Identifying the Problem for Disadvantaged Children in Rhode Island


Way back when connecting computers and video games to television sets was still an unfamiliar innovation, I had a sleepover party for my birthday featuring “Summer Games” on my Commodore 64.  As the assembled boys looked on, my father entered that parental challenge of overcoming a technological hurdle for which his own childhood had ill prepared him.

As he became increasingly frustrated moving wires from one place to another, I read the instructions and tried to tell him what to do.  With eyes on the challenge before him, he wouldn’t listen until frustration got the better of him.  When he stepped away, I connected the wires, and the heavily pixelated Olympics began.

These days, I find myself wondering when progressives will become sufficiently frustrated with their inability to fix income inequality that they let somebody with different ideas give it a try.

Take Bob Plain’s tweet-based review of RI Kids Count’s latest “Factbook” data.  He states that “the most important social crisis Rhode Island needs to address” is children in poverty and then notes their concentration:

  • “In PVD, Pawt, CF, Woons combined 35.9% of kids live in poverty. 28,291 kids. In the rest of the state combined: 7.8%, another 12,871 kids.”
  • “Estimated 2011-2015 median income for family w kids: EG: $160,139, Barrington: $146, 440, CF: $31,317, PVD: $34,164″
  • “It would take 5 average CF families to earn as much as one average EG family.”

Next, Bob offers a data point with no commentary:

  • “Kids w/ single parents in #RI. Little Compton: 12%, Barrington: 13%, EG: 13%. Central Falls: 49%, PVD: 46%, Woonoskcet: 46%.”

Ultimately, though, without any substantiating data, he concludes:

Affordable housing aside, many agree the best way to address the wide socioeconomic discrepancies between urban and suburban Rhode Island is by making public education an enforceable right in the state Constitution.

This despite the fact that Central Falls’s per-student funding is about 20% greater than Barrington’s.  To be sure, one would expect it to take less government money to educate students from more-stable and wealthier families, but that only solidifies the critical point that Bob tweets right past:  The greatest contributor to upward mobility is a strong culture in which men and women who have children together get married and raise their children as a rock-solid team.

Acknowledging that indisputable fact, however, would require us to reevaluate the wisdom of welfare policies that have the effect of displacing the notion of a breadwinner with the government.  It would require us to acknowledge that marriage, as an important social institution, is irreducibly about the one thing that only male-female couples can do, almost without intention.

But that would require us to admit that government (and its special interests) can’t do everything and messes things up when it tries.  It would require us to draw distinctions that the pop culture wants to erase.  It would require us, in a word, to address society as adults.

Adults count, too, especially for the benefit of children.