Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. . . . One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but City Journal’s stories abideth for ever.
City Journal is perhaps the best magazine that nobody reads. There seems to be a certain pattern to the stories they run, and if people were actually reading the magazine, perhaps the editors would run new stories instead of the same tragedies which end the same way. In the past (2004), one could read Theodore Dalrymple discuss the Frivolity of Evil:
The father of her first child had, of course, recognized her vulnerability. A girl of 16 living on her own is easy prey. He beat her from the first, being drunken, possessive, and jealous, as well as flagrantly unfaithful. She thought that a child would make him more responsible—sober him up and calm him down. It had the reverse effect. She left him.
The father of her second child was a career criminal, already imprisoned several times. A drug addict who took whatever drugs he could get, he died under the influence. She had known all about his past before she had his child.
The father of her third child was much older than she. It was he who suggested that they have a child—in fact he demanded it as a condition of staying with her. He had five children already by three different women, none of whom he supported in any way whatever.
The conditions for the perpetuation of evil were now complete. She was a young woman who would not want to remain alone, without a man, for very long; but with three children already, she would attract precisely the kind of man, like the father of her first child—of whom there are now many—looking for vulnerable, exploitable women. More than likely, at least one of them (for there would undoubtedly be a succession of them) would abuse her children sexually, physically, or both.
Or one could read (2005) Kay Hymowitz on the Black Family 40 years after the Moynihan Report:
More than most social scientists, Moynihan, steeped in history and anthropology, understood what families do. They “shape their children’s character and ability,” he wrote. “By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.” What children learned in the “disorganized home[s]” of the ghetto, as he described through his forest of graphs, was that adults do not finish school, get jobs, or, in the case of men, take care of their children or obey the law. Marriage, on the other hand, provides a “stable home” for children to learn common virtues. Implicit in Moynihan’s analysis was that marriage orients men and women toward the future, asking them not just to commit to each other but to plan, to earn, to save, and to devote themselves to advancing their children’s prospects. Single mothers in the ghetto, on the other hand, tended to drift into pregnancy, often more than once and by more than one man, and to float through the chaos around them. Such mothers are unlikely to “shape their children’s character and ability” in ways that lead to upward mobility. Separate and unequal families, in other words, meant that blacks would have their liberty, but that they would be strangers to equality. Hence Moynihan’s conclusion: “a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure.”
Or perhaps even you could (2000) read Joshua Kaplowitz about the counterproductive school bureaucracy:
I had read that successful schools have chief executives who immerse themselves in the everyday operations of the institution, set clear expectations for the student body, recognize and support energetic and creative teachers, and foster constructive relationships with parents. Successful principals usually are mavericks, too, who skirt stupid bureaucracy to do what is best for the children. Emery’s Principal Savoy sure didn’t fit this model.
To start with, from all that I could see, she seemed mostly to stay in her office, instead of mingling with students and observing classes, most of which were up at least one flight of stairs, perhaps a disincentive for so heavy a woman. Furthermore, I saw from the first month that she generally gave delinquents no more than a stern talking-to, followed by a pat on the back, rather than suspensions, detentions, or any other meaningful punishment. The threat of sending a student to the office was thus rendered toothless.
Worse, Ms. Savoy effectively undermined my classroom-management efforts. She forbade me from sending students to other teachers—the one tactic that had any noticeable effect. Exiling my four worst students had produced a vast improvement in the conduct of the remainder of my class. But Ms. Savoy was adamant, insisting that the school district required me to teach all my children, all the time, in the “least restrictive” environment. This was just the first instance of Ms. Savoy blocking me with a litany of D.C. Public Schools regulations, as she regularly frustrated my colleagues on disciplinary issues.
Or we could read—now, in 2011—about the effect of teen pregnancy in Gerry Garibaldi’s offering:
At my school, we pay five teachers to tutor kids after school and on Saturdays. They sit in classrooms waiting for kids who never show up. We don’t want for books—or for any of the cutting-edge gizmos that non–Title I schools can’t afford: computerized whiteboards, Elmo projectors, the works. Our facility is state-of-the-art, thanks to a recent $40 million face-lift, with gleaming new hallways and bathrooms and a fully computerized library.Here’s my prediction: the money, the reforms, the gleaming porcelain, the hopeful rhetoric about saving our children—all of it will have a limited impact, at best, on most city schoolchildren. Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.
Getting these stories more exposure is important, certainly. But it’s the same terrible story, over and over and over again. Surely, if people were reading about this, we’d attempt different public policies, rather than the ones that give us single mother after single mother after damned single mother. But stories still come.
If they hear not Moynihan and City Journal, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Hubbard posted this at 3:37 PM CDT on Monday, January 31st, 2011 as Evil