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Response to Fatherlessness Report is Telling

By Shad White

Last month my office released a report on the tragic consequences of fatherlessness. Kids who grow up without an engaged father in the home are more likely to go to prison (especially boys), less likely to graduate high school, less likely to be healthy, and young girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

For pointing out these facts, two out-of-state academics went on the warpath in the Clarion Ledger. They called the report “misinformation,” “poorly written,” etc.

What’s interesting is that our report relies on the same sorts of statistics that President Obama quoted in a 2008 speech on fatherlessness. “We know the statistics,” said Obama. “[C]hildren who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

I don’t recall the critics of our report reprimanding President Obama for talking about the issue. I’ve searched for Christine Dickason and Kaitlyn Barton’s (the two academics) scathing analysis of Obama’s speech and subsequent report, but it’s nowhere to be found.

Dickason and Barton said my office’s “whole report is a dog whistle” and racist. I don’t recall them saying President Obama was racist for pointing out similar facts. But I’ll keep looking.

I’m not sure why Dickason and Barton decided to bring race into the conversation. It reveals more about them than it does the report. If I say, “fathers need to be engaged in kids’ lives,” and they say that statement is demeaning to Black fathers, that tells you exactly what you need to know about the stereotypes of Black fathers that live in their heads. News flash: White dads can be deadbeats, too. I’d encourage you—two White women—to reflect on your own antiquated views of Black families.

My report proposes several solutions for the fatherlessness problem. One is the bipartisan legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed in Florida. Another is the expansion of the evidence-backed JROTC program currently operating in Jackson. I like the JROTC military program because it’s supported by data: students enrolled in the JROTC program at Jackson Public Schools have a nearly 100% graduation rate compared to a 75% district-wide graduation rate. Further, JROTC students score an average of nearly three points higher on the ACT than other JPS students and have an absentee rate about one-ninth the JPS average. I also like the program because it’s audited by a team from Fort Knox to ensure they hit their numbers.

Dickason and Barton are blunt about their solution: “access to abortion can help young people make informed decisions about whether they want to become parents.”

Stop and think about that. It’s sickening. Part of my solution is military-based programs in schools to give kids the discipline they may be missing at home to help them achieve their potential as adults. Dickason and Barton would kill those kids in the womb before they walk in the school door. Voters can decide which plan is more compelling and virtuous.

All told, I’m glad Dickason and Barton chose to respond to the report. Their take shows how far astray the world has gone. What was once a bipartisan, common-sense consensus is now enough to trigger them.

Their article also shows the importance of having public officials who are willing to stand up and fight for common-sense values. If not, you can be certain those values will be railroaded by this new brand of intellectual. Dickason studies at the education school at Vanderbilt, and Barton is the dean of instruction in a Texas school system. People go into this line of work to influence what kids are taught in the classroom. Mississippians have a choice to make: start electing leaders who won’t back down to radical ideology or watch your kids be trained to parrot the Dickason/Barton worldview.

Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi