Skip to comments.Do we need stronger family values?
Posted on 08/12/2003 10:32:58 PM PDT by optimistically_conservative
Do we need stronger family values?
Marriage works. About 50 percent of the time.
President Bush wants mothers on welfare to marry, so much, that he is spending public dollars on a pro-marriage campaign. The purpose? To promote "family values." He believes marriage will solve the problem of fatherless children and broken homes.
But Bush fails to address the obvious pitfalls of such a proposal. Judy Raphael, director of The Project for Research on Welfare, Work and Domestic Abuse, is understandably concerned. Three to six percent of women nationwide are in abusive relationships. But 30 percent of women on welfare are in violent relationships. "Our concern is that we do not want to see a campaign that reinforces women to marry their abusers. This would make escape even more complex legally."
Bush also fails to recognize that single motherhood and divorce are not the special afflictions of poor and minority women. They are the result of changing values across all classes and colors. Second, the only fail-safe solution to fatherless children is birth control, not marriage.
Yet when a politician mentions "family values," we get all warm inside. The Cleaver family pops into our heads; Norman Rockwell images become our backdrop. No one argues against these silly notions. Who would argue against a nice, stable home life for children?
But this idealistic vision is a conservative mirage.
During colonial times mortality rates were high. One-third to one-half of all children lost at least one parent by the time they were 21. Colonial children worked the fields and lived adult realities. Victorian times were not much better. The families in Jane Austen novels were not the norm. The majority of families lived in cramped quarters, and child labor was legal. The 1950s family was so cookie-cutter conformist that it spawned the malcontents of the Sixties, both women and men alike, who abhorred the inflexible stereotypes. So the family we long for is an illusion, a figment of never-was. Why do conservatives insist we go back to a time that never existed?
I understand why conservatives proselytize. The family is a moving target. They need it to survive. Family values rest on the presumption of order and hierarchy -- on the stifling stereotypes of a wife caregiver and a husband breadwinner.
The reason we hear diatribes about how feminism erodes family values is that women have to know their place for the traditional family to work. Some women don't want to stay at home. "Family values" may make us all feel all warm and fuzzy, but it is just another way of saying "traditional values," which is just another way of saying "women stay home."
Many of us don't believe that the traditional family is the only way to raise a healthy child. I'm sorry to disappoint President Bush, but a growing number of women don't want to stay home. A growing number of men don't want to have families. A growing number of us will challenge the heterosexual standard for legal marriage. A growing number of us will "just say no." And no amount of law is going to change that.
Yes, we do need stronger family values. Values like respect, integrity, responsibility, acceptance. But these things don't -- can't -- come from government. Governments make rules; people make choices.
Is this a trick question?
Kids from broken families are twice as likely to be abused, end up in jail, be poor, sick, on drugs, and have poor reading and math skills -- even after controlling for variables like poverty. By contrast, children who live with married parents are more likely to do well in school, have good self-esteem, seek healthy friendships, and avoid self-destructive behavior like drugs and crime.
The traditional family is by far the best model for a healthy society. Yes, I know there are exceptions, and yes, I know half of all marriages fail. But we don't stop driving cars because they break down -- we fix them. Even better, we try to stop them from breaking down to begin with.
Hence, President Bush's marriage initiative -- the one Diane derides.
I contacted Wade Horn, the assistant secretary of health and human services who runs the president's marriage initiative, by email on Thursday.
"The government spends a huge amount of money to pick up the pieces after a marriage has failed, or when a child is born out of wedlock, or in dealing with all the problems that come from broken families," wrote Horn, who was traveling in Britain at the time. "It makes more sense to spend a little money to try to prevent those things from happening in the first place."
He also believes my liberal counterpart is "selling the minority community short. Survey after survey shows that marriage is a widely held value in the minority community . . . All the president's Healthy Marriage Initiative aims to do is help these couples achieve what they already say they want for themselves," Horn said.
Diane thinks the conservative notion of family values never existed, that it is a "mirage." Actually, it's not. For hundreds of years, until 1960, fewer than 9 percent of children lived in a single-parent household. Today, that number is 27 percent. Until 1960, 82 percent of kids lived with their biological father. Today, 66 percent. See above for ramifications.
And "family values" does not mean "women stay home." Rowland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, points out that it's not about one spouse staying home, it's about what kind of home the child lives in.
" 'Family values' focuses on the well-being of kids, and which family structure best ensures that kids aren't cold or hungry, and are loved and nurtured. Kids raised by two parents, by one parent or by the state? The best answer is the two-parent family."
In fact, until the Industrial Revolution, the concept of the stay-at-home mom didn't exist. Both parents were at home, both worked the fields, and both shared responsibility for child-rearing. That type of family is a rarity today, but it doesn't diminish the ideal that both parents must be active participants in their child's life.
Deborah Perry Piscione, senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum, puts it this way: "The new reality is that families come in jumbled forms. 'Family values' doesn't mean Mom stays home. But we do have to get the 21st-century reality that our kids need parental guidance more than ever. We need to wake up and stop pretending that these issues are not going on."
Yet, liberals advocate welfare and support for irresponsible choices. President Bush hasn't chosen to insert himself here. The government's already involved. He's trying to make a bad situation better.
Family Values = a child needs both a mother and father to impart values upon them to stand the best chance of become a whole healthy person. It doesn't specify what that mother/father dynamic looks like.
(An aside - two women cannot make a mother/father relationship, no matter if one of them resembles a man. If you've never been a man you cannot teach another how to be one. It's the same in the other direction - a man who would be a better woman cannot teach a daughter to be a woman. (Being a man isn't balls-deep, a woman is not just her womb.)
A mother and a father, that is all. I'm of the latest generation and have watched friends of single parentage grow up. They are unendingly confused. Men and women have different perspectives and a child needs both. I don't know if it's in body chemistry or creationism or why. It would be terrific if any two people could raise a child, independant of their sexual leanings. We would have many more functional adults. It doesn't turn out that way.
This foray into encouraging lower-class people marrying strikes as a failed mission. The lower class has DVD players and radar dishes on their roofs, but they are morally lower than any other generation. Nobody raised them, not their mothers or her family. They've taken their guidance from whatever they could and I shudder to think where they got it. The least of their interests is the tenets of marriage and the raising of their children. Everyone there is miserable while they look their best like they're living it up.
Bush means to raise the monitary value to marriage. He hasn't got a good look at the ghettoes. There are not absolutes for people - they'll thwart your best attempts. This problem might be like the Iraq conflict - it'll outlast his term, but he can make the first step and pass it on to his successor.
The government doesn't need to spend more money on a problem it created. Just start dropping the welfare and all the give away programs that encourage mothers to have families without fathers. Change child custody laws so that women ---- no matter how adulterous or bad they were automatically get custody. Custody of the children should go to the most stable working parent but with generous visitation given to the other.
A good FReeper friend (thanks, Mike) sent me this link today. He had no idea that I have read and loved this mans [John Gould] essays for decades, but he knows me well enough to have believed that I would be interested in John's recent death and self-written eulogy (thank you for the compliment, Mike :). I hope a few of you will take the time to read his exegesis/obituary. The fact that this man is no longer living has received little or no notice in the media, but I believe that he is one of those old-fashioned-valued Americans whose shoes will be very hard to fill.
Some excerpts from his autobiographical obituary, and comments:
As a railway postal clerk, Frank [Johns Dad] worked six and eight: in six days on the train he worked the equivalent of two weeks' time. Accordingly he had eight days for rest, study, and relaxation after each tour. This may sound like a bed of roses, but John recalled how his father staggered home to sleep for two days and then sat up for two more days memorizing postal routes and addresses.
.... he [Johns Dad] had his miniature Sabine farm with fruit trees, bees, cow, pig, and a flock of Dominique hens. Son John was custodian and nursemaid to all this when his father worked .... Young John milked and fed the livestock before and after school. He recited his conjugations aloud so he had a cow that knew as much Latin as he did. John also had the company of his Dad on the eight days he was home. He was grateful for the hours they had doing things together, from trout hunting to hiving bees, setting hens, hunting bunnies, and a million other important matters that working daddies don't always have time for .... John's father didn't finish school, so he insisted his son should, and nothing ever interfered with homework. If John didn't get his chores done in time to study, don't let that happen again!
How many of todays fathers would put in such grueling hours for six days (working virtually around the clock), then sleep for two of his off days, spend his next two off days educating himself on information that would help him do his job better and more efficiently, and then occupy a good deal of the remaining four days spending what we modern Americans like to call quality time with his son (fishing, hiving bees, setting hens, hunting bunnies, and a million other important matters that working daddies don't always have time for)?
The answer as I see it: fewer every day.
And how often do we witness such an example of strict discipline -- and the implanting of an honorable work ethic -- successfully combined with wonderful one-on-one time spent doing character-building (and yet enjoyable) things (experiences that that child would look back upon with images colored by the words grateful for the hours they had doing things together) with a child in todays father-child relationships?
The answer as I see it: not nearly often enough.
How many of todays very young modern American children would possess the creativity, and the dry sense of humor, to pen the following abbreviation-strewn limerick (Note: John was from Maine thus the abbreviation Me):
There was a young fellow from Me.
Who went out with a beautiful Je.
But he found with dismay
Later on in the day,
That she'd lifted his watch and his che.
The answer as I see it: very few of them.
To my mind, we can attribute this small childs creativity, work ethic, and humor, at least in part, to the discipline, ethics, and nurturing parental attention and example (modern Americas waning parent/child quality time) mentioned above.
It wasn't until 1946 that they could build a house on the Gould family farm at Lisbon, which John had bought at the estate auction after his grandfather's death in 1929. The farmhouse built by his great-grandfather in the late 1700s had burned, but with money from his books John replaced it.
How many of todays modern American young married adults would be imbued with sufficient respect-rooted nostalgia to be move to purchase their grandfathers farm, and use the income from their books to replicate the farmhouse that they knew so well as a child, so that their own children could know the privilege of growing up in a similar lovingly nurturing, mind-and-creativity-expanding atmosphere?
The answer as I see it: Few of us anymore comprehend the soul/spirit-nourishing value of such a keen sense of roots, and such strong family ties and familial memories.
John Gould held two political offices. In the 1930s he was a Brunswick fence viewer, and for more than 30 years he was moderator of Lisbon Town Meetings. Besides his journalistic affiliations, he was a Granger and an honorary member of United Lodge No. 8, Free and Accepted Masons, of Brunswick. For many years he was a registered Maine guide. He was also a justice of the peace. He held a commission as admiral in the Navy of the Great State of Nebraska, and was a fellow of the Guild of Former Pipe Organ Pumpers, having pumped in the First Parish Congregational Church at Freeport. In 2001, John was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.
Not the activities of a man seeking fame for fames sake, or a lifestyle threaded with materialism and glamor. Instead, a simple man who enjoyed the company of honest, simple folk -- and who enjoyed serving in the (genuine, as opposed to more common lip-service) role of public servant.
Anyone who has read Johns essays in the Christian Science Monitor (for whom he wrote them every week for sixty-one years) will always remember with a smile their dry, witty, intelligent, insightful, genuinely homespun American humility as well as the incomparable knack he had for turning what, to someone else, would appear to be a fairly mundane occurrence into a fascinating homespun tale. I especially remember the essay entitled The Missing Fork in which he beautifully lamented the loss of a one-of-a-kind, three-tined, wooden-handled fork that had been in his family for generations. His essay ended with:
Maybe, she [Johns wife] said. Maybe if you write a piece about it somebody will know [where to find another one like it]. She seldom, if ever, thus presumes on my extracurricular literary pursuits, and this shows how serious it is. If it works, I may get some scrambled eggs again without lumps.
I'd say, offhand, the monetary value shouldn't exceed a dollar at the utmost, even with today's expanded ideas. But when a family's entire happiness and future security is at stake, price is no object.
[Note: John and his wife later received scores of letters from around the world containing dozens of forks. The missing one was discovered much later, stuck in a sink trap.]
The unique humor and rare and humble insight that laced John Goulds writing was a large part of what made him an historically great man (I like to call him Americas literary Normal Rockwell). I believe those personal qualities took root, and thrived, in an atmosphere of old fashioned American family values that is fast nearing extinction. And, for that sad reason, men of John Goulds kind are no longer easily replaced (except by modern plastic, imposter substitutes).
After reading what this man had accomplished with his long life, the first thing that struck me was how very fortunate he was to have lived such a full, rich, and meaningful life.
But I can also honestly say -- inspired by your statement above, joanie -- that men of John Gould's kind are no longer & can no longer be produced, a'tall.
A sick society's not capable of producing anything meaningful, never has and never will; &, in case you've not noticed?
This society's never been any sicker than it is, right now.
Seems some time ago this society appears to have opted for living life according to the law of the jungle.
So what we are producing -- in ample supply -- are opportunists, liars & thieves who've assumed the role of a jungle's predators.
We're not even close today to living our lives as the humanitarian Gould, had.
...not by a country mile.
Men and women of John Goulds generation, his fathers and grandfathers were made of much stronger fiber that I could ever hope to match.
I happened to be digging a small trench out in our back yard yesterday the footing for my concrete-block raised crocus-bed. Only 12 deep, the same wide, and maybe 30 in perimeter, it took me half a day to dig.
I was profusely sweating and getting eaten up by the chiggers and no-see-ums as I dug. I couldnt make but a couple of feet of progress without having to stop and chop and saw through a network of tree roots. After about an hour of this, I began to shake my head and wonder how did they do it?
How were our ancestors physically and mentally able to come into a virgin forest and clear enough acreage to actually grow crops?
When I was in my twenties and going through my back to the land phase, I had a similar experience. My wife and I had just bought a couple of acres (already cleared!) where we planned to build a house the following year. In the meantime, I decided to plant a crop of oats there, which I did. When rain was forecast for the next day, I went out there and hand-broadcast 200# of California Red, just like I was Johnny Appleseed. I had a neighbor disc it in.
In the fall when harvest time came, I convinced myself that I could harvest those two acres of oats with a scythe. If my ancestors could do it, so could I. How hard could it be? So I stoned the scythe blade to a razors edge and started out.
The first day, I finished a swath about 20 wide and 200 long roughly a tenth of an acre. The palms of my hands were blistered and bleeding, and I couldnt stand up straight any more. I went to bed without supper. But I went back out there the next morning.
That second morning, an old-timer stopped by out of curiosity to see just who it was that was so stupid to do what I was doing. I asked him if he had ever harvested oats this way, and he said Yes, a long time ago. I asked him how many acres he could cut in one day when he was young, and he replied about two.
How did they do it?
After Mr. Duval had gone, I went inside and called a local farmer to come finish the job with his tractor, and later had him bale it, too. I knew then that I wasnt made of the same stuff as a real farmer.
I guess they did it because they had to do it, or see their families starve. They cleared land, built homes, had children, hoed corn, raised animals, built furniture all that because they had to.
What we call Family Values were necessary just to survive back then. Writers like Gould help us to recall.
You know that you are capable, but you underestimate yourselves.
When George Washington was asked about the secret of his success, and he said, "the straight line," he did not say that you would be successful, nor did he say that you would not by other means.
He said, in his view, which was his from when he was a boy and through all his life, that the worthy path to keep an eye on, and yourself to endeavor to get back to if fallen from, is the straight line.
The greatest difference in our lives, between his time and now, can be summed up in the word, expectations.
The expectations, then, were very different from now, in that, the field of vision was then great, but is now, narrow.
Then, you had the benefit of knowing that there was much that you did not know, and you had to get this knowledge.
Now, it's on the menu.
The essential foundations of education, are in the processes of learning, the getting to the knowing, as much as being there. This is why we time and again rest and review both math and history, many passes over the same material are required, and our writing is something we should learn as a craft, draft, again, draft, again, Pound that shoe, DING!, Pound that shoe, DING!, Heat! that shoe, POPS CRACKS SPARKS!, Pound that shoe, DING!, Pound that shoe, DING!
In all three cases, "reading, writing, 'n 'rithmetic," our "experts with expertise" in education, now ridicule these fundamentals in lieu of "goals ___ < fill in the year > " that are ticked off their job satisfaction charts. (The checkmark says that the topic has been covered. All the boxes that must be checked, in order to be paid, are filled, and thus "education" has happened; wordity is every the accepted empircal evidence. Sign another N.E.A. contract, right here < place your mark if you knows how to write > .)
Whether or not the students have made their progress.
I could go on, but it's all in my book, Electricity Comes from Walls (c)1995; the chapter about how we don't need a war to change things, we only need to turn off the electricity.
To give people time to think.
Giving people time to think????
UGH...what a MESS that would be... little heads imploding!
The greatest difference in our lives, between his time and now, can be summed up in the word, expectations.Let's just say that the expectations Washington faced were a wee higher than those set upon his stable boy. What, there were no scoundrels, no drunks around Washington? His times were full of them. The difference, I suppose, is in "expectations," if you must, but I'd rather put it at "too much information."
Looking back, we're blessed by the filters of history -- no need for unwanted details. For example, I know quite a few idiots and theives up in Maine. I just don't let them define it for me.
On top of the credenza, there is a bust of Israeli General Moshe Dayan.
This bust was made by my friend, when only 15 years old. It is an exact likeness of the General.
My friend looked at some pictures of the general, and then produced an exact likeness.
It is a magnificent work of art.
Any kid could do it; and all kids do.
What my friend could see, all kids do, but their talents are not necessarily in the fields of what we call art.
You kids see life, and many times, you have fashioned a work from your experience. Often, of late, these last few years, you have done this here, on this forum.
Because you see something that you know is missing from the paths of other people, and so you try to get the word out, about it, because you also know of its importance in helping other people to "put a bend on" toward what is true.
I say that you underestimate youselves, because your value here, especially to me, is that you are unreplaceable.
On occasion we hear somebody say, "That's what it's all about."
I say that it's about the story.
The story of mankind is so great, nobody can tell the whole of it, chapter and verse.
Except by verse, by work, by faith, by love, and by creation, by God.
We craft what represents the soul of it.
That is what you see, on the cave walls, not language, but the heart of it.
The greatest stories ever told.
In the end, that is all there is of us, here on earth, the writing is on the wall, written in stone.
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