- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Around 2,000 public and private schools are teaching marriage-education classes to teens, researcher Dana Mack says in a study released this month.

"The growing popularity of these courses … constitutes a noteworthy current trend in American education," she says in her report, "Hungry Hearts: Evaluating the New Curricula for Teens on Marriage and Relationships," issued by the Institute for American Values.

However, some of these classes focus more on communication skills or how to plan a wedding than ways to achieve a lasting, stable marriage, cautions Mrs. Mack, author of the 1997 book, "The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family."

Passing on a "marriage culture" to the next generation will take more than teaching youth "how to hone their interpersonal skills," she writes.

In her report, Mrs. Mack evaluates 10 of the most popular school-based marriage and relationship-skills curricula. She grades them in five areas, including their views on marriage, depth of knowledge about marriage and appeal to teens.

Of the 10 curricula, the following three scored the highest:

• "Connections: Relationships and Marriage," written by Charlene Kamper, which focuses on relationship skills and uses a video on the value of enduring marriage.

• "RQ: Relationship Intelligence," developed by Richard Panzer, which offers a "direct argument, grounded in social science evidence, that marriage matters" for adults, children and society.

• "The Art of Loving Well," developed by Boston University academics, which uses literature to teach about love and marriage.

Mrs. Mack notes that there are objections to marriage education in schools. Some argue that it displaces academics, while others say marriage should be taught in a religious, not a secular, setting.

However, Mrs. Mack predicts that the nation's enormous problems with divorce will increasingly lead communities to embrace school-based marriage education.

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