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Several influential syndicated columnists, among them David Broder of The Washington Post and Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune, have increased the interest in this month's cover story in The Atlantic, "Dan Quayle Was Right.''

The provocatively titled essay by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a research associate at the Manhattan-based Institute for American Values, is, as the columnists have indicated, much more than a replay of the 1992 election's "family values'' contretemps. It is a first alarm bell in what is likely to be a long public soul-searching over what is actually happening to American children in the wake of titantic fractures in the nuclear family.

According to the 22-page article, new evidence from social-science research--in particular, longitudinal data from the National Survey on Children and the California Children of Divorce Study--shows a dramatic and negative impact for "children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth.'' Ms. Whitehead writes that despite early findings to the contrary, researchers are discovering, over time, that these children "do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being,'' including emotional health, school adjustment, and family income.

She claims that the "historic level of family disruption'' occurring now has not been viewed as a national crisis, because, in her words, "the dominant view is that the changes in family structure are, on balance, positive.''

In the 1970's, Ms. Dafoe explains, "Americans changed their minds about the meaning of these disruptive behaviors. What had once been regarded as hostile to children's best interests was now considered essential to adults' happiness.''

"Once the social metric shifts from child well-being to adult well-being,'' she says, "it is hard to see divorce and nonmarital birth in anything but a positive light.''

A sidebar to the article discusses eight public-policy attempts at reinforcing children's ties to both biological parents.

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez's recent ouster by the New York City board of education is the subject of a gossipy piece in the April 12, 1993, New Yorker.

The author, Tony Hiss, gleans from his extensive (and mostly off-the-record) interviews three main areas of contention that may have cost Mr. Fernandez his job: temperament ("aggressive,'' "unable to seek compromise'' or friends within the school system); battles over condoms, AIDS education, and the "Children of the Rainbow'' curriculum; and his autobiography, Tales Out of School, which "openly criticized school board members, the mayor, and the governor.''

Mr. Hiss adds that "once you knit all these stories together, you begin to see a single thread running through [his] entire tenure: an unexpected budget crisis of enormous proportions, which ... started to undermine his leadership almost as soon as he assumed it.''--M.S.R.

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