A California-based activist group, Kids Against Divorce, proposed a ballot initiative that would require couples in Colorado to take pre-marriage education classes. The Colorado Marriage Education Act would be government funded and include tax cuts for those couples that voluntarily continue taking the education class each year. This act would require potential spouses to complete 10 hours of pre-marriage education, 20 hours for those about to embark on their second marriage, and 30 hours for those third-timers.
The proposal claims this act would, “reduce the billions of dollars taxpayers spend annually on divorce.” The government has already shoveled billions of tax dollars into pre-emptive programs, such as D.A.R.E. and abstinence-only sexual education programs — both of which have been proven ineffective through comprehensive research. We all either were or remember the timid middle-schoolers who vowed they would never drink alcohol or engage in sexual activity. And, well, we all know how things change.
Same goes for the smitten 20-something-year-olds who are still in the midst of their honeymoon phase. A class like this would most likely teach the standard for how a marriage “should be.” This sort of standardization would ignore the uniqueness that exists in each relationship. Every marriage is different, and no syllabus or PowerPoint presentation can fully prepare anyone for the realities of such commitment.
In a 25-year-long study by Judith Wallerstein in 2000, several landmark case studies suggested most adults who were children of a divorce experience extreme psychological effects such as depression and relationship issues themselves.
The strength of a marriage can be measured based on how well a couple communicates and compromises with each other in extreme situations. Sometimes couples can get through hard times and other times they simply don’t.
According to a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.8 in every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in the United States. There are more pressing issues in society to ask taxpayers to fund such as infrastructure and law enforcement than trying to save a marriage before it goes sour. When a married couple is in the throws of a heated argument, it is hard to imagine them sitting down and referencing the “five steps to solving an argument” that they learned in their pre-marriage class.
Kids Against Divorce is centered on supporting children whose parents are divorced. Founders of the organization, Davil Schel and Sharon Tekolian, said this act will, “better prepare individuals going into marriage to fulfill their new roles as spouse and potentially as a parent, to furthermore protect children given that marriage is the foundation of a family unit.” This group needs to gather more than 86,000 signatures by Aug. 4 to put the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. Before the next election, the organization reports they plan to propose similar bills in states across the country.
If proponents of this act from Kids Against Divorce want to protect impressionable youth from growing up in unstable homes, they should be raising money to fund sexual education courses that teach safe sex instead of no sex as opposed to asking Americans to pay for another social program.
The subject matter of this pre-marriage class could be extremely generic and stereotypical, and thus corrupted in several ways. The way people respond to or teach this class is dependent on personal values, which could touch on sensitive subjects such as homophobia or sexism.
All couples should have the option for this pre-marriage class, but mandating it is an unnecessary effort. The state could simply spend the money on spreading awareness about existing marriage counseling programs. Or the money garnered from this program should be put towards subsidizing counseling for those 28 percent of divorced couples who the CDC reports live below the poverty line.
In regards to this proposal, Tekolian said since education is the key to success in every aspect of live, “this [program] will have a positive impact on marriage.” But haven’t we all taken those classes that we thought we aced but ended up failing – and vice-versa?