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2004 E. James Holland University Symposium on American Values

"Marriage and Family in an Age of Shifting Values"

Marriage, Bernard Shaw once quipped, "is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity." Such kidding aside, Americans are obviously serious about marriage. Once the cornerstone of the American Dream, marriage is now on the front lines of America 's culture wars. While some Americans want to circle the wagons around a "traditional" view of marriage and family, others consider that view to be as antiquated as the proverbial horse and carriage.

The 2004 E. James Holland University Symposium, "Marriage and Family in an Age of Shifting Values," will explore the state of union in the United States, and the combination of distinguished Symposium speakers is itself a sort of "match made in Heaven." Dr. David Popenoe, a former social and behavioral sciences dean, co-directs the National Marriage Project and was primary author of the Council on Families 1995 report, Marriage in American: A Report to the Nation. Dr. Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies, is author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap.

Clearly, recent trends in marriage have stirred great interest among sociologists and much concern among ordinary Americans. Just one-fourth of U.S. households now are made up of married couples with children, down from almost half a generation ago. One recent report calls this "The Age of Unwed Mothers." Once associated with teens, out-of-wedlock births have dramatically increased among older women, who are choosing motherhood but opting out of marriage. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, some 43 percent of first-time marriages will dissolve within 15 years. In addition, the issue of same-sex marriage has stirred court cases and controversy, dividing religious denominations, church congregations, and American society in general.

Are changes in the institution of marriage good or bad? Do the shifting attitudes about marriage reveal a society progressing or destroying itself? Are the various controversies over marriage and family further signs of the polarization of American society? We may not agree on the answers to these questions, but we do seem to agree that the status of marriage and family has major implications for American society.

We also agree that marriage is important; even while many Americans are delaying or avoiding wedlock, 9 out of 10 still rank matrimony as a highly desirable goal. Itself a core American value, marriage reflects, according to social scientists, the shifting values of American society.

Distinguished Speakers

Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, is the national co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and the author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap; The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's Changing Families; and The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families.

Coontz has testified about her research before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families in Washington, D.C., and addressed audiences all over America and Europe. She has appeared on Oprah Winfrey, Crossfire, CNN's Talk Back Live, CBS This Morning, Leeza, and Nighttalk with Jane Whitney, as well as in several prime time television documentaries.

A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Coontz has also taught at Kobe University in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, she also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Family History and Frontiers, and is a Faculty Scholar for the National Faculty. In 1995 she received the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics for her "outstanding contributions to the field of child development." Coontz is currently working on a book on the history of marriage.

David Popenoe is Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he is also Co-Director of the National Marriage Project and former social and behavioral sciences dean. Popenoe specializes in the study of family and community life in modern societies, and is the author or editor of nine books. His most recent books are: Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society and Promises to Keep: Decline and Renewal of Marriage in America.

As a founder and co-chair of the Council on Families in America, a national nonpartisan group of scholars and family experts, he was primary author of the Council's 1995 report, Marriage in America: A Report to the Nation. He is a member of the professional advisory boards of the National Fatherhood Initiative and the National Parenting Association. He has previously been the Chairman of the Board of the American Institute of Family Relations, the nation's first family counseling and research organization, founded by his father in 1930.

Professor Popenoe has twice been awarded a Senior Fulbright Research Scholarship for research abroad and has been a Visiting Fulbright Lecturer in Greece, Israel and Spain. He holds the Masters and Doctor Philosophy degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

E. James Holland and The History of The Symposium

By special action of the Board of Regents of the Texas University System in 2003, the ASU Symposium was renamed the E. James Holland University Symposium on American Values in honor of the retired Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, who established the annual event in 1984.

During his 36 years at ASU, Holland served the university as Professor of Government and Head of the Government Department, Director of Curriculum Development, Associate VP for Academic Affairs, and Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. With degrees from Southwestern University, Yale Divinity School, and The American University in Washington, D.C., Holland was instrumental in developing the university's international student and faculty exchange program and in establishing new degree programs in international studies, communications, studio arts, and criminal justice.

Holland is an active member of the San Angelo community, serving as president of Adult Day Care, Concho Educators Federal Credit Union, and United Campus Ministries and as a member of the Ancillary Manpower Planning Board of the Concho Valley Council of Government. He is active in St. Luke's United Methodist Church, where he chaired the Administrative Board of the Finance Committee.

Since its inception, the Symposium has brought more than 50 nationally prominent scholars, academicians, and policy-makers to the ASU campus to provoke thought and discussion on a wide range of themes. A collaboration of students, faculty members, and administrators, the Symposium is dedicated to improving the overall academic environment of the University and committed to exploring the national character as expressed in issues related to American values.

The two-day Symposium, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, is the central event in a broader program of related activities, including class visits by the featured presenters, a video production of the Symposium itself, and a creative contest with cash awards for students.

Presentation Schedule
November 1, 2004
1:45 p.m.
Dr. David Popenoe
Introduction: Dr. Paul Lov
C. J. Davidson Conference Center [UC]

November 2, 2004
9:45 a.m.
Dr. Stephanie Coontz
Introduction: Dr. Sangeeta Singg
C. J. Davidson Conference Center [UC]

Panel Discussion
November 2, 2004
7:30 p.m.
Dr. Shirley Eoff, Moderator [ASU History]
Panelists: Dr. David Poepnoe, Dr. Stephanie Coontz,
Dr. Kenneth Stewart [ASU, Psychology/Sociology]
C. J. Davidson Conference Center [UC]

All sessions are free.