Education Next Cover on Moynihan Report Anniversary Raises Hackles

By Mark Walsh — March 04, 2015 3 min read

The conservative-leaning journal Education Next has created a stir with the cover of its spring issue, which features an African-American family with a mother holding a baby and a fading image of the father.

The issue is largely devoted to the 50th anniversary of the “Moynihan Report,” the 1965 work by then-assistant U.S. labor secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan officially titled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Among other findings, the report identified a rising proportion of black children being raised in households headed by unmarried mothers.

The Education Next cover is a take on the painting “American Gothic,” but with a young black family (with the fading father), and the title “Today’s American Family?”

Melinda D. Anderson, a Washington freelance writer on education and race and a self-described “rabble rouser,” tweeted several responses to the cover on Tuesday, calling it “racist” and “dishonest.”

“Using a Black father in shadow to represent ‘Today’s American Family’ is a lie,” Anderson said on her Twitter page. And she addressed a tweet to Michael Petrilli, one of five executive editors of Education Next: “Your cover is perpetrating blatant ugly fraud about Black fathers/families. Fix it. Only response I care to hear. Thanks.”

Another Twitter correspondent, SW, called the cover image “lazy.” “Black faces are never the image for an ‘American Family’ unless attached to a negative stereotype,” SW tweeted.

Petrilli, whose main gig is as the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington think tank that supports charters, choice, and the Common Core State Standards, had asked at some point on his Twitter page: “WEIGH IN: Is this cover image provocative? Or inappropriate?”

Petrilli (apparently) later engaged in a battle of tweets with Anderson. She tweeted: “With high divorce rates, @MichaelPetrilli should edit cover w/white dad in shadow. Black dads *more* involved than whites by comparison.”

Petrilli, who has an article in the issue about how schools can address “America’s marriage crisis,” responded: ".@mdawriter I agree that the couple should have been white. But say more about black unmarried but involved fathers. Have evidence on that?”

The Twitter debate didn’t get much into the content of the hefty Education Next anniversary package on the Moynihan Report. There is a background article on the report and its backlash by James T. Patterson, a professor emeritus of history at Brown University, as well as a piece that asks, “Was Moynihan Right?,” is by Sara McLanahan, a sociology professor at Princeton, and Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. (The short answer: It’s complicated.)

Education Next is published out of the Kennedy School, and the editor-in-chief is Paul E. Peterson, a Kennedy School government professor whose research has been supportive of private school choice.

“At the time the [Moynihan Report] was released, it was roundly condemned for having constructed racial stereotypes and misidentified ‘pathologies’ that didn’t exist,” Peterson writes in the new issue. “Revisiting this topic in 2015, the many contributors to this issue of Education Next, writing from a broad range of perspectives, reveal that single parenthood is no longer limited to one racial group but constitutes a problem, with serious consequences for children, that still needs to be addressed.”

In case the Education Next cover and its contents aren’t provocative enough, the journal is co-sponsoring a symposium on Thursday in Washington, along with the Fordham Institute and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, about “Single-Parent Families: Revisiting the Moynihan Report 50 Years Later.” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is the keynote speaker. And the two panel discussions are titled, “Causes and Consequences of Single-Parent Families,” and “Strengthening Families and Improving Educational Outcomes.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read