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The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Lessons of Diplomacy



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The necessity of war is not a topic most kids’ movies tackle.  However, How to Train Your Dragon 2 dives into it headfirst.

There’s a lot of diving, actually.

Set five years after the first film, the main character Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is offered the chance to lead his village after his father’s upcoming retirement.

Instead of leading a village full of Vikings and dragons, he’d rather go on explorations and adventures with his half-dog/half-dragon Toothless. (His pet’s teeth are actually retractable.) The flying and diving scenes alone are worth the price of admission, even without 3D.

When their community is threatened by an unrelentingly evil villain named Drago Bludvist, Hiccup wants to go and reason with him. (Slight spoilers ahead.) The young Hiccup brags about his rhetorical skills, about his ability to persuade people to come over to his point of view. He is known for getting people to change, to reconsider their evil ways.

His dad (played by Gerard Butler) tries to set him straight. First, he tells him that some people just want war and can’t be reasoned with. When his warning is ignored, he tells his son the true story of how he knows the true nature of Drago — because he was the lone survivor of a bloodbath Drago inflicted on all of his friends.

You’re right to sense this is a darker children’s movie than you’ve come to expect.  However, the film is notable because of its interestingly mature approach to what it means to love peace.

As Hiccup defies his father and seeks to find — and reason with – Drago, he puts himself and those he loves at risk . . . to devastating consequences. The New York Times puts it this way:

 . . . this doctrinaire peacenik finds himself obliged to acknowledge that pure evil exists and that some monsters are so bent on power and destruction that no argument for peace and love can make them see the light; fighting back is the regrettable but necessary response to their aggression.

When I told my husband the plot, he quoted Théoden from Lord of the Rings when it looked as if the Hornburg might fall:  “What can men do against such reckless hate?”

The movie is not perfect — and perhaps too dark for some children. 

However, in a nation ruled by naïve, incompetent leaders who believe diplomacy (even of the hashtag variety) can solve the most complicated problems, it was a welcomed and refreshing way to spend a summer afternoon.

(How to Train Your Dragon 2 is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.)

Tags: How to Train Your Dragon 2

‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ and the Power of Words



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I was standing in front of my house.  It was a hot Saturday afternoon and visiting neighbors provided the perfect excuse for not trimming my shrubs. One neighbor was telling a story about a recent boating adventure.

“So, I was with my friend from college and his wife/girlfriend,” he said, “and the boat hadn’t been turned on for years.”

“Wait,” my other neighbor laughed. “Was he with his wife or his girlfriend? There’s a difference.”

He went on to explain that his friend had been dating — seriously dating — this woman for years. She was the mother of his child, so the word “wife,” seemed more appropriate than “girlfriend.” 

That’s the thing about words: They have meanings.

However, my neighbor was right that “girlfriend” doesn’t quite encapsulate the gravity of some relationships. “Wife” indicates a vow. “Husband” indicates they’ve made it permanent. Our language lacks an accurate word to describe those close, non-marital bonds.

When we lived in Ithaca, New York, my husband taught at Cornell Law School. It was the first time I had been around people who refused to use the word “husband” or “wife.”

“Are you David’s partner?” a law-school professor asked me.

“In crime?” I asked, jokingly but it was not a laughing matter.

“Husband” and “wife,” of course, are “heteronormative.”  That means that when you say them, you are reinforcing heterosexual standards on the world. It means you believe in certain relational roles. It means you need to stop. 

Why? Well, what do people in homosexual relationships who have been “married” in their home states call their “significant other?”  Husband and husband?  Wife and wife?

The reason these terms are no longer viable is because they indicate a gender and gender roles. What if one or both partners are transgendered? When I went to my women’s studies classes at New York University, they taught that there was no difference at all between men and women — so why, they asked, do we have a need to specify genders with our language?  Gender, they assured me, was a “social construct.”

But what to call each other, if not “husband” and “wife?”

NPR recently quoted Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com on the topic.  ”‘Partner’ sounds very official or contractual. ‘Companion’ sounds unromantic or even euphemistic,” he explained. “’Lover’ might just be too explicit. ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ are inappropriate for a lot of people, unless they’re [sic] a teenager.”

And so, to describe people who have vowed to stay together for the rest of their lives, we’re left with the most unexciting word ever: spouse.

In California last week, Governor Jerry Brown made the boring word official. “Husband” and “wife” will no longer appear in his state’s marriage laws, replaced by the dual function “spouse.”  That way, the forms will reflect the reality that gay people now can marry there.

What bland, non-descriptiveness to describe such a rich relationship.

I remember when my . . . is it okay to say fiancé, or does the one “e” plunge us too deeply into the politics of gender and hate?  Anyway, a guy named David and I flew to Paris and married in the upstairs of a restaurant, buying flowers off the street for my bouquet. It was a romantic, crazy, rather spontaneous act with a man I barely knew. 

In fact, my mother — in a desperate moment of protest — forgot his name and called him “a rank stranger.”  In retrospect, I can see why they were so worried about me marrying someone I barely had dated.

But there in the City of Lights, the preacher pronounced us “husband” and “wife.”

I swallowed hard. Even though some of them were in French, the words carried gravity.

Of course, not because they possessed some sort of magical quality, but because they reflected the serious nature of what we’d done. The words carry implications. I would be a wife, and all that entails. He would be a husband, and all that entails. The label didn’t stop me from having a career while also trying to be a good mom. It didn’t stop David from having a great career while also being a great, nurturing dad. The terms indicated that we’d made vows before God that we’d stay together, even if we barely knew each other and had no idea how the other took coffee.

Eighteen years later, I know he takes his coffee with one Sweet-n-Lo, plus cream.  I also know he developed a taste for cream when he went to Iraq and the coffee they had in Diyala province was so terrible he needed cream to camouflage the taste.

That’s the way marriage is, you know. Permanent. It remains, even as people change over decades of kids and deployments and disappointments and financial setbacks and small victories. We’ve stayed together through changes in taste and coffee and personality. In fact, he was a different man when he returned from war. We had two babies and traveled to Africa to pick up our third.

I don’t know. “Spouse” just doesn’t seem to encapsulate this relationship we made official in Paris way back in 1996. It seems like we spend an inordinate amount of time catering to the small fraction of men who don’t want to be masculine and to the small fraction of women who don’t want to be feminine. But David is more than a companion, more than a partner, more than a spouse.

He’s my husband.

Though I do sometimes call him “rank stranger” just for fun.

 

 

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‘Social Justice’ Begins at Home



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My husband David French has an excellent article, which begins with a proposition:

Dear Christian parents,

I’ve got a deal for you. It’s simple: If you sign up for my program, there’s a roughly 80 percent chance that the man’s happiness will increase substantially. And women, there’s about a 50 percent chance you’ll be happier as well. Sounds good, right? After all, happiness can be tough to come by. How about a few less sleepless nights? A few more smiles? And what about some joy? I bet you could really go for some joy.

The cost? Oh yes, the cost. Nothing’s free, after all. Here’s the thing. If you join my program, your kids will likely become more depressed and anxious. They’ll have a much greater chance of being abused, living in poverty, and becoming addicts. That’s the cost. In short, I’m asking you to purchase your own happiness at the cost of your children’s happiness, not to mention their safety and mental health.

Deal?

Almost any self-respecting Christian parent would throw me out of their house. Could there be anything more obviously selfish? Can you imagine something that more perfectly contradicts Christ’s call to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him?

Yet that’s the deal millions of Christian parents willingly choose every year and then defend zealously. That deal is called divorce.

He goes on to explain how divorce affects children and society. Could it be that this oft-discussed “social justice” idea could actually be solved by the kind of values for which Murphy Brown mocked Dan Quayle?

 

 

David continues:

Throughout my Christian life, I’ve heard much talk of “social justice,” often defined as the desire to create a society that is more compassionate, helps the hurting, and lifts up the impoverished…. I find it interesting that in most discussions of poverty and cultural decay, one rarely hears of the simplest and most obvious solution: marriage.

Read David’s take on how marriage can actually solve many of our cultural problems.

Tags: social justice , sex , marriage , values

Maleficent Scene Symbolizes Rape, But That’s Not a Bad Thing



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My family was on a Trans-Atlantic Disney cruise when Disney’s Maleficent debuted. Half of my family (the half that wasn’t six years old or taking care of the six-year-old) stayed up to watch it at 12:01 a.m. Thursday night, and chattered about it during the next morning’s leisurely breakfast. 

When I decided to see it later on Friday, the whole family tagged along to see it again. That’s how we saw Angelina Jolie’s film twice in less than 24 hours . . . with popcorn, a gently rocking boat, and nothing else to do in the world.

The movie, which re-imagines the story of Sleeping Beauty, focuses on the traditionally evil Maleficent. Jolie stuns in this role, emanating a grace and dignity while conveying an injustice that wounds her so deeply that the audience (sort of) understands how she eventually ends up cursing the king’s baby.

Not an easy feat.

In the film, (mild spoiler alert) her wings are stolen by someone whom she loved.

Since the movie came out, Jolie has said that this scene is symbolic of rape.

In a kids’ movie?

Yep.

But movie critic Rebecca Cusey says this isn’t a bad thing.

After all, fairy tales have always covered dark topics, and this one is no different. She writes in the Federalist:

Jolie isn’t talking about rape culture, as defined by the current crop of American feminists. It’s no accident that her film rules the global box office just as she takes the stage to combat the idea of rape as an inevitable part of war.

Western women have it relatively good, she argued at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 10-13 in London: “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence — that the shame is on the aggressor . . . We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes,” Jolie said. “I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged,Sc and institutions that protect us.”

In other words, Western women have what many women around the world do not: Tools to fight back. That’s hardly the word from the #YesAllWomen crowd.

Fighting back for justice has become one of the major themes in Jolie’s film projects. In addition to other projects about reconciliation and justice, she produced Difret, an Amharic-language film out of Ethiopia that has been making the festival circuit. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl kidnapped by a man who wants to marry her, as is a custom there. As she defends herself, she kills him, only to find herself on trial for his murder. This film explores the boundaries between customary practice and law that attempts to change custom.

For Jolie, the story of rape does not end at the violation nor at fighting back. She goes further. “Maleficent” baffles victim-centric American feminists because instead of merely a story of victimhood or vengeance, it goes beyond both to become a story of rising above abuse and choosing to be better. As Jolie told the BBC, victims have a choice: “The core of ["Maleficent"] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people.”

That message is increasingly the Gospel According to Saint Angie: Evil is complicated and must be stopped, but can only be overcome by good.

Tags: Angelina Jolie , Maleficent , children

New Study: ‘Cool Kids’ Do Not End Up As Functioning Adults



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When I was in junior high, I lived in in awe of the kids at school that seemed to know more about life than the rest of us. 

There was the girl who wore a mini-skirt to school that was so short the principal sent her home — and her mother was indignant!  (A mom who sides with her kid? Unimaginable.) There were the kids who knew how to slip out of school without detection and those who knew how to get into a rated-R movie without their parents — or the movie management — ever finding out.  Of course, every movie, kids’ show, and book seems to celebrate the rule-breakers, the “cool,” the uninhibited.

However, a new study shows that what has always been described as normal adolescent behavior has long-term, real-life repercussions. Abby Phillip reports:

According to the study, which surveyed 184 seventh- and eighth-graders and then followed up with them 10 years later, the kids who were involved in minor delinquent behaviors or precocious romance and obsessed with physical appearance and social status were much worse off in adulthood than their less “cool” friends.

In Allen’s data, he found that at 22 or 23 years old, these kids had 45 percent higher rates of alcohol and drug problems and 22 percent higher rates of criminal behavior; their ratings of social competency — their ability to have normal and positive relationships with others — were 24 percent lower than their peers.

“We were surprised by it, because in general, being popular and being accepted by your peers is associated with good outcomes,” Allen said. “There’s a subgroup that kind of cheats — they’re trying to appear more mature than they are.

“These are behaviors that a lot of parents would think are typical adolescent behaviors but early on are really marker of significant risk,” he added.

Interestingly, the study didn’t include trouble makers who’d already committed major crimes at an early age.  Rather, it focused on kids who flouted rules — the social strivers who might break small rules and who typically seem to have it all together. Apparently, that perceived advantage doesn’t last, because it’s hard to shake the heady feeling that popularity gives a kid.  Once he or she gets into the patterns of rule-breaking, it’s hard to get out of that pattern to face normal, adult life.

“They look like they’re on the fast track to adulthood, but it ends up being a dead end,” said University of Virginia psychology professor Joseph Allen, who conducted the study.

As the mom of a middle school boy, this study is next on our summer-reading list.

Tags: popularity , self-esteem , kids

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Bitter New Trend: “Divorce Cakes”



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Anna Quinn writes about a disturbing new trend in the bakery business:

“Let them eat cake,” Marie Antoinette may have mockingly said upon hearing that the French peasants had no bread to eat. Recently divorced couples seem to have taken her cue. During what was once considered a dark hour, people are now throwing divorce parties, complete with what they are now calling “freedom cakes.” 

The AP reports:

Divorce, it seems, has turned into a party — special cakes and all.

Event planners, bakers, lawyers and academics note the rise of “divorce parties” over the last several years, many with cakes featuring weapon-wielding brides or gloomy black frosting on inverted tiers.

“I’ve taken to naming them freedom fests, as you aren’t celebrating the end of the marriage but the freedom you have chosen in your life,” said Richard O’Malley, a New York-area event planner who organized one divorce blowout that cost a woman about $25,000. Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a marketing professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, has been to a few such parties and sees them as part of a larger trend in celebrations.

“People are also celebrating ‘coming out’ to their parents or co-workers, and the birthdays of their pets. Cancer survivors are celebrating relevant milestones of being cancer-free. There has been an enormous increase in the variety of things that Americans celebrate,” she said.

So why not a divorce, asks Steve Wolf, who lives outside Austin, Texas. He marked his amicable split with a party co-hosted by his ex that included a gluten-free cake she baked herself in lemon, a favorite flavor for both of them.

Wolf, the father of three boys, considers the end of his marriage a “conscious uncoupling.” Yes, like Gwyneth Paltrow. The party, he said, offered closure, especially important because kids were involved.

“We wanted to do something that expressed the fact that we were doing the divorce not so much as an end of our relationship but as us moving into things like co-parenting and co-business management,” said Wolf, whose former wife works for him in his special effects and stunt business serving the film industry.

“We cut the cake together like we did the wedding cake 10 years before. When life gives you lemons, make lemon cake,” he joked, noting the sentiment she wrote in the icing.

Read more here. (And check out this disturbing “divorce cake,” as well as this comical one.)

As odd – and inevitable — as this development may be, it makes me think of this family-owned bakery in Colorado about which Todd Starnes reported:

A family owned bakery has been ordered to make wedding cakes for gay couples and guarantee that its staff be given comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws after the state’s Civil Rights Commission determined the Christian baker violated the law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Or this one in Oregon:

The owners of a Christian bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after they were found guilty of violating the couple’s civil rights.

I wonder if the day is coming when a Christian-owned bakery refuses to celebrate the dissolution of a marriage, on the same Biblical grounds on which they have refused to make cakes for same sex marriage?  (Not all divorce is un-Biblical, of course.)

Either way, owning a bakery in modern America is now rife with unexpected moral complications.

He Said He Was leaving. She Ignored Him.



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I found this 2009 article, which first appeared in the New York Times, particularly touching:

Let’s say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros, when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.
Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing. Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
But wait.

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: marriage , Laura Munson

‘Fifty Percent of All Marriages End in Divorce’ and Other Myths



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“Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce,” right? Not so fast. Author and social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn is trying to change the way we talk about marriage and divorce: “There is no such thing as a 50 percent divorce rate. It’s never been close,” she told The Blaze. “Right now … 72 percent of people are still married to their first spouse — that’s Census Bureau data.” She explained her analysis of the marriage data to The Blaze:

And of the 28 percent who are no longer married to their first spouse, Feldhahn said that a good chunk of those people were married when their husband or wife died and were never actually divorced. So, theoretically, the divorce rate must fall somewhere below the 28 percent mark.

What about this statement? “Church-going couples divorce as frequently those who never darken the church doors on Sunday mornings.” Is that one correct? Not according to Feldhahan:

When comparing Christians to the general population, Feldhahn said that asking the question nominally presented some problems. For instance, if someone says they are a Christian, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a practicing believer. So, Feldhahn partnered with Barna and re-ran their data to focus in on church attendance in the past week — one of the clearest indicators of how deeply one practices his or her faith. While the divorce rate was similar for nominal Christians and the general public, she found something profound among practicing believers. “The divorce rate dropped by 27 percent between those who went to church last week,” Feldhahn said. “The theory is that attendance in other worship faiths would have a similar impact — being part of a community where people are around you will notice when something is going wrong.”

Feldhahn, who researched this topic for eight years for her new book “The Good News about Marriage,” says everything we’ve been told about marriage is wrong. Why is this important when it’s obvious marriages are seriously under attack from a culture trying to undermine the principles on which they are founded? Feldhahn believes the excessive pessimism breeds more failed marriages. “One of the biggest patterns that I’ve seen over the years as a social researcher is that there’s one common denominator about whether marriage survives or fails,” she told TheBlaze. “If a couple thinks they’re going to make it, they generally do. The outcome is very different if they think, ‘This is never going to change. We’re never going to make it.’” In other words, we should take care to speak accurately about the state of marriage today to make sure we aren’t inadvertently making things worse.

On the Mother’s Day Front



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Andrea Caumont and Wendy Wang of Pew Research dug up all kinds of facts and figures about motherhood in our nation. According to a U.S. Census report in 2012:

  • There are more than 85 million moms in the U.S., and 4 million of them gave birth in the last 12 months.
  • Utah leads the nation with a fertility rate of 2.5, while Vermont is last with 1.6. 
  • There are ten million single moms, and 5.2. million of them are custodial parents who are owed child support.
  • Almost twice as many American women who are done childbearing had no children (19%) vs those who had four or more (10%).

Pew also reports:

And Ipsos reports that cards top the list on Mother’s Day, followed by phone calls and dining out . . . and women are more likely to celebrate mom than men.

ICYMI: Here is how people reacted to being offered  ”the toughest job in the world” — yes, motherhood.

The Social Mobility of Baby Boom Women



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One of the latest political footballs is how women are faring in the workplace, particularly their wages. A report from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project has six key facts that Brookings found notable. When comparing Baby Boom daughters to their parents:

1. All daughters earn more than their moms did, but most earn less than their dads, as shown below. (Sons are earning more than both parents.)

2. But as the above chart also shows, a high percentage of poor daughters are making more than their dads. (Nearly four out of five daughters from the bottom 20%.)

3. But those higher wages for poor women aren’t raising poor families’ overall incomes because of the marriage gap. (More on that here from Brad Wilcox at The Atlantic.)

4. Working daughters whose moms did not work seem to be marrying men who make more money, resulting in higher family incomes. (It’s unclear why.)

5. Daughters born in the bottom 40% tend to stay there (unlike the sons) and daughters born in the top 20% are more likely than the sons to drop downward.

6. Working has been good for daughters’ mobility, especially the poorest, compared to their moms.

Find the full report here.

An Extra Special Contestant on Wheel of Fortune



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Props to Wheel of Fortune for having their first special-needs contestant. Other contestants have been accommodated in the past, including a few contestants unable to spin the wheel for themselves who had a “designated spinner,” but this was a first for the top-rated game show. 

Trent Girone, a 21-year-old from Peoria, AZ, who has Asperger’s and Tourette’s syndromes, has been a fan of the show since he was a toddler. In his contestant profile he wrote: 

My best advice to future contestants is to relax and have a good time. It is a lot of fun, whether you win big or not. That is my number one guarantee.

I want to thank all of the contestant staf for taking the time to help me, and would like to thanks Pat Sajak for his assistance, as well. I have some physical challenges that they were aware of and they made sure I was safe and comfortable.

Here are the highlights of his appearance — way to go, Trent!

The Mixed Messages Radical Feminists Send about Sex



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The “women are empowered when they control their sex lives . . . as we see fit” message from radical feminists has produced a contradictory gem from PolicyMic, a website for twenty-somethings (? not sure, since it never exactly defines who they are) whose stated mission is to “help our generation understand what’s happening in the world, why it matters, and how it impacts them.” (Looking over their site, this seems to translate to “giving you the liberal rationalizations to do whatever the heck you want.”)

In the article entitled “17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex,” (was this a Buzzfeed reject?) Julianne Ross tries to have her sex and not offend those who don’t happen to be having sex at the moment, too. The tone is set in the opening paragraph when she suggests there’s too much “fretting” about Miley Cyrus and that the growing trend of Purity Balls is “troubling” — which apparently means there’s a “fascination” in society with controlling young women’s sex lives.

Ross then begins a list whose vast swings — between helpful info and premarital-sex apologia — are nauseating. The informative inclusions that truly are empowering are fewer and include: one does not owe a man sex just because he spent money; even if you start, you can say stop; sexual harassment is not normal; and not everyone is “doing it.” But many of these still seem to endorse premarital sex – as long as it’s on your terms, of course.

The rest of the list seems not just rationalizations for having sex, but for being just like men in terms of one’s sex life, no apologies necessary. First Ross attacks the very notion of “virginity” which — once again — she believes is all about the “cultural obsession” with keeping girls “pure.” While of course we don’t want young women who were raped to think any less of themselves, to suggest that purity is simply in one’s own mind can justify all kinds of risky behavior.

The next “lie” – that the first time will hurt —  isn’t presented as being conditional, but that it’s all because young women fear the pain so much that they tense up. If only women were encouraged to relax during their first time, the pain could be avoided. (How about suggesting that one’s fear could be all but eliminated if a woman were to wait until she is married, with all the assurances such a permanent bond provides against all the pitfalls of a premarital sexual relationship? Nah.)

Even the entries about other physical myths, and psychological ones such as that women don’t think about sex very often – don’t seem to be presented as merely non-factual. Each one is yet another chance for the author to tell young women to go ahead and have sex without hang-ups.

But the most egregious item on the list is the lie that women don’t watch porn. After a caveat that includes only one of the many, very good reasons feminists should be adamantly against porn, the author then turns it into a “his porn’s okay, your porn’s okay” lovefest.

The hatred many women feel towards porn is understandable, given that so much of it promotes unrealistic or downright unhealthy attitudes about female sexuality. The problem is, as the Kinsey Institute’s Debby Herbenick points out, “Most mainstream porn is made by men with other men in mind.”

This doesn’t mean that many women don’t enjoy porn, nor that there’s not a market for more female-friendly fare. Researchers have shown that men and women respond comparably to sexually explicit material, and that the increase in women’s brainwave activity when looking at erotic images is just as strong as the increase in men’s.

Well, of course, some women do enjoy graphic materials. Some women also like going to Hooters. But is the porn ”lie” one that modern feminists should be looking to correct, to the point of endorsing porn? Should we just forget what viewing porn has done to so many men (to the point of addiction) – not to mention its involvement in increasing sex trafficking?

After all the ways women have suffered because of the “sexual revolution,” I can’t believe we still have to argue that the positive aspects of controlling our sex lives do not mitigate the negative repercussions of premarital sex — and that radical feminists refuse to acknowledge that sex before marriage is simply not the best road for young women.

On the School Front



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When sufficient amounts are offered to better teachers, merit pay works.

Should financing college degrees be similar to mortgages, with appraisals and determination of future earnings to repay? 

High Schools Increasingly Worried about Immodest Momsand saggy-pants-wearing dads.

A mom worries that the mommy wars have come to the classroom

LA Unified serves 650,000 meals a day. Students throw out at least $100,000 worth

California group Students Matter filed a lawsuit in January for nine public school students seeking to fight tenure and predators. (Judge reviewing, will have verdict in early July.)

Dress Code for Parents Dropping Kids Off at High School?



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When I walked my daughter to her inner-city Philadelphia school, I was astonished at the wardrobes — or lack thereof — of the parents.  One mom used to wear what was essentially a bikini top in the warmer months as we stood outside and chatted while waiting for dismissal.

One Florida high school is taking matters into its own hands:

Broward County School Board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood brought up the idea during a meeting after noticing parents dropping their kids off at Boyd Anderson High School while wearing saggy pants that exposes their underwear and curls in their hair.

“We have dads showing up in sagging pants,” Osgood said, according to the Sun Sentinel. “It’s hard for me to tell a child not to show up for school with hair curlers, pajamas or short shorts if they see parents wearing them. Parents need to lead by example.”

It’s highly unlikely a dress code for parents could be enforced, but Osgood would like the situation to be addressed by principals during the school’s Parent Night.

Private schools are apparently suffering from the same issue — I recently talked to a headmaster who said his school’s “parental dress code” problem relates to moms showing up in skin-tight, cleavage-baring workout clothes.

Plato once wrote, “Let parents not bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.”

High school principals across America might add, “ . . . and properly fitting undergarments, shirts that cover midriffs, and skirts long enough to leave a little to the imagination.”

The World’s Toughest Job Pays No Taxes



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I think you’ll agree no one holding this position should pay taxes (though it’s a wonder anyone signs up given this job description):

Nancy Reagan Did Not Approve of this Pencil



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According to the New York Times, it took a ten-year-old kid to realize this:

A company has recalled a batch of pencils after a fourth-grade student pointed out an embarrassing message that appeared after he sharpened his pencil. 

The pencils carry the slogan ”Too Cool to Do Drugs.” But the student noticed that when the pencils are sharpened and get shorter, the message becomes Cool to Do Drugs,” then simply Do Drugs.” 

As a result of the discovery by Kodi Mosier, a 10-year-old student at Ticonderoga Elementary School, the company, the Bureau for At-Risk Youth, based in Plainview, N.Y., recalled the pencils.

They are going to re-print the pencils with the message written in the other direction.  That way, when the pencils are sharpened, they don’t encourage kids to develop a crystal meth habit.

And speaking of Nancy Reagan, does everyone remember this very special message on Diffrent Strokes?  Every time I’m annoyed when Michelle Obama pops up on the Disney Channel to talk about a healthy diet, I remember the oh-so-awkward Diffrent Strokes episode and cut her some slack. The only thing that could’ve made this cameo even better is a well-placed whatchu talkin bout First Lady? 

 

Women Having Fewer Children Than Their Hearts Desire



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 . . . and it isn’t just here in the States. The Pew Research Center came out with a report today in which they asked women in more than 30 countries, aged 40-54, what was the ideal number of children to have, and compared it to how many they actually had.

In many developed nations, the average number of children that a woman has in her lifetime is now less than two, falling short of the approximate fertility necessary for a generation to “replace” itself. While there are many factors driving what some deem a ‘Baby Bust’ in Europe and—to a lesser extent—the U.S., a lack of desire for children is not among them.

 . . . Reality often doesn’t comport with the ideal. Among EU women ages 40 to 54, one-third reported that the number of children they actually have is lower than their personal ideal. This gap in ideal versus actual fertility varies markedly by country.

The U.S. data is somewhat dated, coming from a 2006-08 survey, but reveals that American women are not having the families they envisioned. 

Some 52% of American women (who gave numerical responses) said their ideal is two children, and an additional 44% said that three or more children is their ideal. (While 86% of women gave numerical responses to this question, 14% reported that the ideal family size was “as many as [someone] wants.”) But 40% of U.S. women nearing the end of their childbearing years have fewer children than their ideal.

The report goes on to point out the many factors that may be causing this trend, such as delays in child-rearing (which can lead to fertility problems) and lack of finding a suitable partner, but even when women have great benefits and incentives for parenting, they still tend to have fewer children than their ideal. (Or none at all — a report from January showed that the U.S. is one of the leaders in childlessness.)

It seems that — even when taking into account the factors listed above — the notion is entrenched in women’s minds that when it comes to childbearing, less is more. Why this persistent notion that one or two children is all a mother can handle and adequately provide for? If that’s what a woman decides for herself, that’s one thing; but if she desires more but chooses not to because of outside influences — societal/peer pressure, the stress of parenting, perceived economic restraints — that seems quite sad to me. Choosing not to create more little miracles because you’re afraid what others will think, or because you’re buying in to the notion that we must have a certain amount of cash in our bank accounts to properly raise another child, or any other arbitrary reason… I honestly believe that in these matters, one must follow her heart and be open to the joys — and yes, challenges — that more children bring to a family. It’s more than worth it in the end.

– Colette Moran is a mom of 7. Follow her on Twitter @ColetteMoran

More Pinocchios for White House Wage Gap Claims



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The Fact Checker at the Washington Post had previously examined the claim reiterated by President Obama that women only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, and awarded it one Pinocchio for its lack of truthfulness. The President has continued to use the factoid, including in his last two State of the Union addresses and in a speech this week, so the Post revisited the claim. They now feel they were too generous in their previous assessment:

From a political perspective, the Census Bureau’s 77-cent figure is golden. Unless women stop getting married and having children, and start abandoning careers in childhood education for naval architecture, this huge gap in wages will almost certainly persist. Democrats thus can keep bringing it up every two years .

There appears to be some sort of wage gap and closing it is certainly a worthy goal. But it’s a bit rich for the president to repeatedly cite this statistic as an “embarrassment.” (His line in the April 8 speech was almost word for word what he said in the 2014 State of the Union address.) The president must begin to acknowledge that “77 cents” does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the work force and society.

Thus we are boosting the rating on this factoid to Two Pinocchios. We were tempted to go one step further to Three Pinocchios, but the president is relying on an official government statistic – and there are problems and limitations with the other calculations as well.

Other interesting findings on the wage gap reported by the Post include Bureau of Labor Statistic data showing that women who never marry earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes. Additionally, another survey by the Labor Department concluded that if you put a dollar value on the fringe benefits that women usually opt for — like more flexible parental leave — the wage gap is a mere 5 cents on the dollar.

Read more here.

 

Number of Stay-at-Home-Moms Continues to Rise



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In the good news/bad news department, fewer American mothers are working outside the home — but many are doing so not by their own choosing. The Pew Research Center released new data today that includes moms who choose to stay at home, are unable to find work, are disabled, or are attending school. 

The share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29% in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23% in 1999, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. This rise over the past dozen years represents the reversal of a long-term decline in “stay-at-home” mothers that had persisted for the last three decades of the 20th century. The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women’s labor force participation, and is set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children.

There was a big jump in the percentage of moms who said they were staying home because they couldn’t find work — while only 1 percent made this claim in 2000, the number climbed to 6 percent in 2012.

There are many interesting pieces of data, including what turns out is the small number of SAHMs who are the so-called well-heeled “opt-out” mothers that get a lot of press these days. But the other striking information from this report is the answer to what is best for children – and, I think, the fact that so few did not choose a definitive answer to the question.

 

 

What’s Best for Children?

 

 

A clear majority feel that it’s best for a parent to stay at home to care for children. But of course, it’s a basic question. One can understand if there is also lingering ambivalence. I personally have found staying home more rewarding and strongly encourage young women to choose it. But I also know several moms who work outside the home for various reasons, and I see their kids thriving. Could some of them afford to stay home and perhaps discover that their children (and they themselves) would fare even better? It’s easy for me to say yes. On the flip side, it’s hard to convince some women that the stereotypes of the happy homemaker being less intelligent and less successful than the career woman are unfair.

As far as this report is concerned, of course it is troubling that fewer women are able to find work, but perhaps we can find comfort in knowing that there are benefits to having moms in the home full-time that money can’t buy. 

See Maggie Gallagher’s more thorough take on this study for NRO here.

On a similar note — here’s a piece on the the importance of help from extended family for all moms.

White House Pastry Chef Leaves Post: ‘I Don’t Want to Demonize Cream, Butter, Sugar, and Eggs’



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Bethany Jenkins at the Gospel Coalition explores food and healthy choices in her article “Watching What We Eat,” which mentions the White House pastry chef who recently left his post:

Under the direction of Mrs. Obama, the White House executive pastry chef, Bill Yosses, “was directed to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were to be served only sparingly to the first family.” He frequently replaces butter with fruit purée and sugar with honey or agave. He also often adds whole grains to desserts and picks his fruits, vegetables, and herbs directly from the White House garden.

A few weeks ago, however, Yosses announced his “bittersweet decision” to leave Washington and head to New York, explaining, “I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar, and eggs.” He also said, “Not everything is about sugar, but everything is about good taste. And there’s such a thing as healthy good taste.” In other words, he thinks it’s possible to focus on healthy ingredients without stigmatizing traditional ones.

Tags: Michelle Obama , White House , Health

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