the nation hungers for just such behavior. Witness the recent YouTube video of a father punishing his spoiled daughter for a snarky Facebook post by plugging her laptop with a .45. The thing went viral to the tune of tens of millions of viewers. Why? Because it was wonderful to see someone finally step up and be Daddy.
Being Daddy, no matter what people say, is not primarily a matter of telling people what not to do, nor is it a matter, in my opinion, of scaring them with the consequences of poor behavior. Family leaders rather model, proclaim and support the way people behave when they treat themselves like people instead of meat puppets: i.e. when they make their flesh serve their dignity, love and joy, which sometimes means delaying and even denying more immediate and strictly physical pleasures.
Only (by which I mean only) this essentially spiritual approach to life supports self-governance and justifies liberty. That, if no other reason, is why it’s the responsibility of American grown-ups to teach it to the young. No one wants to be uncool, but the end result of the Tyranny of Hip is tyranny.