Broaden Scope of Marriage Curriculum, Study Says

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Schools should expand their vision of marriage and marriage education, a report from the Institute for American Values recommends.

The report, "Hungry Hearts: Evaluating the New Curricula for Teens on Marriage and Relationships," evaluates the 10 leading marriage- and relationship-skills curricula in use in middle, junior high, and senior high schools nationwide. While the researchers found some "impressive and potentially important" programs, they say too many were "one-dimensional and intellectually thin."

For More Information

The report, "Hungry Hearts: Evaluating the New Curricula for Teens on Marriage and Relationships," is available for $7 from the Institute for American Values, 1841 Broadway, Suite 211, New York, NY 10023; (212) 246-3942

Many of the curricula don't offer a comprehensive view of marriage, according to Dana Mack, the director of the childhood and adolescence project at the institute and the principal investigator for the study. The New York City-based institute is a private, nonpartisan organization that promotes family well-being and civil society. The programs are strong on communications skills, Ms. Mack said, but "marriage is more than a relationship; it is a vital cultural institution."

"Input from other disciplines such as literature, art, history, anthropology, and philosophy can contribute to students' understanding of marriage," she added.

Study on the Rise

High school students have studied subjects related to marriage, such as home economics, health, and sex education, for generations, the report released last month notes. But the emergence of school-based marriage education is a relatively new phenomenon, it says.

School-based marriage education courses, it explains, are designed to examine marriage both as an intimate relationship and a social institution, with the goal of increasing the likelihood of successful and enduring marriages.

Based on interviews with marriage educators, school officials, and curriculum publishers, Ms. Mack estimates that about 2,000 public schools in all 50 states offer formal instruction on marriage and relationship skills, and the number is growing.

The rise in marriage education is part of a trend to teach students better interpersonal skills, Ms. Mack says. It is also part of the so-called "marriage movement," started by an informal coalition of educators, legislators, scholars, community leaders, clergy, and marriage counselors in an effort to strengthen the institution.

Educators should create courses that incorporate skills as well as comprehension of the larger meanings and dimensions of marriage, such as its benefits to individuals and society, the report urges. Scholars and foundations should design and conduct independent evaluations of such programs, it further suggests.

Vol. 20, Issue 5, Page 5

Published in Print: October 4, 2000, as Broaden Scope of Marriage Curriculum, Study Says
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