Category Archives: Parenting

When Our Children Fall

     I wrote about my son and how he had gotten into trouble at school.  On a scale of 1 to 10 he did something that I would consider about a 5 in seriousness.  It wasn’t the worst thing possible, but it was worse than talking out in class or plagiarizing a paper. 

     I am thankful for several things:

  1. My son told me what he did before I heard it from anyone else.
  2. He has acknowledged that it was wrong without making excuses or justifications.
  3. He accepts the consequences and admits that he deserves them.  I believe that he is sincerely remoseful.     

     From the very beginning I have tried to make sure that he knows several things.

  • I love him in spite of anything that he has done, and I would still love him if he had done something worse.  I would never reject him or abandon him.
  • I have done some pretty bad things in my life.  I cannot judge him or condemn him, although I cannot overlook what he did and treat it lightly either.
  • What he did is something that others have done and that others have been tempted to do.  He is not a strange monster but a normal human being–particularly a normal teenaged boy.
  • It is very bad, but it is not the end of the world or the end of his life.  He can learn from it and grow into a better person.
  • The guilt and embarrassment that he feels are appropriate and are two tools that will help him not to do the same thing in the future.
  • The consequences are not just to punish him for what he did but to train him in a better way to act.
  • Even though he feels terrible now and he is under some pretty severe restrictions, it will not always be that way.  The internal pain will subside, and the restrictions will be relaxed little by little.

I did something pretty terrible when I was a young adult, so I know exactly what my son is going through.  However, it hurts much worse to see my son going through it than when I went through it.

 

 

 

Personhood

Personhood is a more nebulous concept than it probably should be.  Throughout history certain groups have defined themselves as persons and defined others as non-persons.  Even when a de facto definition has not been in place, people in certain groups have in practice been treated as non-persons–or at least not as full persons.  I have been accused of not understanding racism because I am in a privileged class, and that is probably so, but my ancestors at one time were not treated as full persons by their Roman conquerors.  In a more recent time period my ancestors were not treated fully as persons by the Puritans of Massachusetts, because they belonged to fringe religious groups.  My point is that this issue of personhood is not just a black-white issue, as we Americans tend to make every such issue.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal,” he meant men, not women.  Furthermore, he meant white, landowning men.  Women, people of color, and really poor people were not really as equal as every other human being in Jefferson’s America.

At times and in places the mentally and physically challenged have not been treated as full persons.  I live in a place where children are still sometimes killed if they have a noticeable physical abnormality–out in the rural villages.  It is shameful to think that even in America the mentally ill and mentally challenged were mistreated and were experimented on like animals.

More and more, the elderly in America are not treated as persons.  They are put away in homes and left to die.  We even have localities where it is legal, depending on the circumstances, to help them die, supposedly for their own good.  It just so happens that it is convenient for the relatives, too.

Now I turn your attention to the unborn.  I remember each of the four times that my wife conceived a child.  Only two of the babies were actually born.  The first one’s little heart stopped beating at a fairly early stage, and my wife went through a spontaneous abortion.  The second one implanted in the fallopian tube.  The third one was a textbook case.  The fourth one threatened to be born way to early but managed to wait, thanks to medical intervention, until three weeks before her due date.

They were all, as far as we were concerned, our children.  We did not go to the ultrasound saying, “I wonder how our fetal tissue is doing” or “Let’s see how that foreign mass in the uterus is coming along.”  It was our baby, and not only did we see it that way and talk about it that way but all our friends and relatives did, too.  Were we just naive?  Were we romanticizing?  When I look at my two girls, who are now teenagers, I think not.  That little fetus is what they were then, and they certainly are not just blobs of tissue or a foreign mass.  (Although they seem to suck money from us the way they used to suck nutrients through the umbilical cord.)

If you think that a cluster of cells is all that is destroyed in abortion, you are seriously ignorant.  My wife’s spontaneous abortion occurred at about the same time that many women get surgical abortions, and actually before some do.  I assure you that it was not just a little cluster of cells that was expelled.  It had had a beating heart and tiny limbs at one time.

Mississippi is going to vote on whether to define a fetus as a person in their state consitution.  I hope that they vote to do so.  I wish all the other states would do so.

What about you?  If you have children, did you think of them as a baby or as a person only after they were fully born?  Did you hear their heartbeat and think, “How strange that a little unformed mass would have a heartbeat!”  Did you think of it like a tumor that could just as easily be excised as allowed to grow into the child that you have today?

Seriously!  Look into the eyes of your child or of somebody else’s child and let it sink in that that fetus in the womb is who they were then, and that most fetuses that are aborted could have become what that child is today.

I have heard people say that an abortion is just like removing a mole.  Yet no mole ever developed into a walking, talking person. 

I have heard people say that it is a part of the woman’s body.  If so, why does there need to be a cord between the two of them?

I have heard people say that it is a foreign invader–as if it is not the product of the woman’s own ovum and her lover’s own sperm.  As if it did not get half of its genetic material from her!  And as if, supposing she changed her mind after all, it would not grow to be a beautiful child that she would adore and care about.

We human beings have made this terrible error many times–colored people, women, disabled people.  Must we keep on making it?  Must we declare that since a human being is very, very tiny and still very dependent, it is not worthy of life?  That it is not worthy of respect?  That it is not really a person?

The Joys of Parenthood

     Lots of blog posts focus on the pitfalls of parenthood or on advice for parents.  I would just like to muse a little bit about the fun and pleasure that comes from being a parent.

     For me as a father there is no greater joy than when one of my children comes spontaneously for a hug.   My kids are at an age when they sometimes resist any overtures on my part to embrace them, but every now and then one of them, a different one at different times, will give me a nice hug for no reason.  It’s a simple thing but extremely satisfying.

     I like it when somebody tells me that one of my children is particularly polite or helpful.  My wife and I have modeled those traits and done our best to teach them to our kids.  The fact that they caught what we have shown them is very gratifying.  It’s not that it reflects well on my wife and me, which it does, but that it means they will have a better life.  People will admire them and enjoy being around them.  They are more likely to get what they need and want, because they are willing to show courtesy to others.

     I like to hear my children laugh.  I want them to be happy, and I want them to have fun.  I don’t want them to neglect the serious side of life, of course, but I do not want their life to be full of drudgery or to be overly intense.  There is a time for everything, and that includes fun and silliness.  I am happy that I have been able to give them some relaxation and some pleasure in their lives so far.

     I am glad that my children do not mind being away from my wife and me sometimes.  I want them to love me, but I do not want them to cling to me.  I want them to know that they can handle many things on their own already, and I want them to be independent someday.  I will always be there to help them if they need it, but I am glad that they need it less and less.  I have raised them to be confident and competent, and I am glad that they are.

     It makes my heart sing to see how well my children get along with each other.  They have their squabbles, but they are infrequent and quickly resolved.  That is what we taught them:  people will sometimes clash, but the best thing to do is to work it out and then forgive and forget.  We absolutely forbade yelling and hitting in our house.  When it happened, there were consequences, and we effectively taught them not to go down that road.  They really like each other, and they enjoy spending time together.

     I could list many more joys of parenting, but I have probably already exhausted your patience, friend.  If you have parents, why not give them a hug or a telephone call right now?  It will make their day.

You Are What You Are

I probably should avoid this topic, but I can’t.  It seems to be interesting to lots of other people, and it certainly interests me.  I am referring to the baby without a “gender” in Canada–the baby named, quite aptly, Storm.

I am not much of a traditionalist when it somes to sex roles.  I believe that men and women are equal in regard to rights and freedom.  They can be whatever they want to be, do whatever they want to do, wear whatever they want to wear, and like whatever they want to like, within reasonable limits (that is, as long as they are not harming anyone else).  If a man wants to work as a nurse and knit pink sweaters in his spare time, big deal.  If he wants to be a crane operator and hunt elk, so what?  If a woman wants to work as a corporate executive and do body building on the weekends, what difference does it make to me?  If she wants to be a caterer and grow orchids for a hobby, why should I care?

I feel that way because I am not a particularly manly man.  As a boy I was picked on because I did not fit the masculine mold, and you can imagine some of the names I was called.  My sexual orientation was questioned, and (something I have not admitted much in public) I questioned it myself.  For a time, I did experience some attraction to other males and did some experimentation.

One of the things that helped me figure out “who I really am” was that a wise person told me, “You are what you are.  You are a male because you have the right chromosomes and the right body parts.  It doesn’t matter what your interests are or what skills or talents you possess.  You are a man, whether you like wrestling and car racing or cooking and playing the piano.”  That gave me a lot of freedom and the freedom gave me a huge sense of relief.  All those silly stereotypes, such as that women like the color pink and that men get a thrill out of stabbing wild boars, are just that–silly and stereotypes.  All of those things are social constructs that might represent the norm, at least in a certain society, but they ignore the reality that a given individual–usually many individuals–do not fit the norm.

I have heard people argue that gender, meaning sex, is a social construct.  That’s ridiculous.  Sex is a biological reality, except in rare cases when it is ambiguous.

My experiences have taught me that most gender roles are arbitrary.  I have lived in Africa and in Southeast Asisa, and I have been surprised at the various gender roles and how they vary.  I know of one culture where it is the exculsive job of the men to tend the gardens.  I am currently living within one where the men till the soil and the women grow the food.  There are no built-in rules when it comes to these things.  In other cultures, the men hunt and the women do all the gardening.

It used to be that men were tailors in Western Society.  Now a man who likes to sew is a bit of an oddball.  And heaven forbid that a man enjoy designing clothes.  Everyone “knows” that he is not a real man.  Ugh!  In the past it would have been the other way around.

I wrote all of that to give background to my comments on little Storm.  I think that his or her parents are, for want of a better word, stupid.  He or she is either a boy or a girl.  There’s no actual way to deny it or (at this point, I hope) change it.  Maybe he’s a boy who will like to play with dolls or a girl who will enjoy playing with toy cars.  Who knows?  And what difference would it make?  Either way, he or she is either a he or a she.  How do they refer to the child?  It is naive and silly to pretend that he or she is not one of those.  I think it is also naive and silly to pretend that it doesn’t matter.

They are the ones who are turning his or her sex into a problem.  By acting as though it is something to hide, they seem to me to be fostering the idea that biological differences are bad or shameful.  Why not just be open about his or her sex and still let him or her follow the dictates of his or her own heart when it somes to clothing, playtime activities, and other superficial issues?  I would rather see a parent stick up for a kid who does not fit sexual stereotypes and teach that kid to stand up for himself or herself, than to make them think that one’s sex is something private rather than a part of how he or she relates to other people.

Sex and sexual identity, after all, are social traits as well as individual traits.  Men and women tend relate in different ways to people of the same sex and to people of the opposite sex.  In each society there are things that tend to define males and things that tend to define females.  There are requirements and taboos that people seem to think or feel are needed to preserve a sense of order and propriety.  While they vary, I cannot think of any society or cultural where there are no norms based on sex.

We all know it.  Most American men tend to disparage “chick flicks” and to get impatient when their female partners want to talk for hours about their “relationship.”  Most American women think that men are not as refined as they should be and are too obssessed with their cars and their tools.  (I speak in generalities for the sake of convenience.  Even though these are not rigid rules, nobody can deny that they are typical.)  It is part of the maturing process to figure out how we “should” or “should not” fit in with people of the same sex, people of the opposite sex, and with a mixed group.

And I think it is a mistake to assume that all of those things are social constructs.  There is a biological reason that women tend to cry more than men.  There is a biological reason that men are more stimulated by the looks of a woman while women are more stimulated by attention and romance.  There is a biological reason that men are prone to be physically aggressive and women are more prone to use words.  (Again, I speak in generalities only for the sake of convenience.)

We are sexual beings.  Storm has probably already discovered his or her private parts, I would imagine.  He or she will realize at some point that they are different from those of the opposite sex.  He or she already realizes that Mommy is different from Daddy.  Like all of us, he or she will have the weird and exciting experience of gradually discovering who he or she really is, and part of that is figuring out what it means, for him or her as an individual, to be a boy or a girl, and eventually what it means to be a man or a woman.  It’s weird, as well as stupid and naive and silly, to brush all that aside as though it is irrelevant or unfactual.  Puberty will hit and Storm will definitely realize that he or she is either built to become a father or a mother.

I think about the so-called effeminate men and the so-called butch women that I have known.  (I do not mean to be offensive; I am using terms that you commonly hear.)  They have harbored a lot of pain.  I think how much better off they would have been if people had affirmed that it is okay to be different.  It is okay not to be like the typical boy or the typical girl, and that very few people are completely like the stereotype.  What if their Mommy and their Daddy had told them that they were fine just the way that they are?  I think it would have helped them to feel so confused and alienated and rejected.  What if they had been told that the world is their oyster and that any and every possibility is open to them.

But that is different from pretending that sexual organs and sexual differences simply don’t exist.  I am afraid that Storm is headed for a lot of pain in the future.  I wish that his or her parents would re-think their choice.  Celebrate his or her sex, and celebrate however he or she expresses himself or herself and whoever he or she turns out to be.  You do not have to ignore the first one to do the second one.

Baby Joseph Doing Well

     At least one doctor thinks that Joseph Maraachi’s treatment in St. Louis is appropriate.  Dr. Manny Alvarez explains that it is within the guidelines for palliative care established by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

     If everything continues to go well, Joseph’s parents will get to take him back to their home town.  They can see him regularly and actually hold him in their arms.  How could that be bad?

The Sad Saga of Baby Joseph

     I have written about the case before.  A baby in a hospital in Canada is in a vegetative state and is thought to be alive only because of life support equipment.  The hospital wants to “pull the plug,” and a judge ruled in their favor.  The parents want the doctors to perform a tracheotomy and to let them take Joseph home to wait out his last days.  (Actually they have indicated that they hope for a miracle, but at least want to spend as much time as possible with their son, if he does die.)  I think that only a cold-hearted person could deny them that wish.

     As word got out, the hospital received threatening messages.  I do not condone the threats, but I understand what would drive people to make them.  The attitude of the doctors seems to be that they have the responsibility to make decisions regarding the life of this baby, rather than his parents.  That should give all parents pause.  If a child came from our bodies, or we adopted a child, then it is our responsibility to care for that child in the way that we think best.  As the ones who love the child the most, we have the most right to say what treatment the child will or won’t recieve.  (Of course, I am not talking about parents who would cause their children to die by denying them care, which is actually what the doctors in this case want to do.)

     Now the hospital has decided that they will allow little Joseph to go home–but under certain conditions that the parents might not agree to.  We’ll see what happens.  They are also appealing the court ruling that went against them.

My View of the Women’s Medical Society Clinic

     What happened at the abortion clinic in West Philadelphia was deplorable.  In some ways it is worse than what happens at other such clinics in other parts of the country.  In other ways, it is not that much different.

     The fact that a woman was killed, murdered, according to the charges brought against the doctor, makes it worse.  Legalizing abortion was supposed to keep women “safe” from back-alley abortions performed by greedy and incompetent doctors

     The fact that babies were killed makes this abortion clinic no worse than any other.  What else happens at an abortion clinic but that babies are killed?

     In some parts of the coutry babies at that same stage of development coudd have had scissors plunged into them, just as they had at the Women’s Medical Society Clinic, the only difference being that the doctor would have made sure not to let their heads pass through the cervix before he stabbed them.  Anyone horrified at what this doctor allegedly did to these babies had better be equally horrified at what other doctors have done to other babies during “intact dilation and extraction” procedures.

     If you are horrified at the idea of babies being aborted at that stage of development, then you should be in favor of laws to ban such abortions.  You cannot be “personally opposed” to stabbing babies in the back of the head and not want to see such things banned.

     It’s true that most abortions don’t go down that way.  In most abortions the babies is vacuumed out or cut in pieces or burned with saline solution.  Am I really supposed to believe that those procedures are more humane?

     Are you in favor of clinics like these having to meet the same standards that other medical facilities must meet and having periodic inspections the way other medical facilities have?  After this case, I hope so.  Pro-choice people have stood against proposed laws making abortion clinics subject to such standards and such inspections.

     The fact that such horrors occurred at this clinic indicate that there is at least a slight chance that similar horrors are happening at other clinics.  Shouldn’t we at least find out.  Legal, rare, and safe, indeed!

A Father’s Joy

     None of my three children is particularly academically minded.  My son, the oldest, is very athletic.  One of my daughters, the middle child, is creative and interested in fashion and personal appearance.  My other daughter, the youngest child, is so intelligent that school tends to bore her.

     Their mother and I have made it a practice not to nag them.  Instead, we encourage them to do their best, and we set limits for what we will accept from them.  For example, we insist that they do their homework and do it thoroughly and neatly.  (Our son usually ends up with decent grades because of his homework.)  We insist that they behave properly in class and earn the approval of their teachers.  In those ways, they have hardly ever disappointed us.  We have made it clear that we support them as they are–we admire our son’s athleticism and encourage him to pursue it (though his mother and I have almost no interest or ability in that arena), we enjoy our older daughter’s creativity and support her desire to dress well and look attractive, and we look for things outside of school to capture out younger daughter’s interests and to challenge her intellectually (such as guitar lessons and a German language class).

     We have also let them know that we love them unconditionally.  We are sad when they do not live up to their academic potential, but it has nothing to do with their intrinsic worth as peoeple, and it does not take away even a tiny bit of our love for them.  We even make sure that they understand that some of the most successful people in the world have not done well academically or achieved great success in school.

     Today I had a talk with my older daugther that just thrilled me.  She is working on a history assignment on the Crusades.  As part of the assignment she was doing research on the Children’s Crusade.  She said that she has never had so much fun researching a topic before.  She said that she did not think that history could be so interesting.  She said, “I think that I am turning into a nerd.”

     Among other things, I said, “I want you to remember two things about nerds.  Some of the richest, most successful people in the world are nerds, and very few nerds end up in prison.”

     “I know,” she said, and then asked, “Dad, can you get a degree in history and then go to law school?”

     She has talked about becoming a lawyer before, but I never thought she would ever consider majoring in a subject like history. 

     I am pleased that my daughter has finally found a subejct in school that she likes.  I am pleased that she has discovered that learning can be pleasurable.  I am very pleased that she is willing to be a “nerd” in order to pursue something difficult that will benefit her in the future.  (She has tended to play “dumb” to win approval from her peers.)

     My wife, I believe, hit the nail squre on its head.  She said, “It seems that she has finally figured out who she really is.”  True.  We have known all along that our daughter had a very sharp mind that can reason and analyze and synthesize extremely well.  We always felt that she was wasting the skills that she was born with.  Maybe this really is an epiphany for her.  I hope so.

My Parents, My Kids

     Every parent makes mistakes, some worse than others.  I am generally happy with the way that my parents raised me, although I have thought a lot about the mistakes that they made.  I don’t bring up their mistakes, because they did so much that is right, I would rather not make them feel bad by criticizing them.  Sometimes they bring up their mistakes, and when they do, I let them know that I have no hard feelings toward them.  I sincerely don’t.  However, I think about their mistakes, because I do not want to make the same mistakes.  Unfortunately, I have made other mistakes as a parent.

     Being a parent has allowed me to see how difficult it is.  As I mentioned, I have made mistakes along the way.  How could I hold my parents’ mistakes against them, when I have made mistakes myself?

     One of the mistakes that my parents made was giving their children hardly any freedom to voice contrary views.  They were actually pretty inconsistent with it.  At times, they asked us for our opinions and accepted whatever we said.  At other times, they would get quite irritated, or even angry, if we said something that was different from what they believed.  It did not promote peace in our home.

     I remember when I opposed the death penalty as a freshman in high school.  When I mentioned it to my step-father, he got quite animated.  Unfortunately he did not take the time to explain his view and give reasons for it.  He did not hear me out.  He simply spewed out irrational statements like,  “So you think it is okay for somebody to murder another person.”  Naturally I became more entrenched in my own view–but held it secretly.  (Eventually I became convinced that I was wrong, and now I am in favor of the death penalty for reasons that I realize others do not accept but that satisfy my own understanding of justice.)

     I have tried very hard not to make that mistake with my own children.  As my regular readers know, I have definite and strong opinions about things, but I never force them on my children.  I never just throw platitudes at them.  If I want to teach them something, I state my view and explain why I hold it.  I listen when they have a different idea on something.  I hardly ever argue with my children, as I have found that it is counterproductive.  The only times that I argue are when I happen to be in a cranky mood, which I always regret and always try to make amends for.

     I ask two things of my kids.  If we are discussing an issue, I ask them to explain why they hold a certain view.  I want them to be able to back up whatever they say with facts and reason.  Saying, “I’m not sure why I think that,” is acceptable to me, but I challenge them to try to figure out why.  I will sometimes offer reasons that their view might be right to help them formulate a basis for it.  The other thing that I ask of them is to listen to me as much as I listen to them.  If I think they are in error, I will tell them why and will ask them to think about it.  As soon as it devolves into a petty argument, I say, “It’s fine if you disagree with me.  Just don’t give up considering other views.”

     This approach is true even for religious matters; in fact, I feel it is even more important when it comes to religious matters.  My wife and I have taught our kids what we believe, and we hope that they adopt our beliefs.  However, we realize the futility of forcing our beliefs on them, and they know it.  A religious belief must be arrived at freely with no compulsion; otherwise, it has no validity at all.  I would honestly rather have my children reject Christianity outright for stated reasons than for them to pretend to accept it to please their mother and me.

     When it comes to religious matters, my wife and I do not always agree or completely agree with each other.  We make sure that our kids see that.  Then they can choose to accept their mother’s view or my view or to formulate one of their own.  Seeing that their mother and I disagree helps them to see that it is okay for them to disagree, too.

     Now, there are non-negotiables in our home.  We have family rules that my wife and I have enacted, and that the kids have had some input on as they have gotten older.  Nobody in our family, parents included, is allowed to call people names or put people down in any way.  We do not hit people.  We address the things that we are angry about rather than ignore them or take them out on others.  At times, our children have childishly argued about such rules, but these particular things not open to compromise.  We tell them that they might not agree, but that they must comply.  We tell them that if they decide that it is okay to live a different way when they are adults, it will be up to them, but that their mother and I cannot live in a home where there is hostility or fear or constant tension.  We will not live in a home where people mistreat each other or simply take each other for granted.

     Our approach has worked fairly well.  Our kids tend to be open with us, since they do not fear that we will lash out at them for disagreeing with us.  My older daughter likes to debate issues with me, and she seems happy that I hear her out and challenge her gently.  She thinks she might like to become a lawyer.  Our children feel safe, and they realize that our family rules are in their own best interest, because they offer them protection and outward respect.  Nobody screams at anybody else.  Nobody insults anybody else.  And nobody ever hits anybody else.  And nobody gives or withholds love based on other people’s conformity.  Love is free and unconditional in our home.  We love each other even when we are very, very angry with each other or when we think somebody else is completely wrong about something.

     There was a lot of fighting in my house growing up.  I’m sad about that, and it is another mistake that my parents made.  They were not as assertive as they should have been about keeping us kids from hurting each other.  It has caused my brother and sister and me to have trouble getting along even as adults.  My own children genuinely like each other and enjoy each other’s company.  I am happy about that.  Of course, they sometimes get on each other’s nerves, and they need some time apart, but they are truly happy to be each other’s siblings.

     Despite my mistakes, I have done a few things right.  I thank a lot of other people, and I thank God, for that fact.

Raising Our Kids

     I have written on these topics before, but a recent online discussion has caused me to think about them again.  I am writing primarily about the education of children, but I think it involves the broader topic of caring for children, since education is one aspect of providing for the needs of children.

     Before answering any questions regarding how children should be educated or how they should be otherwise cared for, two more fundamental questions must be addressed:

  1. To whom do children belong?
  2. Whose responsibility is it to provide for the needs of children?

     It is my belief that children, like all human beings, are essentially different from what we normally call property.  In the strictest sense, they do not belong to anybody–at least not the way that a car or a house can belong to somebody.  When we talk about children belonging to somebody then, we are talking not about ownership, but about relationship.

     My views on this matter are informed by my Christian faith.  Human beings are the property, as is everything else, of God and God alone.  That is my rationale for opposing slavery.  It is also why I oppose any notion, explicit or implicit, that people belong to the state.

     In a statist society the children (and the adults, too) are essentially property of the state.  Everyone belongs to everyone else.  Each person is everyone else’s responsibility.  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  It seems like a nice system when you first hear about it.  It seems fair.  However, it has become abominably unfair and cruel in most of the societies where it has been practiced fully.  Enough said on that matter.

     In a free society the children belong to their parents.  It is the parents, after all, who produced them.  Therefore, it is the parents who have the responsibility to care for them.  I would go so far as to say that the parents have a duty to care for them.  The parents should not demand that somebody else care for their children; neither should they insist on taking care of somebody else’s children.  Parents in need can ask for help, and help can be freely given.  Experts with good ideas can offer advice and suggestions, but parents must be free to accept or reject the advice and suggestions.

     The discussion that I referred to had to do with home schooling.  One of the participants in the discussion offered a quotation that mentioned socialization.  I think it is important that people understand what that word means and what the concept actually is.

     I have heard some parents confuse socialization with socializing.  For example, one mother that I know said that she was sending her daughter to preschool for socialization.  She really meant that she was sending there to interact with other children.  (I suspect that she was really sending there to give herself a break, which I can fully understand.)  Other parents have told me that they were sending their formerly home-schooled kids to a public school to get socialization.  They meant that they wanted them to rub shoulders with kids from other backgrounds. 

     Wikipedia has a good article that explains socialization very well.  It does not mean interacting socially with other kids.  It means being acculturated or learning the norms of the society around you.  When educationists write or say that children need to be socialized, that is what they mean.  They are not saying that they need to spend time with other kids; rather, they are saying that kids need to be taught how to be good, productive members of the greater society.

     On the surface that is fine; however, I suggest people deeply on the matter.  If your children belong to you, what values (or rather, whose values) do you want them to learn?  Whose socialization do you want them to receive? 

     More and more we seem to have two disparate societies in the United States.  Label them as you wish:  leftist versus rightist, modern versus traditional, secular versus religious, blue versus red, urban versus rural.  We certainly do not want our children socialized in the same way.

     Unfortunately for those in the second camp, which I will call “traditional,” the public schools are mostly run by people in the first camp.  Their worldview is irreconcilably different from ours.  Many teachers are still in the “traditional” camp, but they are being increasingly influenced (and sometimes forced) by education professors and by interfering politicians to adopt more “modernist” views and values.

     So, however much a “traditional” parent might want their kids to socialize with a wide range of fellow students, he or she should ask whether they want their kids to be socialized in a system that opposes many, if not most, of their core values.  For example, I want my children to be tolerant, and I have taught them to be so.  However, I do not want them to practice tolerance as defined by the “modernists.”  In fact, they themselves are not likely to be tolerated by the folks in that camp, though I expect my children to be tolerant of them.

     I could list many other examples of where I differ from modern secularists (and modern liberal religionists).  I do not want my children to be taught that humans evolved from animals, that they are mere biological machines without souls, that God has nothing to do with our daily lives, that they are born to be cogs in the machine of society, that they only matter if they have a good quality of life, that there are too many of them, that they are a cancer in the ecology of the world, that they have caused global warming, that they should arbitraily believe in themselves or have self-confidence, that all religions are equally valid, that Islam is a religion of peace but Christianity is a dangerous religion, that there are no ethical absolutes, or that they must determine their values without reference to their parents’ values.

     I feel fortunate that my children have not attended public schools.  I am not absolutely opposed to sending them there, but it is not my first choice.  I certainly would not send them there to be socialized, however.     My wife and I will take care of that, thank you very much, and we will enlist the aid or our church and of our trusted friends.  If I were to send them to a public school, I would work over time to counteract the values that they would be taught there.