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Jewish World Review July 20, 2000/ 17 Tamuz, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Lack of judgment ---
our critical flaw --
"WHO are we to judge?''

The question leaps off the page each time I see it, and I seem to see it everywhere these days. My most recent sighting was on the editorial pages of a boarding-school newspaper in a commentary praising the decision of several prep schools to permit gay and lesbian couples to serve as dorm parents.

Andover hopes to have one or two homosexual couples ensconced in the coming school year. Exeter is moving toward the same, as are others.

Historically, most boarding schools haven't allowed unmarried couples to serve as dorm parents because, at least in the past, schools wanted to provide positive role models for students. The fact that unmarrieds were denied cohabitation privileges in dorms necessarily precluded homosexual couples sharing campus quarters.

Unmarried is unmarried. Of course, the move to permit gays to serve in loco parentis surely eliminates any rule against unmarried heterosexuals cohabiting among teens trying to figure out how to live their lives. But, hey, who are we to judge?

The question of whether unmarrieds and homosexuals should act as surrogate parents and role models is surely a subject deserving of more serious treatment than this space allows. Surely, too, few mainstream Americans care about the travails of the privileged few who attend private boarding schools, though they should.

Many of the children educated today at Andover, Exeter et al someday will direct legislative and judicial actions that will determine lifestyle in Dayton.

In the meantime, the more bothersome issue is our attitude toward such questions and the ubiquitous chorus: Who are we to judge? Apparently, ``we'' are no one, and no one is to judge anyone ever under any circumstances. Even parents shouldn't be judgmental, apparently.

The same day I read about gay dorm parents, I happened across an Ann Landers column in which a mother complained that her 14-year-old son's girlfriend had presented him a gift - a collage of naked women in various poses - which he promptly hung on his bedroom wall.

Mom didn't like the ``art,'' thought it inappropriate and wondered, basically, what her rights were. Could she object, she asked Ann?

Dear Ann, who must have determined that God is a nihilist, told the mother to calm down. The boy has the right to put anything he likes on his walls, she said. Who, we might infer, are we to judge?

I've never pretended to host a democracy at my house. Ours is a benevolent dictatorship - on my good days. In short, I rule, with consenting nods from Dad's end of the table.

In any case, posters of naked women do not adorn walls in our home, nor would it ever occur to my 15-year-old son to put one up. Why? Because he knows Queen Mother would remove it without even her usual diplomatic courtesy. Furthermore, he's been taught that we don't do that in our family. He can hide his dirty pictures inside the covers of Ulysses as all the other nice children do.

Who are we to judge? We are the parents, adults and moral standard bearers of our homes, schools, cities and states, not to mention a pretty large chunk of what remains of Western civilization. It was once understood that certain moral absolutes exist independent of subjectivity.

If we don't know what those are any more, we'd better figure them out and soon. Someone has to judge, or there won't be anything left worth judging.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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