Monday, January 20, 2014

Parents are lazy, uninvolved, stupid, selfish, cowardly jerks. Except for me, of course.

Matt Walsh Writes:

I wrote a post about sex-ed on Thursday. I don’t want to rehash the subject — suffice it to say that I am not a huge fan of “comprehensive sex education.” My reasons are many, but the crux of my argument in this instance rested on the basic principle that government schools have no role in a child’s sexuality. I thought, naively, that such an argument might resonate with many of the left-leaning folks who constantly and loudly proclaim the government to have “no business in our sex lives.” Oh come on, you did not think that. I agree with them, yet it would seem they do not quite agree with themselves. When you have constructed their opinions for them, rather than listening to their actual arguments.
I’d like to show you a quick sample of some snippets of response comments on my blog and Facebook page. See if you can notice a common line of reasoning between them:
Joanne: Too many parents are complete idiots and neglectful in teaching their children basics…
Tobi: It’s more like “hey parents: do your job so schools don’t have to”…
Phanie: Parents should step up to the plate, however many don’t.
Austin: Sex, gender, sexuality, etc all have complexities far beyond the grasp of many parents.
Mary: What about the countless parents that don’t talk to their kids about sex at all?
Nicole: Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and there are many negligent and ignorant parents out there.
Amber: Parents often don’t know the facts themselves and pass along inaccurate information.
Pamela: I am public education and I couldn’t agree with you more…one small problem. Parents don’t want to take the responsibility.
Tarcy: …BUT as a teacher who teaches middle school and has dealt with 14 year old pregnant girls it’s sadly needed because many parents don’t talk to their kids at all! Ever!
Jennifer: The assumption is that parents DO their jobs, and as a teacher I am here to let you know……..sadly most don’t :(, including feeding, washing, providing, and yes educating them about sex!
Melody: I agree that this is a topic that parents should be addressing. The problem is parents aren’t willing to talk to their kids.
Brenda: Due to the lack of parental involvement children today are not getting factual information.
Amanda: That would be great if parents were actually responsible for their children!
Gavin: The parents might be the ones who are supposed to be educating the kids, but in most cases they arent…
Alec: I think the problem is strictly with the parents. Schools are stepping up because a large majority of parents try to push their problems on the school.
Toni: Maybe if all parents were responsible even to properly educate their children I would agree with this. But we have public school for a reason.
2nihon: Unfortunately, most Christian parents either ignore the topic entirely or treat sex as a dirty thing and warn their kids against sex before marriage
Leo: Do you ever wander why they teach that? Heck, why they have school and people send their children to school? Because the parent didn’t want to do the teaching.
SRB: Many times it is a parent who is acting inappropriately and these kids need to be armed with the information they need to keep themselves safe and get help if necessary.
In order to evaluate Matt Walsh's claims, I found it necessary it do one thing that I never, never want to do:  read the comments. It was painful and there were a lot of them. What I noticed, however, is that the samples above were cherry-picked and not representative of most comments I saw.
First and foremost, I noticed that the responses did not fall neatly along liberal-conservative lines, as Matt Walsh would have wished and has claimed, especially related to the "bad parents" issue. When it was even possible to tell a person's political leaning, many apparent liberals did not make a "bad parent" argument and instead disputed statements/facts crucial to Matt Walsh's argument (all of which Matt Walsh chose to ignore in this post). Many apparent conservatives/Christians, in fact, made "bad parents" arguments, and plenty supported some version of sex-ed in schools.
So things are more complex than Matt Walsh is willing to admit. More than that, though, Matt is distorting and exaggerating many of these comments (especially in the ensuing analysis). A number of commentors (many of them teachers or others with actual experience in this area) simply pointed out empirical facts that they have observed - for example, that parents aren't talking to their children about these matters, even when given the opportunity, or don't have all the technical knowledge - but not implying that this makes them "bad parents." The biggest reason noted is the honest, well-intentioned desire of the parents to uphold their moral values. It just happens to backfire. Matt Walsh argues, "Please, just give me [as a parent] a chance!" These commentors are saying that parents have the chance, and from their own experience, sex-ed in the schools is more effective. This is an empirical reality that Matt Walsh can't brush away so easily.
Parents are idiots, they don’t take responsibility (in fact, in ”MOST cases” they don’t take responsibility), they can’t understand concepts like sex and reproduction, they don’t talk to their kids, they don’t care, they’re lazy, they don’t do their jobs (“MOST” don’t do their jobs, in fact), they aren’t involved, in MOST cases they won’t teach their own children, they act inappropriately, a LARGE MAJORITY of them push their problem onto the schools, they’re ignorant about the facts of a subject like human reproduction, and they don’t even wash or feed their own kids.
Most of them also pistol-whip puppies and steal from the homeless, presumably.  Exaggerationnnnnnn...
And this is all, for the most part, according to other parents. Other parents who clearly must be the exception to the rule they’ve fabricated out of thin air.
Listen, we have to stop this. It’s insane. We’ve fallen so deeply into this parentphobic mania that some of us are even under the absurd delusion that the public school system was designed to address widespread failures among parents. If parents were any good, we wouldn’t need public schools. Convenient perspective. The very existence of public schools proves the need for the existence of public schools.
Yes, of course, some parents fit these criticisms, but we’ve gone beyond “some” to “most” or even “all” (with the exception of whoever’s making the statement at any particular moment). We are leveling indictments against parents as a whole (again, excepting the specific person who levels the indictment — they’re totally great, the only great parent left in the universe). Actually this directly contradicts what I saw many people saying.
It’s offensive and egotistical, and also untrue. Every culture has its fables. Ours is the one about how parents are largely uncaring, lethargic dimwits.
I’ve never been accused of being optimistic. I’m the last person to put on the rose colored glasses and chase rainbows through flowery fields. I could never be that sort of person. I’m Irish, after all. But even I can look around me and see that most parents are capable. Most parents love their children. Most parents would do anything for their children. Most parents know what’s best for their children.
Show me the parents who do not love their kids — who are absolutely incapable of raising them — and I will show you not the rule, but a tragic aberration.
The more we insist on this idea that millions of parents would flounder and fail without the guiding light of government or the incessant interference of the yammering village, the more we collectively will such a reality into fruition. Can’t you see the vicious cycle here?
First, society yells, and screams, and announces into a bullhorn how woefully inadequate the nations moms and dads have been, are, and will be. Next, other institutions and governmental bodies move in to “pick up the slack.” They cast a wide net, and all of our children are caught in it. Now the vast majority of parents who have the ABILITY and DESIRE to raise their own children are less able to do so, because they have to compete with all of these other forces, with alleged “good intentions,” who are pulling their kids in a thousand different directions.
The problem is this: in order to effectively raise your kids, you have to maintain a special relationship with them. They have to be attached to you, to a certain extent, and they have to look to YOU for guidance, reassurance, and love. They have to be oriented towards you and by you, their compasses have to be set according to you. You must be their North Star, their light in the darkness, their trail in the woods. The more the government, the schools, the media, the peanut gallery, and their peers intrude, the more difficult it is to maintain that relationship. These other entities, whether they want to or not, will inevitably dim the light and alter the compass. The autonomous, sovereign unit of the family will be usurped, and your voice will become just another, lost in the chaos and the noise.
So, here's the thing about the sovereignty of the nuclear family: this idea is not ancient. It cannot be traced back to the Bible (patriarchal, nomadic, tribal societies did not operate on such a basis... as you might guess from the injunction for men to marry their dead brothers' widows). The idea that the nuclear family is the basic unit of society is, in fact, a modern conception, in every sense of the word modern. It is primarily the result of the emergence of new economic, political, and other institutional domains that eroded the importance and functioning of the community as a social unit. In fact, this erosion of community effectively shifted burdens, particularly related to child-rearing, and concenrated them into smaller units. This isn't sooo bad if that smaller unit happens to be financially well-off, but god help any that aren't.
The whole concern with the "traditional family" - bringing this into the conservative Christian agenda - was part of the process of the political Right coopting and manipulating evangical Christians to expand their power base, which began in the 1970s.
From an anthropological perspective, the nuclear family is not equipped to be the primary social unit in most situations. (The one exception is small family farms. Even here, extended family situations are more likely.) Although this is true even in hunter-gatherer societies, it is especially true in societies with a very complex division of labor - i.e. OURS.
Let's limit this discussion to education, though. Most (yes, most) parents are not qualified to provide a comprehensive high school education for their children. This is not because they are stupid. Even a single teacher or two teachers could not provide an entire high school education. Specialization is necessary because the knowledge gets technical and complex. My parents are intelligent and they were terrific parents, but I would NOT have wanted to learn calculus or AP physics or any foreign language from either of them. My dad could do a great job with AP psychology, and a pretty fair job with the humanities and history. My mom could handle biology and chemistry. Neither of them could teach me math. (As it happens, my knowledge of high school math helps support me financially.)
Parents can't do everything, not because they are incompetent, but because society is far too complex, technical, and specialized. Also, because, except for the very well-to-do, both parents have to spend a significant amount of their time earning money. Placing more responsibilities and burdens on parents hurts poor children the most.
So, society, you want me to take care of my own kids? Great. Sounds like a plan. Now back off for five seconds and give me a chance, alright?
It’s a daunting thing to be new parents, trying to find a footing in this world, to stake our claim, to shelter and care for our children, to raise them as we think they ought to be raised, while seemingly everyone, from every corner, takes advantage of every occasion to remind us how helpless and impossible the task is, and how likely we are to fail.
Parenting is a minefield these days. It’s harder now than it’s ever been. I feel confident in saying that because there has never been a time in human history when parents have been made to deal with this level of competition for their children’s hearts and minds. Every time our kids walk outside, turn on the TV, go on the Internet, take the bus to school, they are immediately bombarded with a million voices, from a million places, trying to change them and use them and influence them in a million ways. Buy this! Do this! Wear this! Eat this! Try this! Say this! Listen to this! Believe this! Think this! Be this! Become this!
It’s relentless.
It never ends.
It never stops.
They never shut up.
I’m sure it wasn’t a breeze raising kids on the old frontier, but at least you knew that YOU would be the one raising them. Sure, you’ll all probably die of cholera next week, but until then you’ll be a unit. Together. A family.
Now, the entire deck is stacked against the family. There are powerful agents out there that want nothing more than to drive a wedge into the middle of our homes, undermining our authority and distancing us from our sons and daughters.
This is the landscape. It’s hazardous, dangerous, and difficult. And how do we react? By cannibalizing each other. Parents are the problem! Really? I don’t think we even give the parents a chance to be “the problem.”
There’s a lot behind this epidemic of parent-blaming. Projection, for one. Arrogance, another. Also collectivism.  Wha??? We are suffering from this collectivist disease hahahaha yeah, America is soooo collectivist that leads us to blindly accept the great lie that our children should all be of a certain, useful sort. We’ve concocted The Standard, and children who fall short are defective, while their parents are incompetent. Ohh, I understand now. Matt Walsh doesn't know what 'collectivism' is. Having a vibrant community support system does not entail conformity.
Many — the “bad” parents, I guess — don’t accept The Standard. We have our own goals for ourselves and our kids. Mine, for instance, is to raise my children to love God. That’s all I want for them. Everything else is either a distant second or completely irrelevant.  Good for you, but the rest of society has an objective interest in ensuring that your children don't, say, contract and spread around a bunch of infectious diseases. What you choose to do with your children does impact the rest of society, as much as you would like to believe your family exists in a vacuum.
But I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. And neither do you.
Parenting is a rough enough sport already, without the entire country jumping on the dog pile. It would be a much less "rough sport" if you had more community involvement, actually...
So lay off the parents, everybody. We’re trying our best out here, and you’re only making it harder.

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