Prison teaching makes me think of cause and effect, evolution and what has happened to the American family. Eighth grade science students know that every effect has a cause, and that the cause is greater than the effect: every watch has a watchmaker, every painting has a painter and every building has a builder. Every law has a lawmaker. Every prisoner has a story.
The cause and effect principle is one of the reasons many people — not just simple folks, but imminent scientists as well — reject evolutionary theory. They see wondrous design everywhere, from the human body to the Swiss Alps to the Big Dipper. No Rolex, no Mona Lisa, no Sistine Chapel ever “poofed” itself into existence, and neither did the marvelous physical universe.
Social problems aren’t the result of a Grand Poof either. Crime and irresponsibility don’t just happen. Something lies behind them. Whoever said that wars are but a continuation of politics seems to understand cause and effect, but many of today’s sociologists, left-leaning media stars and big government proponents don’t. They tell us that poverty causes crime so the government must alleviate poverty, that guns cause lawlessness so the government must outlaw guns and that spanking causes warped personalities so spanking must be equated with abuse.
Such wrongheadedness springs from the failure to understand certain trends and events that are both observable and verifiable. Some of these observable, verifiable trends and events are the breakdown of the family and the continuing crassness of the culture.
Frankly, Americans have become blasé about family structure and function. If we as a people cared deeply about family life, the divorce rate would not hover at 50-51 percent and our incarceration rate would not be one of the highest in the world.
Since Cain slew his brother Abel, brothers have fought and families have grieved. Since Karl Marx suggested collectivism was the best social policy, governments around the world have, in effect, displaced the family with the state. To cushion the harsh sound of the expression, “the state,” some call it “the village.”
It is sad to talk to a 35-year-old inmate who at age 13 was fatherless and rudderless, who behaved as a fatherless/rudderless youth could be expected to, and who at age 19, though of legal age and accountable, commits a crime that ruins his life as well as that of a victim.
The effect? Ruined, wasted lives and millions of tax dollars spent to house criminals. The cause? In many cases, sorry men who fathered children and split. I blame my inmate student 100 percent. I blame his AWOL father 100 percent as well.
Actually, examples like the one above are relatively recent, because for two centuries Americans withstood the assault on the family. The “Little House on the Prairie,” with its simple faith, quiet strength, and rugged self-reliance has been replaced, however, with the hedonistic, style-setting actors of entertainment, movies and prime time television. Prairie values, country simplicity, mountain spirit and small town flavor have yielded to urban celebrity culture. Family meals, particularly the end-of-the-day ones where families talked and bonded, are virtually extinct.
Of course the definition of family has already changed. Even though everyone — everyone! — has a mother and father, a fact that implies we all need both, we now are told that two moms, two dads, or practically any arrangement we prefer will suffice.
But this is all just social evolution, some say. No, it’s happening a bit fast to call it evolution. It’s change for sure, but is it change for the good?
Why is it that the preponderance of crime is committed by young black men? Why not Asians, whites, or Hispanics? The effect is crime. What is the cause?
Black pastor Tony Evans of Dallas, Texas believes he knows the cause, and he is not hesitant to tell his vast congregation that “too many black families are a mess, mainly because of out of wedlock births and absent fathers.” If only Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and our president would join him and quit making excuses. If only Asians, whites and Hispanics would stop their contributions to the problem.
So you like societal evolution? Then you probably loved how Miley Cyrus transitioned in front of your eyes from a Disney character to television’s crudest, most unappealing seductress. Hannah Montana was inane, but she wasn’t lewd and half naked.
As G.K. Chesterton put it, “The family is older than law, the true province of liberty.”
I know some wised-up inmates who truly believe this and who yearn for preachers and legislators to shout it from the rooftops.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.