Jewish World Review

July 12, 1999 /28 Tamuz 5759

Replacing standards with 'sensitivity'

Dr. Laura
Jewish World Review

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.

©1999, Universal Press Syndicate