American Families and the Nostalgia Trap” (1993)
The period from the late 1970s until the early 1990s was one of sharp economic setbacks in a series of regions and industries, followed by economic and cultural "recoveries" that excluded many Americans and left even the "winners' feeling anxious and dissatisfied. Per capita income rose; new jobs were created; women and minorities moved into new careers; political rivals abroad turned to America for leadership; the gross national product grew; new technologies spawned consumer booms in personal computers, videocassette recorders, and microwave ovens; and Americans near retirement age were better off financially than ever before. Yet more people fell deeper into poverty; children's life prospects worsened by several measurements; and even those who managed to maintain or improve their living standards felt more pressed for time and more precarious in their achievements than they remembered feeling in the past. While Chinese students built replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Americans thinking about their own society were more likely to raise images of Wall Street speculators, declining educational achievement, negative political campaigns, widespread personal immorality, senseless violence, and cultural fragmentation.
The obvious question was, "If America is so rich, why aren't we happy?' And the answer that made sense to many was, "because of the collapse of the family." This explanation also seemed to answer two related questions: "If America is so rich, why are there more poor people than there were in the 1960s? Why do our young people seem so desperate and so angry?" The crisis of the family" became the key to explaining the paradox of poverty amid plenty, alienation in the midst of abundance.
century draws to a close is an “epidemic of family breakdown”. Sarnuel Sava, head of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, blames the decline of American education on a "parenting deficit."...