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The Hazards of Headline News

Updated on April 12, 2015

Here’s an insidious little headline: Money, Not Marriage, Makes Parents Better.

Family structure, family meals, limiting television, extracurriculars. No worries. None of it makes much of a difference. Your child’s success or failure in life will have more to do with how much money you have. If it’s in LiveScience, it must be true. No?

Modern Family meets Brave New World
Modern Family meets Brave New World | Source
Safe at any speed?
Safe at any speed? | Source

Apples and Oranges

Thanks to the U.S. Census Bureau for using our tax dollars to produce such a sinister study. Maybe their next project will offer similarly insightful results. How about something like this: Wings, Not Landing Gear, Make Air Travel Safer.

Well, sure, up to a point. But what does one really have to do with the other?

Needless to say, families struggling in poverty are going to have a harder time. But much of their struggle may stem from the causes that lead to poverty as much or more than poverty itself. (LiveScience finally did concede the point, buried in the last two paragraphs, that two-parent families are more than twice as likely to be living over the poverty line.

It's a dark, scary world
It's a dark, scary world | Source

Looking for Inspiration

Instead of trying to further discredit and erode the contribution of the nuclear family to the security of our children and the stability of our society, should we not promote the extraordinary accomplishments of parents who rose to meet their challenges and found ways of compensating for the bad hands they had been dealt? Can we hear the story of Sonya Carson too many times? Can we not continue to be inspired by the poor, illiterate, single mother who saved her sons from gang-violence and raised one of the premier neurosurgeons and political personalities in the country?

Perhaps more important, what is the source of the cultural inertia that seems committed to the disintegration of established cultural values? Has common sense become so uncommon that we really can’t recognize how children will inevitably benefit from the sense of safety and succor that are far more likely to characterize a home built upon commitment, discipline, and responsibility?

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

True, not every married couple produces a perfect home. But few things are perfect in life. Don’t we want to give our children every possible advantage, rather than try to convince parents that their child’s fate is largely out of their hands or – even worse – that it can only be bought like any other commodity? And if we keep finding these reports before our eyes, how long before we start believing them ourselves?

Now you see it...
Now you see it... | Source

Happy Landings

So when reading the headlines or watching the news, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • What is the agenda behind the story? Almost nothing in the news is free from editorializing today.
  • Is the source credible? Experts are not experts in all fields.
  • Are the results credible? Parents’ intuition about childrasing may be more reality-based than "research studies" administered by men in lab coats.
  • Are you getting the whole story? Watch for details that are missing or buried.
  • Are results presented as either/or? Few issues come down to a single factor.

After all, statistically, airplanes tend not to stay in service very long without both wings and landing gear.

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    • Yonason Goldson profile image
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      Yonason Goldson 3 years ago

      Kylyssa, your comments about the struggles of families living in poverty are undeniably true. However, my response to the LiveScience article was a critique directed at their devaluation of the importance of a secure and stable family structure, which they themselves admit increases the likelihood of financial security.

      An article that essentially tells us that it's better not to be poor is absurd and insulting. In order to make a no-news survey into news, they created a false dichotomy between marriage and poverty.

      The plight of children in poverty is, as you say, a far-reaching problem that deserves more thoughtful attention than what LiveScience had to offer.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I couldn't find your link to the article or study you are referring to but it is probably accurate for what they are measuring.

      They are probably measuring success as the amount of money the grown children earn per year and, on average, rich families will produce more high-earners because they have a lot of advantages. Poor children just aren't as likely to grow up to be rich as rich children are. Yes, there are exceptions but if it were common, you wouldn't need to hunt up exceptions.

      Living in deep poverty or on the verge of deep poverty really sucks. It really sucks a lot in a society where one's value as a human being is determined by society by the amount of money and assets one owns. Of course children who are conscious that society in general views them as lesser human beings aren't going to be as happy as children who think the world values them as people.

      Every day something like 21,000 children die from poverty-related causes. Yet almost no one cares. It isn't their distance or their ethnicity that makes people not care; it's their poverty. Recently, Indian college students have been sexually assaulted and almost everyone cares. But homeless women around the world are sexually assaulted and frequently killed afterword every single day and almost no one cares. The college women were middle or upper class women so their lives matter to people.

      Money means a lot to children. They are not stupid little things that don't know what's going on around them. They fear when their family is just a few paychecks from homelessness, as many poor families are in the US. They fear when they don't know if they are going to have food to eat or when daddy goes to another state to get work. They fear when mom has to marry a boyfriend she doesn't like so she can keep them all off the street because her two minimum wage jobs aren't enough. They are afraid daddy's been shot by a cop walking home from work at night when he's late or that mommy's been assaulted and left for dead when she's late. They are afraid when they come home to an empty apartment in a high-crime area while mom is out working her two jobs or both mom and dad are out working their jobs and looking for more work all the time. All that fear has to do something. It doesn't cause happiness in childhood or in later life.

      I've met plenty of upper middle class and wealthy people, especially in the years I dipped into those classes myself. For the most part, they aren't even conscious of the fact that theirs was not the usual childhood experience. They may have only ever gone to bed hungry as punishment. They never had younger children look to them for food they didn't have to give them. They always had babysitters, daycare, or nannies when their parents were off working and most of them had stay-at-home moms for parts of their childhoods. They never had to work jobs to pay bills or to buy food during their childhoods, but these are common experiences for everyone else. That freedom to be children and to live with fewer fears and worries has to be helpful in some way. That knowledge that you are a valued human being has to have a positive effect on happiness.

      Parents can tell children they are valued all they like but the children still have minds and can see that it is only their parents that value them and that the rest of the world doesn't value their parents.

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