Headmaster’s Thoughts – April 2007

A brief tirade:

Like all good schools, at York Prep we provide a great deal of scholarship aid. A committee of five spends a considerable amount of time going over scholarship applications, in the course of which many things are noted, primarily the ability, character, and motivation of the student as well as the fiscal need of the family. This determination is derived from the report sent to us by the School and Student Services program based on the form the parents complete.

And here is the tirade: Where are the fathers? I do not want to be sexist, but too often it is fathers who are listed as unknown, disengaged to the point that they provide no money, “unemployed,” or (the worst) men who just refuse to contribute in any way to their child. How in this civilized country do they get away with it? They father a child and then, at some point, effectively abandon it? And the States of our Union seem to participate in this abandonment by allowing these fathers to avoid the consequences of parenthood. Oh, I know we have “deadbeat father” laws, but I have rarely seen them work. Time and again, nice women tell me of comparatively affluent men who use their intelligence (and their lawyers) to squirrel out of their child support. These men even move from state to state, refuse to give any details of their employment, ask any court they find themselves in for delay after delay, and defy the mother to get a penny out of them. And frequently they win this spiteful abnegation of responsibility by just wearing the mother down.

If the legal system is not in active collusion with this disgrace, it certainly is in passive collusion. Men get away with it–sometimes, very rich men. They just turn their backs and leave the mother unable to provide the private school education that they would expect if they lived with the family on a permanent basis.

We try and substitute with scholarship aid for these non-fathering fathers. Nothing can substitute for their indifference. If I had my druthers, I would have a list of the names of these deadbeats and display it in each of their towns, prominently. I would encourage local merchants to refuse to do business with them until they heard a reasonable explanation. I would, in effect, blacklist them.

Our legal system is letting down wonderful children. The system deprives these children of what they deserve. Placing all the burden on mothers who live with the kids allows fathers to deny any fiscal or emotional support in bringing up the child, and relies on foundations like ours to fill in the breach, which we try and do. The only comfort I get out of this is that the mothers continue to enjoy (and such fathers lose) their relationship with wonderful children who hopefully will soon be wildly successful.

The solution lies with our politicians to strengthen the legal hand of the abandoned mothers. We should refuse to allow the present situation to continue. We should conduct a brief tirade.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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