The Home Front

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

Good and Bad News about Paternity Leave


More companies are offering it, but new dads are not really using it. 

Yahoo Inc. announced in April that new fathers can take eight weeks off at full pay. Bank of America Corp. offers 12 weeks of paid leave, and Ernst & Young a few years ago bumped its leave policy from two weeks to six. Fifteen percent of U.S. firms provide some paid leave for new fathers, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management to be released on Father’s Day.

It sounds like progress, but in reality men are reluctant to take time off for a variety of reasons, ranging from a fear of losing status at work to lingering stereotypes about a father’s role in the family.

The overwhelming majority of the 85 percent of fathers who do take leave only stay home for one or two weeks. This despite the fact that 60 percent of fathers in double-income families feel conflicted about work vs. family responsibilities. However, there is often a stigma attached to taking longer leave and many feel pressure or resentment from coworkers.

A forthcoming paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that men who are active caregivers get teased and insulted at work more than so-called traditional fathers and men without children.

Active fathers are seen as distracted and less dedicated to their work – the same perception that harms career prospects for many working mothers, said Jennifer Berdahl, the study’s lead author, adding that such men are accused of being wimpy or henpecked by their wives.

This is truly sad in light of the fact that there are long-term benefits from parents’ taking longer leaves.

A 2007 study from researchers at Columbia University found that fathers who take longer leaves are more involved in child care months after returning to work. And a paper by a Cornell University graduate student Ankita Patnaik earlier this year examined leave-policy reforms in Quebec and found that more generous and equitable parental-leave policies led to a greater likelihood that mothers will return to their employers after maternity leave.

More here.



Bad News for Families: Flexible Work Options Stagnate


After years of slow but steady progress, it looks like flex options in workplaces are being pulled back. Last year it was Bank of America, and this year Yahoo! and Best Buy have reined in workflex for their employees. The choice made by the new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer– said to be the first Fortune 500 tech CEO to run a company while pregnant – seemed to really cut working mothers to the quick. And the two working moms who developed Best Buy’s workflex program were floored.

[Best Buy is] sending a clear message that they are more concerned with having leadership excel at monitoring the hallways, rather than building a leadership team that excels at defining clear, measurable results, and holding people accountable for achieving those results. While we agree that Best Buy must take drastic measures to turn their business around, moving back to a 20th century, paternalistic ‘command and control’ environment is most certainly not the answer

In fact, any so-called leadership team can effectively get ‘all hands on deck’, dictate hours and delegate tasks, while their people brag about how many hours they put in ‘at the office’. That’s easy. But only true leadership has the ability to get ‘everyone on point’ with a workforce vs. a workplace that’s fluid, nimble and focused on what matters: measurable results.

A recent employee-benefits survey by the Society of Human Resource Management has shown a statistically insignificant change in all measures of flexible-work options, despite the positive effects, such as fewer employee absences, that these options provide.

Despite the the rise of cloud technology, completely distributed companies, and more modern company cultures, there’s been almost no change over the past four years.

Still, there’s a hope for gradual progress. Another 4% of employers say they’ll offer some telecommuting options within the next year.

Charts and more here.




Google Glass Turns Regular Mom into ‘Super Mom’


Via Business Insider:

This Kleiner Perkins VC Says Google Glass Turned Her Into A Super Mom

Well, being a partner at Kleiner Perkins is already pretty super. Let’s read about the amazing properties of her glasses:

Trae Vassallo wants to “dispel the myths” about Google Glass.

Vassallo is a Glass owner and a general partner at venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

She was talking about wearable tech on stage today at the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit.

Vassallo often wears Google Glass in “sunglass mode” with darkened lenses. She tends to wear them on top of her head, not over her face, unless she’s driving or running around outside with her kids.

Vassallo admitted being “mortified” the first time she wore Google Glass in public. But since then, she’s become a fan. She said the device’s built-in video and still cameras have made her a ”superparent.”

“I’ve taken thousands of photos of my kids and amazing video,” she said. With Glass, she’s captured moments that would’ve slipped away if she’d had to reach for a camera. 

Likewise, Vassallo feels more efficient. Using Glass, she can do research and book appointments, even while driving, without taking her eyes off the road.

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure booking appointments while driving using your glasses is a distraction — and adding extra distractions while driving with your kids in the car is what they call “bad parenting,” not “super parenting.” And taking pictures without having to reach for your phone to take a picture or video does not exactly make one a “super mom.” 

Oh, and I’m sure it was a simple oversight that Business Insider didn’t mention that Kleiner Perkins is in a partnership with Google Glass.

Super mom — Super VC — same difference?

Mommy Guilt: It’s an Industry


Recently, I forgot to send the registration form to the folks running a summer camp that I knew my oldest would love.  It’s now full so he’s out and I feel guilty. 

My middle child recently got a new bike, but I unknowingly bought one that is far too heavy and much too big for his slight frame. So, this summer he’ll learn to ride on a terrifyingly large bike. He probably won’t take to it and I feel guilty. 

My youngest has an aggressive streak. He’s well known on the playground for pushing down pink-clad girls with grosgrain-ribbon-tied pigtails. I suspect it’s because I spent less time with him as a baby. Yup, I feel guilty. 

Do I rely too much on television?  Would we have clean clothes and a relatively orderly house if I didn’t? Are they reading enough? Saying “may I” instead of “can I”? Are they polite, respectful, appropriately daring and courageous yet sensitive, empathetic, and kind to animals? Do they play well with others when out of my view? Probably not. More guilt. 

Guilt is a mother’s best friend. It never leaves her side. It is always there talking to her, needling her, nudging her, keeping her company. This emotion connects all mothers. We women may differ in all sorts of ways – race, income, career choices, likes and dislikes, political opinions, child-rearing techniques – but we all have this one thing in common: mommy guilt.  

In fact, according to a national online survey just released by the Independent Women’s Forum, “mommy guilt” is pervasive among women. According to the poll, two-thirds of women say they sometimes feel badly about not doing enough to eat right and live healthily. Sadly, its single mothers – arguably the mothers who deal with the most stress – that experience the most guilt.  

This news will be reassuring to many women. After all, misery loves company and there is genuine comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Yet, women should be aware that their guilt is proving to be a goldmine for many environmental and public-health organizations that capitalize on mommy guilt in order to further certain regulatory goals.This mommy-guilt industry is made up of organizations that present themselves as moderate voices working to ensure the health, safety, and happiness of families, yet they actively work to make life more difficult for overwhelmed mothers by spreading outright lies about perfectly normal and inexpensive products. 

Take for instance the recent “investigation” conducted by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition (a harmless-sounding alliance of dozens of separate radical environmental and public-health nonprofits) which found that “hazardous chemicals” can be found in children’s rain gear. 

To a busy mother, this might seem like a legitimate issue. But hopefully some mothers will realize that while most children’s raincoats are in fact made of vinyl (which does contain chemicals), kids aren’t actually eating their shiny, yellow raincoats – which is the only way these “toxic” chemicals could cause any sort of harm. Of course, this little detail isn’t mentioned by the activist group, leaving mothers with yet another reason to panic (and clean out the coat closet).  

So, what would make these groups make such preposterous charges against something as innocuous as a child’s raincoat and rain boots? 

I’ve got a hunch: money has something to do with it. After all, what parent wouldn’t want to support an organization standing between their child and the harmful and toxic products sold in stores. 

It’s time for moms to start ignoring these alarmist claims of danger around every corner, tucked into every closet, and under every kitchen sink.  


For Busy Parents: Not Quite Like Mom Used to Make


I only worked outside the home as a mom for a few years, but I still feel for the working parents of today (along with very busy stay-at-homes) who want to give their kids something better than take-out or highly processed dinners. Thankfully, the “nearly homemade” market is booming.

This moment may sound familiar: It’s 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and you realize the dinner you had been planning to make isn’t going to work out.

It’s one of the most stressful points of weekday life, according to consumer research. Now in response, packaged-food companies and grocery stores are developing meals that aim to strike a delicate balance. They are quick and simple to prepare, but still feel like cooking a homemade meal.

The target market is a lucrative one. Companies say these are homes where women – and increasingly men – like to cook when time allows, and they generally spend more on groceries. They often feel guilty relying on frozen foods or boxed meals, but a busy day can back them into a prepared-food corner.

Companies are concentrating on meals that include just the right amount of steps, take just the right amount of time to prepare, and can include a little bit of fresh product that the consumer can add. These meals are an attempt to strike the balance between simplicity and activity, so parents can get a nice meal on the table without feeling like they’re “cheating.”

More here.



A Closer Look: Why Teens Are Prone to Peer Pressure


As is evidenced by the positive effects that peer pressure can have, a new study suggests that teens are influenced by others not so much because they are less capable of making rational decisions, but because they crave social acceptance more than adults do.

Peer pressure is often seen as a negative, and indeed it can coax kids into unhealthy behavior like smoking or speeding. But it can also lead to engagement in more useful social behaviors. If peers value doing well in school or excelling at sports, for instance, it might encourage kids to study or train harder.

And both peer pressure and learning to resist it are important developmental steps to self-reliance, experts say.

The research also suggests that you should get to know your kids’ friends early – and cut your older teen some slack.

Peer influence during adolescence is normal and tends to peak around age 15, then decline. Teens get better at setting boundaries with peers by age 18 according to Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University.

And an earlier school of thought about teenage brains is being challenged.

In years past, people thought teens didn’t have fully developed frontal lobes, the part of the brain critical for decision-making and other more complex cognitive tasks. But a growing body of work seems to show that teens are able to make decisions as well as adults when they are not emotionally worked up. Instead, the key may be that the reward centers of the brain get more activated in adolescence, and seem to be activated by our peers.

The research has also found the key factors of resisting negative peer pressure: being popular, having a family with low dysfunction, and having good communication skills. 

Much more here.


U.S. Colleges Produce Poorly Prepared Teachers


U.S. News & World Report has published the results of a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit advocacy group. It is the first comprehensive review of the education programs for elementary and high-school teachers at U.S. colleges. The report, as examined by the Wall Street Journal, is not good.

U.S. colleges of education are an “industry of mediocrity” that churns out teachers ill-prepared to work in elementary and high-school classrooms. . . . The [NCTQ], which has long promoted overhauling U.S. teacher preparation, assigned ratings of up to four stars to 1,200 programs at 608 institutions that collectively account for 72% of the graduates of all such programs in the nation. . . . 

The council included criteria such as the selectivity of the teacher programs, as well as an evaluation of their syllabi, textbooks and other teaching materials. It said fewer than 10% of the programs earned three or more stars. Only four, all for future high-school teachers, received four stars. About 14% got zero stars, and graduate-level programs fared particularly poorly. . . .

As evidence mounts that teacher quality is one of the biggest determinants of student achievement, critics have complained that teacher-training programs have lax admission standards, scattered curriculum, and fail to give aspiring teachers real-life classroom training. The report echoes the complaints, saying many graduates lack the necessary classroom-management skills and subject knowledge needed. The report contends that it is too easy to get into teacher-preparation programs, with only about a quarter of them restricting admissions to applicants in the top half of their class. The typical grade-point-average to get into undergraduate programs is about 2.5, it said.

The report also found that 75 percent of the programs were not preparing their graduates to teach reading to young students.

More here.


We All Win when High Schoolers Drop Back In


The bad news: High-school dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than graduates, face a much higher unemployment rate, are more than twice as likely to live in poverty, are 63 times more likely than a college grad to be incarcerated, and will cost society an average of $292,000 in their lifetime.

The reasons why they drop out, according to a 2012 survey:

Absence of parental support or encouragement (23 percent)

Becoming a parent (21 percent)

Lacking the credits needed to graduate (17 percent)

Missing too many days of school (17 percent)

Failing classes (15 percent)                         

Uninteresting classes (15 percent)

Experiencing a mental illness, such as depression (15 percent)

Having to work to support by family (12 percent)

Was bullied and didn’t want to return (12 percent)

The good news: Progress is being made in efforts to help at-risk dropouts return to high school to complete their education, even after they have turned 18.

New data and technologies offer greater opportunity to find and reconnect out-of-school youths than ever before. Educators say emerging intervention models hold promise not just to build credits for an equivalent certificate, but to rebuild dropouts’ academic, social, and emotional foundations for success beyond high school. . . .

Boston is one of a network of cities, including Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore., that have established “re-engagement centers”—one-stop shops to help returning students find a new school or online classes; connect with social workers and therapists when needed; and plan for college and a career. . . .

Ultimately, Jobs For the Future’s Lili Allen believes dropout recovery will be judged not on whether students get a high school diploma, but on whether they are really prepared for life after graduation: college, careers, family, and a productive civic life.

“There’s a growing recognition,” she says, “that this population needs to not just make it over that first finish line but really needs to make it through postsecondary if they are going to sustain family-supporting careers.”

Policymakers are hoping to attach responsibility to school systems, tying in increased funding to how many of the returning dropouts eventually graduate.


A Better Response to Children’s Complaints of Boredom this Summer


Rather than getting annoyed when your children say they are bored — or feeling guilty that you are not providing them with activities — new research suggests that parents should look at what may be the real problem.

Kids who complain of boredom aren’t necessarily lazy or slacking off, but are actually in a tense, negative state, says a 2012 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Frustrated and struggling to engage, they often find themselves unable to focus their attention or get started on satisfying activities.

The overwhelming majority of kids turn to video games when they can’t focus, but overstimulation is the last thing they need. Instead, parents should talk to their kids to determine if anything is troubling them and encourage them to figure out a plan of action.

But for those times when your child really does need to fill their time, planning ahead is key.

Planning in advance can help kids get through the mental paralysis that comes with boredom. Dr. Laura Markham recommends helping a child make a “Boredom Buster Jar,” a bottle of paper slips with the child’s ideas for things to do. Such a tool can also help guide nannies or sitters who need ideas.

Suggesting a little drudgery can spur a child’s imagination, too. Try saying, “I could use a little help cleaning the closet,” Dr. Markham says.

Time to draw up a few lists . . . 


Are LEGO Faces Too Angry?


CNN Money:

Today’s LEGO characters are looking increasingly angry and carrying more weapons, indicating an important shift in the way kids play and interact with toys.

New research by robot expert Christoph Bartneck at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand shows the number of happy faces on tiny LEGO figures is decreasing.

“We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts on how children play,” he said in a statement.

And let’s not forget this story from last week: A six-year-old boy was given detention for brandishing a toy gun – a toy gun the size of a quarter from one of his LEGO figurines. Comprehensive LEGO–figurine reform is long overdue, if you ask me, especially when “robot experts” are signaling the alarm. 

I’m joking, of course — except that there’s no way I’d let my kids have this one:







Dove Is Reuniting Military Families for Father’s Day


Get out the tissue NOW.

What a noble venture in honor of military dads serving overseas.


Who Decided My Daughters Are Women?


There are sound reasons why we choose to protect those under the age of 18 with certain legal restrictions. Unfortunately, all those reasons seem to fly out the window when it comes to “reproductive rights.” The Obama administration has decided not to fight a judge’s order to make the Plan B emergency contraceptive available to anyone without a prescription. Although the president himself is said to still be against selling Plan B to underage girls, as are the majority of Americans, apparently he will allow the FDA to simply throw up their hands in defeat.

In a letter Monday to U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York, who has called the age restrictions “politically motivated” and “scientifically unjustified,” the administration said it would drop its appeal in the case and abide by Korman’s order to make Plan B One-Step contraceptive pills available to women and girls of any age without a prescription.

The age restrictions are “politically motivated”? It couldn’t possibly be that removing the age restrictions is a “politically motivated” response to the abortion lobby, could it? And “scientifically unjustified”? I love it when men with law degrees are given the power to decide which scientific research is valid.

How about just common sense? You can argue all you want about the efficacy of the drug and whether or not it is dangerous when used as directed. We have restrictions on buying drugs that contain pseudoephedrine because of the potential for abuse. Is there no potential for abuse with Plan B?

Those opposed to the sale have mentioned many of the pitfalls that can occur with this policy: Young women could use the drug as their birth control of choice. Over and over. Engaging in unprotected sex, and opening the door to STDs. There is the danger of having the drug slipped to them by a vengeful boyfriend or, even worse, by their abuser.

And just think of the immature mind: “It has to be taken within three days? Hmmm . . . It’s been a week. Maybe if I take, like, ten of them — that’ll do it.”

But the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks a fourteen-year-old is an adult, capable of dealing with the perils of sexual activity. 

Speaking at a news conference, Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the ruling made her proud “as a woman and as a doctor and as a mother of three children.

“This statement and this ruling are long overdue and especially welcome by all of us at the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Breuner said.

However, she said more needed to be done to be sure the pill was affordable to all women, regardless of their finances. It should be priced so that sexually active women 14, 15 and 16 years old can afford it, Breuner said.

I have daughters who are 16 and 14. They are top students, mature and capable, who can handle adversity. There is no way you could convince me that they would be able to deal with the swirling emotions and complexities of making this serious medical decision on their own. Perhaps they are not as “street smart” as the average girls their age, but is that how we should define the capability to make such decisions?

A certain lobby wants to pretend that there is nothing wrong with pre-teen/teenage sexuality and the use of emergency contraception, but we parents know our daughters. We know this is a battle worth fighting. For them.





Bill Clinton: Father of the Year


Nothing says “Father of the Year” like embarrassing your child’s mother in public.

NBC has the details.

NYC Creates App to Help Teens Find Abortion Services


While Governer Cuomo is doing all he can to make New York state the most extreme abortion provider in the nation, New York City is doing all it can to steer teens toward abortion clinics. Apparently forty percent of pregnancies ending in abortion in the boroughs just isn’t enough.

The New York City Health Department’s NYC teen website now includes an app that teens can download to their smart phones to get information on “sexual health,” including where they can get birth control and abortions.

The app, under the heading “Important Links and Info,” has three main links – Where to Go: sexual health services; What to Get: condoms and birth control; and What to Expect: at the clinic. Under the health services link the user can choose what service they want, including Gold Star clinics (those that offer free birth control and other services), emergency contraceptive or Plan B, and abortion.

If the user picks abortion, they can then choose the area in the city where they want to find services. If the user picks Manhattan, for example, they will be directed to three places that perform abortions – Family Planning Clinic, Harlem Hospital; Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Center; and Project Stay – Services to Assist Youth at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Under the “info” tab on the app, teens are told that New York state does not have parental consent law when it comes to getting sexual health services.

More here.


What You Think You Know about Drowning Is Wrong


If you haven’t seen or read this article making the rounds yet, please do. It could save a life.

Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning.

The story then goes on to explain the real reactions and signs to look for. Read them here


The U.S. Is Not the Only Nation with Child-Care Problems


The New Republic had a heart-wrenching story about the state of child care in the U.S. While unfortunately it did not address what we can do about so many working mothers having problems securing affordable daycare because of lack of support from the children’s fathers, the article did offer these sobering statistics.

About 8.2 million kids – about 40 percent of children under five – spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent…

A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of [child care] operations to be “fair” or “poor” – only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard.

Proportionally, about 9 percent of all reported SIDS deaths should take place in child care. The actual number is twice that. And while overall SIDS fatalities declined after a nationwide education campaign, the death rate in child care held steady.

This isn’t just a problem here. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a response for Forbes about the myths of French childcare. He lists these four:

1. MYTH: Every parent has access to a crèche [child care]. . . . Now, to a liberal, that might point to an obvious conclusion: build more crèches! But to a conservative, it points to the quasi law of nature that public provision of valuable services will lead to rationing (and thence, corruption) because public services do not have the built-in mechanism for balancing supply and demand that well-functioning markets do. . . .

2. MYTH: French crèches are a wonderful environment for kids. . . . Regardless of whether “French parenting” is “better” than “American parenting” . . . a public day care system that would conform to the legitimate preferences of American parents would be an even more expensive and unlikely proposition. . . .

3. MYTH: Crèche staff are well paid and highly credentialed. . . . The diploma that is required to work at a crèche is a “CAP” in early childhood. The CAP is a secondary vocational diploma, which is normally taught from ages 15 to 17 . . . [and] while it isn’t technically false to say that French day care workers are paid better [than] in the U.S., it doesn’t seem obvious to me that French child care workers are paid “quite well”, or better than their US colleagues in a significant, across-the-board way.

4. MYTH: French parents get generous tax breaks for hiring nannies. . . . Parents overwhelmingly pay their nannies off the book. This is what the tax break exists to remedy. It helps pay, not for the nanny’s salary, but for the payroll tax that goes on top of the nanny’s salary. So the tax breaks exists. But it’s not really meaningful. And obviously it’s a mandatory 0% loan to the French government. And the fact that the tax break had to be created is an obvious admission that there aren’t enough crèches nor does the government think it can make enough over the long term.

But Gobry feels there is one truth about French child care that the U.S. should emulate: There is bipartisan support in seeking remedies to the problem.

Details here.






Twenty Percent of Women in U.S. Begin Families After Age 35


And many OB-GYNs are warning their patients that may be too late. Too many women over 35 seem to believe that having their first child will be no problem.

Doctors say advances in fertility treatments and media coverage of women conceiving in their 40s and even 50s have led some people to believe they can beat the biological clock. And though more women are pursuing fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, using egg donors and freezing eggs and embryos, experts note that such procedures are expensive, rarely covered by insurance, and offer no guarantee for conception…

“I hear many people say 40 is the new 30. But not reproductively, it’s not the new 30,” says Cynthia Austin, medical director of in vitro fertilization at the Cleveland Clinic. “Our ovaries are aging at the same rate they did 50 years ago.”

Genetics largely determine which women will still be fertile at 40 and which ones won’t. “Fertility is absolutely a wild card,” says Laurie Green, an OB-GYN in San Francisco. “At 30 I start talking to patients. I always tell them that we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know who is going to be fertile and who is not.”

The article also explains the increase in genetic abnormalties as women age, and how more and more younger career women are choosing to freeze their eggs at over $10,000 for the procedure.

More here.



Not-So-Swift Attack on Swiffer


Perhaps Swiffer should have known that marketing cleaning products in the age of political correctness is treacherous business. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Swiffer dared to use the image of Rosie the Riveter to promote a new steam cleaner, provoking a feminist backlash. The company has since pulled the offending ads.  



It seems that while feminists want women to be perpetually incensed that they shoulder more of the burden of household chores, they also want companies selling cleaning products to ignore this reality, and feature images of men wielding the latest cleaning contraption.

Mainstream women may not see such a disconnect between helpful cleaners and women’s empowerment, as exemplified by Rosie. After all, innovations in cleaning – such as washing machines, vacuums, and fast-acting spray cleaners – have played a leading role in freeing up women’s time so that they could pursue work outside of the home. And many women today continue to see keeping a nice home and raising children as a true achievement, and not at all at odds with equality.

Swiffer has quickly noted that a forthcoming television ad campaign will showcase men using their products. That’s a relief, and a big victory for feminists who seem increasingly in search of a cause.

If Enough Troops Stood Up to the Girl Scouts’ Top Ranks...


I’m guessing that their current connections with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups would end once and for all.

I wasn’t a Girl Scout when I was young, but when my twins’ class needed a Daisy Scout leader years ago, I volunteered. Though I never experienced any controversy at the local level, I would occasionally hear rumblings from pro-life organizations about the GSUSA hierarchy and their beliefs about teen sexuality and abortion. I eventually decided to resign my position and pull my girls from scouting.

I wish I could have stayed and fought.

At the time, I did tell the moms who were leading other troops at my girls’ school exactly why I was leaving. I explained that I wasn’t telling them what they should do — that I understood there was so much on the plus side. But with my strong pro-life beliefs, I just couldn’t participate any longer. I say the same whenever I meet anyone involved in scouting who I think might also have a problem with those liberal stances. And not surprisingly, most reiterate that they have never come across anything objectionable in their scouting activities.

However, the top ranks of the GSUSA do seem to have a very liberal sexuality and abortion agenda that flies in the face of the supposed “neutrality” that the organization claims on this (outdated) page on its website. While trying to say that the GSUSA is only “a seat at the table” of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) – much like the U.S. at the U.N. — they gloss over exactly what is being endorsed at that table. 

The web page makes reference to the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations held in 2010, which created a lot of buzz in pro-life circles that year, but does not address the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration from December 2012, or the latest controversy regarding the Women Deliver global conference in May of this year.

The Youth Forum Declaration included calls for “sexual rights,” access to “abortion,”  and “reproductive rights” for children as young as ten years old. It sought to eliminate parental consent and “age of consent” restrictions in all sexual and reproductive matters.

Women Deliver, as mentioned on The Corner by Ian Tuttle, does do great work for women in the Third World. But their conference had the likes of euthanasia advocate Peter Singer (who has proposed legalizing infanticide) and late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart (who performs abortions after 24 weeks, sometimes with questionable legality) speaking about “family planning.” 

LifeNews has pressed the GSUSA on their involvement in both the Youth Forum and the Women Deliver conference. Basically GSUSA claims that WAGGGS does not speak for all its members. This is interesting, because WAGGGS has declared that they do speak for all their members. Apparently, GSUSA wants to have it both ways, as LifeNews points out:

If GSUSA really objected to being included under the WAGGGS’ advocacy umbrella, which promotes sexual and reproductive rights on behalf all “10 million” members, GSUSA lawyers would lock down WAGGGS’ representations in a heartbeat, to protect the Girl Scouts’ costly re-branding efforts.

The reality is this: GSUSA has not once objected to WAGGGS’ global advocacy on sexual and reproductive issues, nor to WAGGGS’ claims to represent its entire membership, including GSUSA, on those issues. They refuse to disown even WAGGGS’ most radical pro-abortion efforts (e.g., the Bali Youth Declaration). And they continue to fund and support WAGGGS’ global megaphone, as it amplifies “progressive” messages promoting adolescent abortion and youth sexual rights. They will do nothing to impede or even distance themselves from WAGGGS’ pro-abortion, pro-contraception, “sexual rights” advocacy.

So it leaves a tough decision for those involved with scouting. Do you stay, knowing that, while cookie-sale profits stay local, a portion of your annual dues and donations to the Juliette Low Fund go to WAGGGS? Or do you realize that it would be really tough to fight an organization that will more than likely continue its current path, and quit?

Actually there is an alternative . . .



Sex: the Cause of, and Solution to, All of Life’s Problems


When I was in college at NYU, I enrolled in some Women Studies classes, where I learned all kinds of strange philosophies about sex. Mainly that it was a Very Big Deal, and that you have to either embrace your sexuality (if you are female) or overcome your gender bias (if you are male), and also broaden your sexual parameters (if you are a conservative). Everyone talked openly about how many different types of sexual experiences they’d had, shared terrible stories of sexual abuse (almost everyone claimed to be abuse victims or rape survivors), and – of course – identified themselves as hetero, homo, bi, or try-sexual (describing students who’d “try anything”). If there was a male student who had had homosexual relationships, he defined himself as “a gay man”; he wasn’t an architect major who enjoyed bicycling, and who was told he resembles his grandfather in his prime. A female student who had a girlfriend was “a lesbian,” not a girl from Connecticut who hoped to write the great American novel. The class taught me that the Left defines themselves by their sexuality. Their identity resides between their legs.

However, a recent Guardian interview with Michael Douglas showed me I was wrong.

In August 2010, Douglas revealed that he had stage four throat cancer. This week, he revealed he believed oral sex caused his cancer. Reporter Xan Brooks writes in the Guardian:

The throat cancer, I assume, was first seeded during those wild middle years, when he drank like a fish and smoked like the devil. Looking back, knowing what he knows now, does he feel he overloaded his system?

“No,” he says. “No. Because, without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus.”

From what? For a moment I think that I may have misheard.

“From cunnilingus. I mean, I did worry if the stress caused by my son’s incarceration didn’t help trigger it. But yeah, it’s a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.”

His spokesman quickly clarified that Douglas’s cancer could’ve been caused by many factors, and that oral sex was simply one of the possible culprits. (According to Fox News, “smoking and drinking alcohol are the main causes of oral cancer, although the human papillomavirus has been linked to one kind of throat cancer. The human papillomavirus is mostly known for causing cervical cancer.”)

When I first heard of this crass claim – from the man who plays a glittery starring role in a new movie about Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson – I chalked it up to my previous calculation: Liberals define themselves by their sexuality, and they perceive all things through that lens. But Douglas went on to say, “And if you have it [this particular type of cancer], cunnilingus is also the best cure for it. . . . It giveth and it taketh.”

Of course, he was alluding to Job 1:21; “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away.”

My initial calculation about the liberal tendency to elevate sex to the point of one’s identity was way off, because they go much further than that. In Douglas’s case, he has effectively elevated oral sex all the way up to the status of “the Lord.” He claimed oral sex could somehow heal him. 

Brooks takes note of this, presumably not just because it’ll make a good headline: 

I’m still thinking about what he said earlier, about HPV and oral sex and how it can be both cause and cure. Can that last bit be right? A doctor the Guardian later speaks to insists it makes no sense. I had hoped it could be true; it sounded oddly karmic. Douglas has lived not wisely and perhaps not even well – but certainly to the full. He has drunk and smoked and snorted, and had plenty of sex. His appetites brought him to the brink of disaster. It would be nice if they could now be his salvation too.

Brooks has it all wrong, however, because oral sex as salvation wouldn’t be “karmic” or even “oddly karmic.”  Douglas’s strange – and irresponsible – claim is nothing more profound than a rehashing of Homer Simpson’s famous line: “To alcohol! The cause of . . . and solution to . . . all of life’s problems!” In fact, karma is a very bad deal, especially for people who’ve made mistakes (people like Douglas, and all of us). I love how rock star Bono describes it:

Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Michael Douglas, of course, hasn’t faced challenges of the same scale as the original person who talked about what “giveth and taketh away” so many years ago. Though the actor hasn’t suffered as much as Job, he’s undoubtedly a man on a journey – through cancer, with a wife who battles bipolar disorder and a son imprisoned on drug-related charges. 

Whether or not we acknowledge it, we all need that salvation about which Brooks writes so longingly. May Michael Douglas and his family find it, and may he soon come to know the Great Physician who can ultimately save him from everything that afflicts him. 

And that includes, most miraculously, from himself.


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