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people cutting cakephoto of the presidentphoto of a happy couple Join the Discussion:What are your views on the pro marriage movement which aims to cut the American divorce rate and strengthen marriage?  Should government have a role in this?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Sure it's better for chldren ro be raised in a family and married parents, but it all start out with money. People don't get married because of money and then it's an everlasting circle.

Don't enforce marriage, better the economy and financial situation then marrage and family will come.

Dallas, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

As much as it might pain to say it, but seems that once again Dan Quayle might have first stumbled into something liberals eventually embace. Is he brighter than we all thought?

J. S.
Charlotte, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the show and read the correspondent' s piece. The conservatives are partially right. We all have to work on this problem. Before we rush to just marry the poor off , let us try to get ourselves together.

No one group has the answer to this problem. Republicans, Democrats, rich and poor struggle with marriage and family issues so we need not blame the poor only as most seem to do. Perhaps more accountability across the board is needed.

Family members who can should be the first teachers/educators we have as to how to enter into marriage the right way and then if need be the entire community since it is ultimately the community that suffers when the family breaks down. Real life education, real jobs and less lip service would be a great place to start. I don't seem to see much being said about any of that.

Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I've never responded to a TV program before, but yours made me mad as hell. The back-to-marriage movement is pure nostalgia for a mythical past, a mystification. If liberals read: democrats are climbing onto this right-wing bandwagon, it is, I'm afraid, yet another indication of the ultimate bankruptcy of their party.

Studies show that well-educated, professional single moms raise children who will be better off than children raised by parents who are married but trapped in a cycle of poverty. You know this. We all know this. What are the real cause and effect relationships, then? Having two parents may affect the well-being of many poorer children for the better, but it doesn't do so by magic. Rather, having two incomes and an expanded support network for parenting does. Marriage can provide this it often doesn't, but so can lots of other arrangements. And after all, a good salary, educational opportunities, and a support network should be the right of every American, with absolutely no restrictions tying these rights to one's marital status. Attempting to impose repressive, antiquated models of marital orthodoxy onto oppressive poverty is a recipe for failure. What about the well-educated, professional single moms?

Norman Rockwell-style nuclear families have been on the decline for a solid 100 years, the brief aberration of the 1950s notwithstanding. If, as a society, we get divorced more frequently, re-marry more, and have more children out of wedlock, it is because we want to do these things. We should collectively own up to our desires. Keep your guilt to yourself, thank you very much! Who wants the Governor of Oklahoma or the President of the United States meddling in our bedrooms or our living arrangements? Our practices are already creating a new society, with new forms of relationships and new types of families.

Pretending to be, or forcing the poor to pretend to be, Ozzie and Harriett won't make poverty go away. There is hope for the future, but only if we accept the reality of the present. Get real, Alex Kotlowitz.

DeWayne Dean
Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,

First, let me say thank you for all the wonderful programs you produce.

The problem is simple. People who cannot afford to support children should not be having them. Period. We need to educate young people about what happens when they have a child they cannot support. Showing them tapes of people like those profiled in your program would be a good start. Also, we MUST educate young people about contraception and make it easily available.

I have known plenty of people who were involved in sexual relationships and managed not to conceive children. They were careful and responsible, and thus did not find themselves in the kind of tragic situation the program depicted. I think this type of responsibility could easily be taught to middle class youth, many of whom already practice it.

The problem with the poor is that their economic despair, coupled with lack of quality education, often lead to irresponsible and dangerous behavior. The solution to the problems of the underclass has almost everything to do with addressing the economic and educational aspects of their lives, and almost nothing to do with marriage.

As I watched the show, I was outraged by what the conservatives and fundamentalists are doing. As usual, they are trying to shift the focus away from the real problems, and toward a simplistic issue and solution. To see the patent absurdity of their approach, think about this: What if we were to tell the starving peoples of Africa that they can go ahead and have as many children as they like, as long as they stay married? Oh, wait...I guess the conservatives have already told them that.

Rockville, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm still trying to figure out the motivation behind this piece. Kotlowitz is a well-known left-leaning sociologist who studies poor and black people as if they are uni-celled creatures put under his microscope.

So while the reportage here was occasionally interesting, there was also the air of arrogance in his narrative. Does he really think that by focusing on more or less rural folk in Tennessee and Oklahoma, as well as welfare blacks, that he will give a balanced picture of the state of marriage in our country? What of well-to-do people in Chicago suburbs like Highland Park or Winnetka or Oak Park? Do they get divorced as well? Why no focus on the millions of financially comfortable people who get divorced? Are they exempt from scrutiny because they are able to buy their way out of their marriages with less impact on their children? So now the government will teach the poor how to get married better, eh?

Overall, the program was rife with a social disingenuousness: the lack of attention to what the upper classes do only indicates the lead journalist's somewhat smarmy ivory-tower paternalism--all in the name of helping those less fortunate. As if... I also cringed at the profile of the couple in Chattanooga. I'm sure their tasteless, paid-for-by-the-media wedding makes for good copy a la "reality TV," but as sociology it was crap. Too bad. Once again, "Frontline" misses a chance to really probe an important issue.

Martin Brady
Nashville, Tennessee

Dear FRONTLINE,

How can we demand that these folks get married when, as a society including the people who live there have made it extremely difficult to financially support themselves and a nuclear family? How can we expect a shot gun wedding give every couple a sense of long-term nirvana to support a long and happy married life when they will have so many things going against them from the beginning: the obvious money issues, immediate family, etc.? Is this the panacea to change lives? You know, I think I might start to believe in the tooth fairy, too.

I wish I knew how to bring mental and spiritual relief in an area where the best take-home pay comes illegally, the schools do not prepare their students for the real world of jobs and responsibilities, the gangs rule the streets and the American Dream does not exist.

I wish I knew the answer.

Hoffman Estates, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

The program was insightful and thought-provoking. It made me ponder the situation. It seems as though marriage as we know it in America has become a socially constructed ideal that is promoted by bride magazines, tv shows, and movies as a wonderfully blissful state of existence.

However, most of the people in the real world grow up in families with parents or a parent that model mildly dysfunctional to severely toxic male/female relationships..so is it no wonder that marriages do not sustain--most of them were illfated to begin with. If the government really wanted to help society through building strong marriages although I am scared to think about the marriages of some of the judgemental politicians I heard tonight! they would encourage states' to promote an educational curriculum devoted to the topic of relationships and family that began in K and ended in 12th grade. Teaching this nation's children, especially the most marginalized, that an education can lead to financial independence and promote their self-esteem could work wonders on our society in the years to come. If kids learn that they can make better choices for their futures and not fall prey to hopelessness, apathy and the belief that having children is part of the cycle of poverty, we may be able to build strong families married or not in this country.

By the government simplifying the issue and specifically encouraging poor, undeducated people to "get hitched" as if it's a cure-all they will waste precious money that could have been spent building affordable housing, funding educational loans targeted for the poor, universal healthcare, providing more affordable childcare for parents, funding food banks,....real solutions for real problems!

Lisa Francois
Los Angeles, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was watching the show and was breathless. I can not belive what the goverment is trying to do. Honestly who do they think they are. They can not force two people to get married when they are already suffering from poverty. Marriage is supposed to be a happy time, and when people are sturggling for money thats not a happy time. And when a marriage isn't happy the children are not going to be happy either and isn't this is what its supposed to be about the children? I know what I'm saying because I've been there. I'm 20 years old with three children and proud to say I'm glad I din't marry their father.

bakersfield, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

If our schools and government spent as much time and money on teaching our young people how to develop relationships and learn to live selflessly, not selfishly, as much as they do teaching sex education and homosexuality, then maybe we wouldn't have the divorce rate that we do.

Lynda Putz
Chino Hills, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I don't understand why there are so many single families in the first place.We have this wonderful modern medicine called birth control. Yes, I am female and have heard that clock ticking but since I've never been married, I never considered single parenting an option. And no, that doesn't mean abortion. People are not going to stop having sex so I think if our government is going to be pushing something it should be birth control rather than rushing into a questionable marriage. I also find it ironic that people object to the government butting into their private lives to suggest marriage but don't seem to have any objection when it comes to providing housing, free medical care, food stamps, welfare money....

Centennial, Co.

Dear FRONTLINE,

A few things I noticed that puzzled me. People feared marriage for seemingly weak reasons; yet had no fear of bringing a child into the world. Marriage is child's play compared to being a parent. Another is that people think the government should stay out of it, that it won't work. If someone doesn't have the resources for food, shelter or medicine..the government is okay. But if people fail life or parenting, let it go? Maybe the government can't help..but what do we have to lose, except more children; which we are already losing at an alarming rate. I am the product of a mother who had five marriages..a couple of which she doubled up on. I am still hard at work on my first and closing fast on forty years..not all were blissful. But, from the beginning; I told myself if I can't make this one work, I won't give myself a second chance.

phoenix, Az.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm a christian who was raised in a strong family with a dedicated and devoted mother and father. They struggled with six of us to pay for food and shelter and child care while they worked. Through the Grace of God they made it, but many programs then weren't offered to low income Married families .

Most of the programs through the Government fund more single parent homes, and offer programs for single mothers,which is great, but what about the married people trying to make ends meet. In my experience it's been more strikes against us than for us for being a whole family.

A perfect example is child care costs. If you are raising babies who need child care there aren't programs available to assist in child care costs offered to married couples. And this is but a few things that are not offered to married couples barely making it. That creates finacial issues which causes disagreements, which in time could result in divorce. Is'nt this what we want to avoid ?

rachel penn
milwaukee, wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline's documentary, "Let's Get Married" hits home hard at the erosion of American society.

What struck me as an anthropologist who has studied marriage practices in a small, Islamic community was that no one in the village where I did my research expected a sucessful marriage to come from the individuals getting married. They are young people and by definition inexperienced and widely regarded as being foolish. It's the bride's and groom's families and all of their relatives and friends and neighbors who work to ensure that the couple build a successful relationship.

Seeing all of these Americans struggling to find love and happiness in communities where there is little support, practically no money, and little prospect for work was heartbreaking. Seeing young people struggling for a solution and searching for love, as they are told that until they "fix" themselves, they will never have a real relationship seemed catastrophic advice.

No one it seems can lend a hand but only give proscriptive advice, warnings and predictions of bad experiences for everyone involved. It's no wonder that couples balk at the prospect of marriage and that few in this country are able to succeed.

Kimberly Hart
Bloomington, Indiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed the program, insights and opinions that were presented. Although I'm uncertain of the statistical evidence, it seems to me that the soci-economic realities - that the majority of both parents of a the two parent families need to work to support a family - is a large contributing factor to the high divorce rates we have today. The lack of decent living wages combined with a shortage of affordable housing and a culture of hyper-consumerism also place significant preassures on the couples of today. This combined with the ever increasing lack of commitment on the part of both workers and employers to each other, high cost of health care all seem to contribute to the decline of not only our famlies but indeed our communities and nation. I would of liked to have heard more about these factors and their contributing effects. Thanks and keep challenging your viewers to consider these important issues.

B Cummins
Cleveland, Ohio

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