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Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2001 / 13 Kislev, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Reality trumps ideology -- SINCE the terrible attacks on America, it's clear that all sorts of politically correct notions are gone, or at least buried under far more important goals - like safeguarding America. In war, reality sets in and social reengineering and moral relativism become luxuries we can't - in fact no longer want - to afford.

This isn't a surprise. Reality has a way of focusing the mind and forcing out the drivel. This tendency has long been evident in another sphere - the family - where it seems the same folks who spout all kinds of socially conscious values for the world at large often don't want those values to inform the real world that's most important to them - the one that includes their children.

I'm not talking about politics. I'm sure good liberals everywhere were last fall telling their children why Al Gore should be elected president. These folks may be happy to see their kids marching to save the whales or slapping a "hate is not a family value" sticker on their backpacks.

But in contrast to their politics, the values and ideals these parents have for their kids tend to be breathtakingly traditional. So, for instance, no matter how "progressive" a person's view on teen sexual activity, rare is the parent who wants his own child to be a sexually active teen.

No matter how tolerant a person is of divorce or single-parenthood, it's probably safe to say that no parents, including single ones, want such a life for their own children. However "non-judgmental" they are about such things in their own lives, the lives of their friends or in the world at large, it's a good bet they desperately want, and will encourage, a monogamous, lifelong marriage for their own kids - and hope for their grandchildren to arrive to married parents.

Nor would even the most ardent, pro-gay rights parent send his own son away on an overnight campout with an openly gay scout leader.

When it comes to the household itself, feminist moms and dads may make noise about how mothers can and should continue to pursue high-powered careers. But if the mothers themselves don't choose to stay home with their young children full or part-time, and they often do, most will insist that they "have" to work - not that they want to. In these homes too the "gender-neutral" nonsense goes out the door as soon as children enter it. Studies consistently show that no matter how ideological a parent may be, she typically gives her little boy the trucks he wants and gives her little girl the dolls the child desires. (Or as I've heard more than one socially conscious parent admit, they just decide to stop fighting nature.)

Even when parents resist at some level the age-old notion that they know better than their kids, that they are there to guide and train them, these parents too want children who are disciplined and who obey Mom and Dad. They may not know how to fix the problem, but when they see in practice the "family egalitarianism" they may espouse in theory, they don't like it.

Perhaps it's in education that this trend is most obvious. I once had a prominent left-wing attorney, Birkenstock sandals and all, tell me how committed he was to the public school system. In fact, he proudly reiterated this stance to me some five times in a few-minute period. So, if he's so committed to it, does he live with his family in the inner city where they can experience the real thing? No. He explained without a hint of comprehending his hypocrisy that he had eschewed one suburb, which I know to be semi-wealthy, for another suburb, which I know to be very wealthy, "because of the public schools."

In fact I've often seen parents "committed" to public schools, including those lawmakers and public school teachers who oppose any choice in education initiatives, make sure their own children never set foot in such a place. Or if they do, it's of a caliber that exists primarily in the richest communities.

And except for the rare, ideological atheist, most parents want their children to adopt some kind of religious faith, even if they themselves don't share it.

This tendency is hardly universal, but something as huge and unsettling as war or as simple and all-important as how we care for our own children and families suggests that whatever their politics, most people intuitively know what works, and what doesn't, when it really matters to them - in the real world.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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