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Jewish World Review July 12, 1999 /28 Tamuz 5759

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Replacing standards with 'sensitivity' --
AT TAYLOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Arlington, Va., the fifth-grade graduation class was cleansed of that pesky parentage issue. This Virginia elementary school's graduation invitations stated, "For fifth-grade students and their two favorite adults."

Huh? What happened to the words "parent" or "family member"? What if a kid's favorite adults are the nanny, the dog-sitter, or the guy who delivers the groceries and stays long enough to shoot some baskets?

Obviously this is another example of the ongoing trend to rename things in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. But what about the feelings of the people unnamed by the renaming: the, uh, actual parents? After all, these are the folks who love, maintain, nurture, teach, guide and take care of their children. Far be it from a public school to proactively support that effort.

While this "sensitivity" masquerades as compassion for feelings, it's really about diminishing the traditional societal recognition and support for intact families and married parents, so as to increase the approval for people "doing their own thing" without notice or judgment.

With the renaming of the parents and family as "favorite adults," we can "bless" Mom's or Dad's current shack-up, Mommy's girlfriend or Daddy's boyfriend. With this latest advance of politically correct jargon, we can also account for bio-parents who shed some sperm and split, leaving the unsuspecting child with a determined single mother who didn't have time to make an actual two-parent marital nest. Also protected are those parents so absorbed in their careers that they are away at some very important meetings and can't manage to make graduation. (For those, perhaps the school can set up a remote viewing situation where the parent can feel "involved" from a distance.) Don't ask how any of this benefits the kids. Their feelings have been discounted by pop psychology, which tells us kids are immune to just about every disrupting, negligent, self-centered thing parents (or their "favorite adults") might do.

At least one local parent objected and wrote a letter to the editor of the Northern Virginia Sun Weekly (June 10): "Wouldn't it seem odd and silly to state on a graduation invitation that no teachers, principals or school staff attend graduation, only 'favorite adults'?"

In years past, father-daughter dances were labeled such, in spite of the fact that sometimes, usually because of death or, rarely, divorce, young ladies were accompanied by some other male relative or "favorite adult." Those were the days when people worked toward a shared ideal of a two-parent, intact family as in the best interests of children. Now that ideal is shunted aside for the expedience of self-gratification or immediate happiness with a new partner (forget spouse). Those were also the days that standards were not altered to accommodate the emotional needs of the few. Today there are no standards. They have been replaced by the ideal of political correctness. There isn't right or wrong, just personal choice, and all choices are equally valid.

Well, the choices are not all equivalent to children. Ask them what they'd prefer. I talk to many, many of them on my radio program who have been emotionally shattered by the instability of their homes.

This problem is beginning to get way too out of hand. USA Today reported in June that the U.S. Census Bureau will no longer ask about marital status on its short form, but will continue to ask the question on the long form -- who knows for how long. The National Center for Health Statistics is also getting out of the business of collecting in-depth, yearly stats on marriage and divorce.

What this trend toward "don't ask" ultimately means is that it will become more difficult for sociological researchers studying changing "family" systems to demonstrate the ultimate impact of those changes on children and society. It is hard not to see this as part of a green-light agenda for adults to do whatever they want without fear of judgment or criticism. This also permits the normalizing of deviancy as harmless diversity by eliminating potentially condemning comparative data. It is also a way of making a statement of federal policy that marriage and family really don't matter to government, that the fundamental stabilizing unit of a free society is NOT the family.

Mike McManus, a syndicated columnist, pointed out, "There are federal employees counting the number of California red-legged frogs and coffin cave mold beetles, two endangered species. But no one counts divorces."

As a society, we seem to not want to know what we don't want to get in our way. This is a sad distortion of the notion of freedom. Today's society defines freedom as the ability to do whatever one imagines or desires. A better definition is the liberty to choose good and right.


07/02/99: Miss Universe, a 'skank'?
06/28/99: Selectivity shouldn't apply to Creator's gift of life
06/21/99: Pornography course contributes nothing to moral sensibility
06/14/99: Stop blaming 'society' for parents' laziness
06/07/99: 'It's Elementary' doesn't teach tolerance
06/01/99: Terrorism begins at home
05/24/99: His, mine, ours -- and priorities
05/17/99: Polluted waters of society are killing our fish fry
05/10/99:Good teachers offer more than 3 R's
05/03/99: Cybersex survey a travesty of science
04/19/99: Legal abortion not the salvation that feminists claim
04/12/99: Moral parents struggle against upside-down value system
03/31/99: Children need attention before they cry out for it
03/29/99: Family values fall victim to advertising whims
03/19/99: Snooping can be healthy if it saves a child in trouble
03/05/99: Traditional religions offer optimism to adherents
03/05/99: Tearing down foundations, brick by brick
02/26/99: With power comes obligation to lead by example
02/19/99: National Prayer Breakfast inspires public servants
02/12/99: Overcoming selfishness leads us closer to human potential
02/09/99: Youth's difficult lessons make us better adults
02/02/99: Rituals, icons remind us of our obligation to G-d
01/22/99: 'Consenting adults' don't always examine consequences
01/18/99: Day care no substitute for love of mom and dad
01/08/99: Don't use others' misfortunes to build your self-image
12/31/98: Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense
12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1999, Universal Press Syndicate