Working-Class Family Failure to Thrive

Robert Putnam says in his notes for the Aspen Ideas Festival: “It’s perfectly understandable that kids from working-class backgrounds have become cynical and even paranoid, for virtually all our major social institutions have failed them – family, church, school and community.” The following are a few thoughts on the root of the working-class family breakdown. Putnam is talking about children of the 1990’s and beyond.  These are the children and grandchildren of the flower children, the women’s libbers, the children –before- or -without marriage, the “spiritual” but not religious generations.  They are the children of working class citizens who lost the sense of the dignity of work through the use of drugs, be they hard drugs that contaminate the body or etherial drugs that delude the mind.  These are the parents and grandparents who listened to the lyrics of rock and roll, hip-hop and rap and believed every word! 

When a person loses the dignity of work, he/she loses self-respect, loyalty to family members, appreciation for little things like the beauty of tiny flowers, soft rain, baby giggles, church bells and the acts of kindness by strangers.  The person becomes cynical, critical, rude, irresponsible and, oddly enough, demanding of others.  These people and the undeserving poor make up a large part of the American population today.  They are the parents of the children of today and the grandparents of tomorrow.  They, and their delusional values will not disappear. 

Fortunately, like so many before them, immigrants appreciate the dignity of work.  They are arriving by the thousands.  Between them and the professional classes who work hard, sacrifice for their children, and outwardly worship God, future generations will probably have a chance to live freely yet responsibly. 

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