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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Single parenthood shouldn't be rewarded, but it must be addressed

Ulysses S. Grant's Manhattan tomb was dedicated with much pomp in 1897, but now even the man who helped end slavery may not be noble enough for some. (Courtesy photo)
Ulysses S. Grant's Manhattan tomb was dedicated with much pomp in 1897, but now even the man who helped end slavery may not be noble enough for some. (Courtesy photo)
Cedric Walker
Cedric Walker
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Saturday, September 09, 2017 12:01 am

I've never seen a more festive groundbreaking ceremony than the one that kicked off construction of the Posterity Scholar House Thursday afternoon. With its enthusiastic speeches, prayers and gospel music, it almost seemed like an hour-long revival meeting. There was even a tent to protect the crowd from the drizzle that magically turned into sunshine.

And why not? As the first $13 million phase of what is planned as a $42 million residential and commercial project, the Scholar House is intended to change lives and the entire southeast side for the better by providing single parents seeking higher education with affordable housing, transportation, child-care assistance and other support services.

And there will be plenty of potential tenants. Of the 7,147 children born in Allen County last year, unmarried parents accounted for 2,612 of them. That's 36.5 percent — and an even higher percentage among some minority groups. So the question logically arises: By making life a little easier for single parents, will this well-intended project simply encourage even more unmarried pregnancy and all the social problems it predicts?

"We're not rewarding single parenthood; we're responding to it to help break the cycle," said Cedric Walker, pastor of Joshua's Temple Church and head of its not-for-profit development group, Joshua's Hand, which will manage the facility on the site of the former McMillen Park Apartments.

We've all heard that sort of optimism before only to be disappointed, but the encouraging thing about this project is not so much its program but its underlying philosophy: There was plenty of talk this week about hand-ups, not hand-outs, and the need to judge social programs not by how many people are in them but by how many people are able to leave them and live independently.

And although Walker correctly points out that some people become single parents through divorce, death, deception or other factors largely beyond their control, most have simply chosen to make a "mistake."

It's not politically correct to put it quite that way, of course — but it is necessary.

Some single parents do indeed struggle heroically to improve life for themselves and their children, but that does not mean single parenthood should be lionized, romanticized or sanitized. The evidence is clear: Infant mortality, incarceration, poverty, lack of education, neglect and, yes, teen pregnancy are all more common in single-parent households.

As a pastor, Walker admits to holding "old-fashioned values" on the subject and said the church has a responsibility to proclaim those values as well. Scholar House will not be a church, but he hopes that by providing constructive role models and a structured environment for parents and children alike, it will succeed where other programs have not.

"Education is the answer," he said, referring to the requirement that adult residents be enrolled in college-level courses. "Hopefully then the cycle will end and they won't pass it on to their kids." Let's all hope so.

WHAT THE . . . ?

Monuments to the Confederacy are under attack because they supposedly glorify slavery, but now even the tomb of the man most responsible for the South's Civil War military defeat is being targeted.

In New York City, where Mayor Bill DeBlasio has promised to review the cultural appropriateness of all monuments, it has been suggested the majestic tomb of Gen. and President Ulysses S. Grant be removed because during the war he expelled Jews from his war zone in an effort to counteract smuggling.

Was it an anti-Semitic act? Yes, but here's the thing: Grant later apologized for the order and was the first president to visit a synagogue, appointing more Jews to office than all his predecessors combined. In other words, like most of us, Grant was a complex, imperfect human being whose life was filled with both regrets and victories and evolved over time.  That's worth remembering as Americans reassess the worthiness of their historical figures — especially when the monument in question is 150 feet tall and contains 8,000 tons of granite.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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