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June 14, 2006

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar Since feminism promised to usher in the New Age of Equality, today’s men hardly know how to be men, husbands and fathers. And today’s women hardly know how to appreciate and encourage their men. Harvey Mansfield’s fine new book, Manliness, attempts to deal with this gender confusion.

One of Mansfield’s wisest insights is a critique of social scientists. “(Social science) studies, seeking quantifiable precision, split up the sexes into discrete aspects or behaviors, such as spatial and verbal abilities or violent and non-violent tendencies, and then never reassemble the pieces into a whole.” (Page 37, Emphasis in original.) 

This problem is especially acute in our modern understanding of fatherhood. You might say that social science has figured out that fathers are important by process of elimination. Eliminate fathers, and kids’ lives deteriorate. Father absence is a disaster that places kids at risk for negative outcomes, ranging from dropping out of school to drug use to teen pregnancy to depression.

But when the social sciences ask themselves, “What exactly do fathers do?” the answers are a little thinner. Research shows that fathers do less “child care activities,” such as feeding and changing diapers.  But what do men do more of? They rough-house with kids, toss them in the air, tickle them and teach them to take risks.

These results, of course, are the things feminists love to hate. Women work the Second Shift of household chores. Men come home from work, sit in front of the TV, drink beer and generally do nothing. The man’s “contributions” to childcare are more like play. Big deal.

Some advocates of same sex marriage have even reinterpreted the evidence on father absence to mean that children don’t really need mothers and fathers, just two loving adults. As long as the child’s needs are met, it doesn’t matter whether a man changes the diapers or a woman plays touch football with them. Mirroring the feminists, these advocates seem to believe that if social science can’t put its finger on exactly what men in particular contribute, men aren’t doing anything significant.

Like the social scientists Harvey Mansfield criticizes, the gender radicals want to disassemble mothers and fathers into their specific functions, but never reassemble the pieces into a whole. Our masculinity and femininity can be reduced to a bundle of traits and activities. If we can’t measure it, it isn’t there. But evidently, even those beer-guzzling, channel-surfing lumps are doing something.

My husband recently did something for our family that brought this into focus for me. We are foster parents.  We once had a couple of very sweet kids who had lived with us for a long time. We were very attached to them, and never really thought they would go home. Their parents surprised everybody by doing every last item on their case plan. The phone call finally came that made it clear that the kids would go home one day soon.

The kids were elated. I was devastated. I tried to contain myself because they were so happy. But I was visibly a wreck.

My husband came into our bedroom, chased all the kids out, and closed the door. I was sobbing. I had a dozen reasons why it was all a big mistake. The kids would be better off with us and the parents would surely collapse at the first sign of trouble, and The System is so corrupt and awful.

He held me by the shoulders, looked straight into my eyes and said, “These are not our kids. Let them go.”  I wasn’t ready to stop crying, but I knew he was right.

So they went home. Their parents really had gotten themselves together. The kids did great, and are still doing great.

Now I ask you, which of us, my husband or I, did the most for those kids?  To even ask this question is to misunderstand the nature of the family, of marriage and of parenting. I certainly did more driving in the car pool, and helping with homework. That is the stuff women complain about, and that social scientists measure.

But he was always there, too. He’d play catch with them, take them boating and glare at them when they misbehaved. He was there for me too, backing me up, insisting the kids respect me, holding me accountable, and yes, telling me to get a grip when I might have gone off the deep end. At the crucial moment, he kept me from doing something really stupid and destructive. You’d have to be a nut to believe that the number of hours each of us spent with the kids was the most relevant fact about who contributed to their success.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good when father helps with kids and the household, if only because mother feels loved and appreciated by him. But even when we can’t put our finger on it, the masculine presence in the household contributes. We women do our families a great service when we recognize and respect that fact about our men.

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Response to What Happened to American Education?:

As an educator in the public school system, I wish you folks would visit the teachers slugging away every day in our public schools. Every single day teachers all over the place talk about one thing: the lack of discipline and respect in our young people. Teachers wish they could teach, but have to waste so much of their time just trying to get students to act appropriately in a group setting. Many teachers I talk to are seriously concerned about the future of our nation as we watch standards of decency and respect fall apart as we watch. Sure, we remember the sixties when people thought our generation were going to mess up the whole world. It turns out, we didn't mess up the world. We just messed up our kids. Teachers are very frustrated...especially so by Christian groups trying to push the agenda of private schools by attacking what we do in the public sector. We feel squeezed, pushed, stressed, and totally mis-judged. We have the souls of quite literally all future Americans in our hands...such an awesome and wonderful responsibility...yet are not accorded the support we need to get the job done. This social indecency that frustrates teachers in the nation is exactly the sort of thing that the gospel can address with great effectiveness. And evangelism is the key. What many people don't realize is how many of the teachers in the public schools are devout and active Christians who are trying to show Christ's love to our students. It's more than half of us by my count. What's wrong with education? Well, let's see what's right about it and try to get our kids to get motivated to acquire more of what our nation, amazingly, offers them for free. - John White

Science seeks to reveal facts. Religion seeks to reveal truths. Anyone who advocates completely separating the two endeavors denies the numerous, important, critical and significant contributions religious men and women (monks, brothers, sisters, nuns, and priests) have made in almost every scientific field. Society dissolves into chaos when its members abandon religion and work fiercely to eliminate it. - Dennis Riecke (Fisheries Biologist)

Dr. Benjamin Wiker gave us a point of view about the secularization of education that I think lacks an important alternate perspective. He denounces those who favor a balanced secular education as conspirators with a "formula from the secularist side, " which "did not actually mean a one-for-you, one-for-me division of the spheres, but rather a two-for-me, none-for-you." The folks he refers to in the 19th century were keenly aware of the dangers of an overly controlling faith such as that of the historic Roman Catholic church. That church had enough political power to cause Galileo to be hauled in and called to Rome to defend his assertion that the Earth was not the center of the solar system. "Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations, but, in 1616,Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino personally handed Galileo an admonition enjoining him to neither advocate nor teach Copernican astronomy because it was contrary to the accepted understanding of the Holy Scriptures."(1) In fact the church did not acknowledge its mistreatment of Galileo formally until the time of Pope John Paul II. Faith has been given a black eye by such heavy handed approaches as these in the past. Not stated but implied in Dr Wiker's analysis is that we need to be defended from those who would use a balanced approach - understanding that God is at the center of all things - even those things which are discovered by science. I can easily believe in God and believe that education and science should be protected from interference by well intended but overzealous believers who would forestall scientific advances by pronouncements as misguided as those of the 15th century Catholic church. Clearly at this late date we understand that the earth is not the center of the solar system - God is - and I'm guessing that He does not want us to impose unreasonable restrictions on our scientists or educators because they contend something which may be construed as "contrary to the accepted understanding of the Holy Scriptures." It's not about some giant conspiracy to attack persons of faith. In fact it's quite the opposite -with the history of people of faith there is not an unreasonable expectation that they might try to prevent scientific theories at odds with scripture from being brought to light. It would be pointless and irresponsible of us to allow that which happened to Galileo to happen again "in the name of God". (1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei - C

We sent C's thought provoking letter to Dr. Wiker and asked him to respond:

I agree wholeheartedly with half of what you say, or perhaps better, I agree half-heartedly with everything you say. I agree that (both at the time of Galileo and today, and all the time in between), believers should be very careful about what they assert scientifically.  But there are two kinds of errors to avoid (and not just one).

The first is the denial of some evident truth discovered by science because it is perceived as conflicting with faith. An example of this would be, as you point out, the rejection of heliocentricism.  (However, I think that if you truly delve into the most recent research on the “Galileo affair,” you will find things considerably more ambiguous than you’ve been led to believe by popular histories. Technically speaking, it was impossible for Galileo to demonstrate, at that time, that the Earth did indeed revolve around the Sun. At best, it could only be considered a hypothesis in need of further demonstration.)  But as you say, since it “is not an unreasonable expectation” based on history that believers “might try to prevent scientific theories at odds with scripture from being brought to light,” believers should be very, very careful.

But there is a second kind of error that we must avoid. Believers should be equally wary of affirming every hypothesis put forward by scientists as true, and then restructuring faith accordingly.  This opposite extreme is often undertaken by well-intentioned believers simply because they are afraid of duplicating the difficulties surrounding Galileo.  I call this the “Galileo syndrome.”  For example, in the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the most eminent astronomers affirmed as a matter of fact that all the planets of our solar system—and even the sun itself—were populated by intelligent beings of the wildest sort.  Alas, all too many believers immediately set about recobbling the Gospel to take into account this expansion of God’s creative plenty.

Why is this second kind of error important in regard to the secularization of education?  For the very reasons we pointed out in the article. To turn your warning on its head, given the history of secularization, it is not an unreasonable expectation that secular-minded educators might try to prevent scientific theories at odds with the secular agenda from being brought to light. A balanced approach would mean openness to all scientific evidence, and not just what may serve the secular agenda.

And so, I agree that “a balanced approach” would mean “understanding that God is at the center of all things—even  those things which are discovered by science”—but  that view is not allowed by our secularist dominated education system. - Dr. Benjamin Wiker
Recommended Link - http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Issues/GalileoAffair.html

Here's what happened to American Education: EVOLUTIONARY TEACHING. Amoral behavoir stems from not having a sense of accountability to a higher being. Evolutionary theory teaches that there is no higher being as a creator. No creator-no accountability, do what you will. So-called education reformers in the early 20th century tried an experiment in removing God from schools and look what happened! The experiment went horribly wrong. Thanks John Dewey and cronies! Are they all happy now that kids are doing what they please in school, bringing about the need for metal detectors and police surveillance in the halls? It's time to finally end this nasty little experiment and turn back to teaching more morality and less evolutionary thought. In fact, students and/or parents should be able to decide between creation science or evolutionary science classes and at least get some of the students back on a moral path. - Annette E.

Response to other tothesource articles:

I'm sorry. I'm just not buying it from Ponnuru. His answer to the first question is insufficient. Granted, he points out some of the positive qualities of pro-life Democrats and Jim Wallis, as well gives a fairly accurate description of the recent history of the Democratic Party. But you simply CANNOT name "Democrats" on the cover of your book under the title of "The Party of Death" and then say that you are simply seeking to raise the issues without being partisan or divisive. He knows this. And his publisher most definitely knows this. Partisan, divisive books sell better than those that are genuinely trying to be balanced. So while Mr. Ponnuru makes some awfully good points, please spare me the facade of objectivity. - David Breckenridge

In response to Don Dixon comments (see below) that implied that pro-life advocates are not concerned about the situation in Darfur, I would encourage him to study the history of American response to the genocide in Sudan. It was pro-life Christians like D. James Kennedy and Franklin Graham who ardently campaigned in the 90ís for their supporters, the U.S. and the international community to step in and help. As a pro-life Christian I know that pro-lifers have given hundreds of millions of dollars to help needy people around the world. A local church here in Georgia has recently opened and orphanage in Uganda to help the victims of violence there. That is just one example among many of pro-lifers committing themselves, their money and their resources to being consistently pro-life. - Pastor Bruce R. Mayhew

It appears to me that concern about parties of death obviously does not include people killed in a senseless war, starving people in Darfur (where there is no oil), and countless other atrocities that do not value life. It almost seems that if you say you are a person of faith, then you have carte blanch to commit heinous things, as long as it is neither abortion or euphanasia. - Don Dixon

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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  Jennifer Roback Morse
Jennifer Roback Morse is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She has appeared on numerous talk radio shows nationwide and is a regular columnist for the National Catholic Register. Her public policy articles have appeared in Policy Review, the American Enterprise, Fortune, Reason, the Wall Street Journal, and Religion and Liberty. From 1980 to 1996, she taught at Yale and George Mason universities. In 1996, she moved with her family to California, where she now pursues her primary vocation as a wife and mother.
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