Saturday, April 26, 2008

Forum on manhood misses the mark

Columnist Jim Wooten recently wrote a commentary about a March conference held at Macon State College. The conference was ostensibly "a conversation about manhood" and was led by a group of black professionals such as doctors, teachers, lawyers, clergypersons, and politicians. Mr. Wooten's comments were based on a report in The Macon Telegraph written by reporter, Ashley Tusan Joyner, in which she details some of the topics discussed in the conference. Go to the link above for Mr. Wooten's full article; I found the comments below especially interesting.

But it is shocking to read that given the opportunity to have a conversation about manhood with young males, role models who are successful and accomplished in life chose to talk to them as potential criminals and as victims....

Not addressed, apparently, was manhood, as in fatherhood. Or manhood, as in taking responsibility... The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in early March that at least one in four teenage girls nationally has a sexually transmitted disease. Among black teens ages 14-19, it’s nearly half.

Another study released last week offers findings that are...further evidence of the need to reorient the conversation. ... 25 percent of white children, 46 percent of Hispanics and 69 percent of blacks are born to unmarried women....When combined with divorce... almost a third of children live in single-parent homes...

Any number of studies have documented the harm to children and the social costs in higher rates of crime, drug abuse, poverty, mental and physical illnesses, educational failures, and other damaging consequences to children deprived of the life-guiding influence of both parents.

Now Benjamin Scafidi, an economist in the J. Whitney Bunting School of Business at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, presents valuable new research on the economic costs. “We estimate that family fragmentation costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion each and every year, or more than $1 trillion each decade,”..... If public policies encouraging marriage reduced family fragmentation by just 1 percent, the savings to taxpayers would amount to $1.1 billion yearly, the study finds.

It seems clear that the conversation about what constitutes “manhood” needs to change, especially when the government, the media, opinion leaders and community role models gather young men to help them define it. Manliness is not creating and abandoning babies and the women who bear them.

Leah Ward Sears, chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, is one of the voices stepping up...

“Healthy marriage is not only the best place to raise children, it is the indispensable institution without which all other social reform efforts will fail,” she said. “Healthy and intact families are the cradle of thriving societies.” Preach that. Teach that. Counsel that.

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