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Chapter Eleven: The Educating Society

Section 5: Marriage as an Educational Institution



Marriage is one of the most potent forces molding the adult life. Traditionally, marriage reinforced autocratic norms, not so much because one person was always in charge, but because each person tended to have final word within customarily defined areas. Thus, conflict resolutions were predetermined, and cooperative decision-making was not exercised.



Several factors have led to the erosion of marriage in recent years. No doubt the unsatisfying nature of autocracies in general contributed to this decline. Apparently marriage was too rigid an institution to shift smoothly according to new demands. Thus, the marriage institution had to be weakened to allow time for men and women to restructure the assumptions upon which their relation ships are based.



As the masculine and feminine roles become less rigidly defined and differentiated, conflicts will occur more frequently. As power is more evenly distributed across the sexes, autocratic modes of resolving conflict will falter. Easy divorce relieves the resulting tension.



However, a stable marriage is critical to the developing future. Obviously, for the child, the family is the first and primary social system; its forms and stability will have a great impact on the child's character and basic sense of trust. For the adults, marriage is, or can be, an intensive training ground for learning how to get along with another or others. Today, with liberalized divorce laws, it is easier to switch than fight -- thus, the chances of learning the skills of intimacy are greatly reduced.



 Eventually society must support an egalitarian marriage through institutional and social rewards and sanctions. Once "till death do us part" is again taken seriously, intimacy, communication, conflict resolution, and identity formation will all be promoted. A marriage of lasting commitment, "for better or for worse", is what it is all about; as the world becomes smaller, and its problems become more complex -- well, we are all in this together. One cannot seriously say "Stop the world, I want to get off" -- and if couples cannot survive, the larger groups are in deep trouble. In short, marriage is the primary educational institution for the development of commitment, cooperation, and conflict resolution, which are needed in the formation of our transcultural friendship. (This is not to say that such training cannot take place in the absence of or outside of marriage -- just that marriage is the most practical alternative structure for most people.)







Book Contents

Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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The Systems Stage

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The Educating Society

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