I am against honesty.
For the record, I’m also opposed to integrity, responsibility, kindness, respect, cooperation, citizenship, fairness and the pursuit of excellence. These are the nine specific values children are to be taught as part of their lessons under a plan adopted last week by the Dade County School Board.
I’m not here to criticize the educators. They’re responding as best they can to an age of moral and spiritual disintegration.
But when I think about schools instilling values, it occurs to me that we used to have an entity whose job was exactly that. We called them parents.
The school board’s new policy was adopted on the recommendation of a task force of community groups and educators. I’ve no doubt all concerned are nobly intentioned, but I can’t help feeling their work moves us further in a direction we should not go. Namely, making it simpler for parents to abdicate their responsibility. Schools already teach our children sexual responsibility and train them against drug use. Some would have them handle religious instruction as well.
So what’s next? Will we ask the teacher to nurse the kid from birth? Diaper him? Tuck him into bed at night? And exactly when does math get taught?
This is not a knock against holistic education. Rather, it’s a question: Where have all the parents gone? I don’t mean the people who got the titles mother and father because of a quirk of biology. I mean parents.
And who are these people who’ve replaced them?
Who was that woman whose 16-year-old daughter was sexually involved with a thirtysomething man - with mom’s knowledge and permission? Who was that mother who used to smoke pot with her teenage son? And who are all those people who sit in the multiplex with their preadolescents, watching in rapt attention as the screen explodes in blood and carnage, and the hero expresses satisfaction with a smorgasbord of epithets?
It’s as if some parents have perfected the art of absence - physically there but missing in action in every other way that matters. As if they fear to be grown-ups, fear to say to their children, “You will not do this because it is wrong.”
You don’t even hear that word much where kids are concerned. Nor, for that matter, its antonym: right.
One of the most difficult lessons a parent must teach is that some things are simply wrong, period. That there is a line between what’s right and what isn’t, and parents are there to enforce it.
You might draw the line in a different place than your neighbor, depending upon who you are and what you believe. But it’s crucial to understand that wherever it’s drawn, there must be a line. One has to etch a boundary and tell a child, “You will not cross.”
Otherwise, we end up with wolfish, nihilistic children like those who prowl our shopping malls and unwieldy policies like the one now in effect in Dade. The school board’s decision does more than add another burdensome level to the educational bureaucracy. It speaks volumes about our collective failure as parents.
If schools must be used as agents of social change - and in these days of AWOL parents, latchkey kids, boy fathers and girl mothers, it seems a foregone conclusion that they must - I would argue that it would be more fruitful in the long run to have them instruct not just boys and girls but fathers and mothers. Hold classes at nights and on weekends to reconnect parents to what it means to call themselves that.
Because, more than a legal or biological description, parenthood is a trust. A compact between generations. It means, I will put you before me, protect you from yourself, love you enough to bear your anger when I must.
It means, I will draw the line, my child. And you will not cross.
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