In recent years, it seems common sense is often the least common thing of all.

For some time now, Brad Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and the Future of Freedom Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, has been championing and advocating for the teaching of the so-called “success sequence” – a recommended ordering of key life events: graduation, employment, marriage and then children.

“The science could not be clearer,” states Dr. Wilcox. “On average, the children of married parents are more likely to experience happier, healthier and more successful lives.”

Only to say such things somehow threaten to make you a judgmental scold or worse, a self-righteous bigot.

Writing in yesterday’s Deseret News, Wilcox attempts to separate the emotion from the facts.

“Research shows that millennials who follow the success sequence are 60% less likely to experience poverty and have twice the odds of achieving the American dream, even controlling for their work history,” he notes. “Not surprisingly, families headed by single moms are five times as likely to live in poverty as married-couple families.”

These irrefutable findings beg an obvious question: If the social science is settled, why aren’t schools, which are increasingly stepping into the personal lives of its students anyway, not making the effort to advocate for the success sequence?

Instead, many public schools are either enabling or promoting habits and lifestyles that lead to a lifetime of struggle and misery for its students.

Dr. Brad Wilcox is right: Schools would serve their students well if they educated them on the many advantages of pursuing certain things in certain order.

Critics of promoting this common sense approach will often suggest that simply maintaining a full-time job and its accompanying income will prove sufficient. Only talk with any single parent and you’ll quickly discover that dollars don’t make a very challenging situation any easier.

Instead of talking about so-called safe sex and birth control, schools should be talking about love, commitment, and the history and benefits of marriage.

Academics are important, but practical conversations about career opportunities following school can prove vital, including trade school options. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that of the 45,000 public high schools in the United States, there are only 14,000 wood shop programs, a drastic decline over the years. “That’s more than just a shame,” writes Rich Cohen. “It’s a mistake. We all need the sort of self-confidence you learn in shop class.”

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibilities of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”

To know what leads to a fulfilling and happy life and not share it is educational malpractice. We can’t assume today’s children know that the order in which they pursue life’s milestones matter. As a result, we must tell them and advocate for the success sequence because it’s not only effective, but most importantly, because it’s God’s intent and great gift.


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