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From Family Collapse to America's Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation (New Frontiers in Education)

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ISBN-13: 978-1607093626
ISBN-10: 1607093626
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Editorial Reviews


The American economy remains sluggish and, from all over the political spectrum, particularly the left, people have turned their attention to inequality. The Occupy Wall Street movement, though without actual plans for reform, emphasizes the growing inequality between the top one percent and the 99 percent of Americans below them, with the implication that income growth among top earners means less for everybody else....Mitch Pearlstein, who worked in the Department of Education under Reagan and Bush I, and then founded the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, sees this as a growing problem. His new book, From Family Fragmentation to America's Decline, laments this inability of many to climb their way up from the bottom rungs of society. (Acton Institute)

Not since the 1965 'Moynihan Report' has anyone written so frankly, so soberly, so reasonably, or so persuasively on the devastating social consequences of single-parent families. (Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University)

Mitch Pearlstein says that, due to rising divorce and non-marital birth rates, an alarming number of young Americans grow up without the benefit of two caring parents. He's right. He's persuaded that such weakness in the structure of American families hampers our nation's economic competitiveness. Right again. This is neither a liberal nor a conservative position; it's just plain common sense. And Pearlstein's argument makes one thing abundantly clear: it's well past time for liberals like me to work together with conservatives like him so we can figure out what to do about this gravely serious problem. (Glenn C. Loury, professor of economics, Brown University)

There has been much chatter in recent years about refusing to accept any excuses for low-income and minority students doing poorly in school. We, ourselves, have made that the case. Moreover, substantial federal and state dollars have been spent in an attempt to close the racial gap in academic performance. But Mitch Pearlstein, better than anyone else, has explained why the goal must be understood simply as a noble aspiration. As long as family fragmentation rates in the United States remain so disastrously high, the basic picture will not change, regardless of how much American schools are 'reformed.' (Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, coauthors, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning)

Parents are the first and most influential teachers that any child has and the family the first and most influential school. When those are in good shape and to their part, kids tend to fare well in education and in life. When those falter, great schools (and other key institutions) can help a lot―but never really substitute. Understanding―and trying to reverse―America's 'nuclear meltdown' is this thoughtful book's peerless contribution. (Chester E. Finn Jr., president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Political correctness leads some topics to be completely avoided, regardless of their importance. Family fragmentation is one of these, but Pearlstein has now broken it open. He makes a compelling case that we avoid problems of the family at our individual and national peril. Perhaps now that the topic has been so forcefully exposed, we as a nation can address the issues in a broad and constructive manner. (Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow in Education, Hoover Institution at Stanford University)

A shot across the bow of the national conversation on education and economic competitiveness. Pearlstein challenges both the left and right for an elephant-sized blind spot about the importance of family fragmentation in our persistent achievement gaps. He is appropriately humble about solutions, but argues convincingly that we can't hope to turn things around if we keep avoiding this uncomfortable conversation. (William J. Doherty)

The public does not seem concerned that the American family is dissolving before our eyes. Yet children reared by lone mothers are more likely to have mental health problems, teen births, school failure, and several other afflictions than kids reared by married parents. America has too many adults making decisions about divorce and nonmarital childbearing to promote their own happiness rather than their children's wellbeing. This disturbing case is made in provocative and convincing fashion by Mitch Pearlstein in this remarkable volume. Anyone who reads it will come away alarmed by the costs being imposed on America by family dissolution. (Ron Haskins, co-director, Center on Children and Families, The Brookings Institution)

Conservative and liberal education reformers, for all their disagreements on policy, are united on one matter. Both camps maintain a studied silence regarding the greatest impediment to closing the achievement gap and improving U.S. educational performance: family breakdown. Mitch Pearlstein is determined to break that silence. Unless Americans can figure out how to stem the epidemic of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, he warns, the favorite educational nostrums of both left and right will have only limited effect in raising student achievement. Pearlstein readily admits that the antidotes to family disintegration are not obvious. But until the problem is recognized, there can be no hope for a solution. This clearly written, unblinkered book ought to trigger a long-overdue confrontation with what can rightly be called America's greatest civilizational threat. (Heather MacDonald, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute)

This is a terrific book, a highly readable and profound account of a ticking time bomb―family fragmentation. To this controversial subject, Mitch Pearlstein brings both passion and compassion, sprinkled throughout with wisdom and wit. Pearlstein shines a bright light of integrity on a crisis too-long ignored. (David Lebedoff, author, The Uncivil War)

This work of earnest policy reflection ought to arouse our moral indignation, as the educational and vocational futures of millions of children are being sacrificed at a cost none of them should bear. If we want to recover a vigorous economy and vibrant culture, those of us in education, religion, business, and policy-making must seriously heed what Mitch Pearlstein sagely writes about family and parenting failures. God forbid if we don't. (Robert Osburn, executive director, Wilberforce Academy)

Mitch Pearlstein has a big idea. It's that today's family trends affect far more than our families. They affect how and whether our schools can teach, and how and whether our economy can grow. Written with a light touch and a sure hand, this book is a genuine, serious contribution to our national discussion. I particularly like the fact that Pearlstein does more than diagnose the problem. He also offers up a pail full of creative solutions. (David Blankenhorn, founder and president, Institute for American Values)

This important volume should direct some much-needed attention to the fact that the United States now leads the world in fragmented families and the threat this poses to children, education, the economy, and the very welfare of the nation. Pearlstein documents the case well and even offers a little hope. (Robert L. Woodson Sr., founder and president, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise)

With his trademark fair-mindedness, Mitch Pearlstein tells hard truths about the effects of family fragmentation on American children's educational achievement. A powerfully reasoned book that commands our attention and action. (Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture: Rethinking Our Commitment to Marriage and Family.)

To conclude, the value of Pearlstein's book is that it couples tomes of empirical studies from a diverse range of sources with candid and honest discussion of what America's marriage problem is doing to our country, and what we can actually do about it from a policy perspective and from a cultural perspective....Pealstein's [book is a wake up call to the problem our country faces] and a tool book for anyone serious about actually mending our country's wounds and working toward a brighter future. (The Daily Beast Book Reviews)

I'm glad Mitch Pearlstein wrote this book....Surely, no change will come without him and lots of others recognizing the terrible folly of anti-family policies. (The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy)

About the Author

Mitch Pearlstein is president of Center of the American Experiment, a think tank in Minneapolis he founded in 1990.


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Product Details

  • Series: New Frontiers in Education
  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: R&L Education (August 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607093626
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607093626
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,562,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Author and educator, Mitch Pearlstein, has written the most important public policy book of the year. In "From Family Collapse to America's Decline," Pearlstein connects the dots between divorce, single parent households, repeated infidelity, systemic weakening of the and role of fathers to drug use, mental health, criminal activity, early sexual initiation, new generations of non-marital pregnancies, economic and educational impoverishment, and class divisions. If the underlying issues affecting the fragmentation of the family are not addressed effectively, then the United States will continue to sink into chaos and economic decline.

"From Family Collapse..." begins with a focus on "how Americans have debated - or have determinedly declined to debate - matters of family fragmentation." Many studies have shown that there is no way to sidestep the empirically demonstrated ways in which family fragmentation "retards American kids educationally and the US, therefore, economically" yet we do. Educator Diane Ravitch notes, "As every educator knows, families are children's first teachers," and "on the first day of school, there are wide differences in children's readiness to learn." Yet most are silent and efforts to focus on strengthening the family are ignored or `conveniently' abandoned. `Conveniently' is the operative word as Pearlstein notes that we as nation are less "child centered." Adults over the past 4-5 decades have been overly interested in their own happiness and fulfillment (self-actualization) and much less concerned with their societal responsibilities.
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He tries to give a reason for the increase of children born out of wedlock. Certainly the failure of income to keep pace with the cost of living is one aspect but it does not explain completely the lack of responsibility on the part of the men involved.
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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bruce P. Barten on April 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
I survived 2011 with a personal cultural heritage that had a literary life sustained by ideas from Freud, who had lived in Vienna and London, and the weirdness associated with Nietzsche, who was son of a German pastor, a Swiss professor of classics, and the crazy mental breakdown in Italy finding a horse with whiplash problems. For 2011, some of the dead Americans who had personal significance for me were Nelson Rockefeller, David Koresh, and Timothy McVeigh. Americans could learn a lot from thinking about how anyone got Timothy McVeigh to drive the truck.

The authors of books published in 2011 who just came to my attention at a library are Andy Kessler, whose guide for entrepreneurs is called Eat People, Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs and Mitch Pearlstein, who wrote From Family Collapse to America's Decline. Kessler wrote about those who are not helping matters get any better in politics whenever they "ripped a page from Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals playbook." (p. 227). As an intellectual, I have been offended by American religious figures who think it is godly to side with the poor people we will always have with us, cultivating ignorance on money matters except when it comes to giving and churches obviously don't know what Kessler calls:

Nowhere does he talk about
how wealth is created in
the first place, about
productivity, or about
progress. That stuff is
too complicated. So get
used to it. It's never
going to change. (p. 227).

I was born in 1947 and was raised with four sisters in a religious family that had musical talents.
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