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The Home Front

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

Conservatives Should Jump on the Breastfeeding Bandwagon



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Mark Lewis makes the case at the Daily Caller that supporting mothers who breastfeed is a position conservatives should consider as an extension of family values.

Breastfeeding advocacy is perfectly consistent with the values that cultural conservatives ought to espouse. Why should this be a liberal issue? Were I advising a socially conservative group, I would suggest embracing this issue.

Why not team with moms in various states to lobby for changes to the law? This issue works on a variety of levels. First, it’s the right thing to do for babies and moms. Second, it’s consistent with traditional conservative values. And lastly, it’s good PR.

Inasmuch as the bogus “war on women” meme isn’t going away any time soon, conservatives ought to highlight the many areas where they are demonstrably pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-family.

Lewis raised the point in response to a story about a Missouri mom (Laura Trickle, seen below with her son, Axel) who was found in contempt of court for showing up to jury duty with her infant, saying she could not serve because she was breastfeeding and her child would not take a bottle. (The judge delayed the fine, as the Missouri General Assembly considers new legislation.) Only twelve states currently excuse nursing mothers from jury duty.

 

Having spent nearly six years of my life nursing seven children (including twins), I have to admit a bias on this issue. I know there are many women physically unable to breastfeed, or who find it too difficult with their work situation, or who just want the freedom to choose not to. Last year, Greg Pollowitz criticized the way New York mayor Bloomberg was “pushing” breastfeeding. I understand that we don’t want a “nanny state” making moms feel guilty or even forcing them to breastfeed. We have to find a balance between promoting a natural part of motherhood and preserving personal liberty.

But, there are many benefits to breastfeeding, not just for a mother and child, but, by extension, families and society. And if we don’t join up in the cause, we will be railroaded by liberals who will advance their over-regulating agendas. We need to make it clear that advocacy does not mean enforcement, and it should always be about encouraging moms as they make the choice which creates the best end result for their family.

UPDATE: A good rebuttal to the article about potential government overreach linked above was posted on Slate this afternoon.

 

A Well-Known Hipster Defends the Value of Motherhood



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Gavin McInnes has been described as the “godfather of hipsterdom,” but he found himself in hot water with feminists after he made some comments on Huffington Post Live last week. McInnes felt he was emboldening women to feel good about choosing motherhood. But the women on the panel — and subsequently many others — slammed him for trying to force women into traditional roles.

You know the pendulum has swung too far to the left when you say, “There’s nothing wrong with normal” and everyone goes crazy.

…I tried to explain that my motives were benevolent. I live in New York, an elephant’s graveyard for ovaries. From where I sit I see women who put career over family and are now in their 40s, drenched in regret. I cited a study that said women are less happy since feminism took root.

…The quote that generated the most controversy was when I said: I would guess seven percent [of women] like not having kids. They want to be CEOs. They like staying all night at the office, working on a proposal, and all the power to them. But by enforcing that as the norm, you’re pulling these women away from what they naturally want to do, and you’re making them miserable.

Have you ever heard anything less controversial in your life?

…That’s where feminism has brought us. To defend the homemaker and say her life shouldn’t be trivialized is to demean women. Women who put family before career are sellouts in this world. I’m sick of seeing women who follow tens of thousands of years of evolution treated like they’re some kind of freak.

…[A] study I cited says women are less happy after feminism. Maybe the reason for this is that so much of modern feminism forces women to reject the very nature of being female. That’s sexist.

His comments created a maelstrom from radical feminists. They railed against a man who simply believes his wife’s nurturing of their three kids means a heckuva lot more than the commercial ads he has produced. And surprisingly — in this apologist day and age — McInnes did not back down or try to reel any of his comments back in.

 

 

McInnes also stated that he became pro-life after seeing the birth of his first child. Perhaps there in hope in the hipster world after all.

You can read more of what he wrote about his experience here and in an interview with The Daily Caller here. (There is a bit of crude language in both links.)

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A Whole New Way to Create Geniuses?



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Wired magazine has a very intriguing story in its current issue about an unconventional teaching method – that’s actually been tossed around for centuries.

[A] new breed of educators, inspired by everything from the Internet to evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and AI, are inventing radical new ways for children to learn, grow, and thrive. To them, knowledge isn’t a commodity that’s delivered from teacher to student but something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration. Teachers provide prompts, not answers, and then they step aside so students can teach themselves and one another. They are creating ways for children to discover their passion—and uncovering a generation of geniuses in the process.

This method of learning goes all the way back to Socrates and continued most notably in recent years with Maria Montessori, who believed children learn by playing and following their curiosity — just ask the founders of Google, who attended a Montessori school. Albert Einstein spent a year at a school with a similar philosophy and he said the experience taught him the thought processing that helped him to develop his theory of relativity. 

The story lists a few examples of studies that indicate students fare far better when they are more in control of how they learn. One of the researchers put it this way:

If you program a robot’s every movement, it can’t adapt to anything unexpected. But when scientists build machines that are programmed to try a variety of motions and learn from mistakes, the robots become far more adaptable and skilled. The same principle applies to children… human cognitive machinery is fundamentally incompatible with conventional schooling… [Y]oung children, motivated by curiosity and playfulness, teach themselves a tremendous amount about the world. And yet when they reach school age, we supplant that innate drive to learn with an imposed curriculum. “We’re teaching the child that his questions don’t matter, that what matters are the questions of the curriculum. That’s just not the way natural selection designed us to learn. It designed us to solve problems and figure things out that are part of our real lives.”

It all seems to boil down to letting kids find their own potential — rather than simply filling their heads with rote lists and facts. Read more here

Rebuttals to School-Choice Doubters



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A couple weeks ago Politico pronounced that vouchers don’t do much for students. But AEI’s Michael McShane begged to differ – and gave the ammunition needed to refute those who denounce school choice.

1. There is almost no discussion of cost in the piece. Getting the same results (or slightly better) at around half the cost—the level at which most voucher programs are funded— is a big deal.

2. Advocates only talk about two studies (DC and NYC) when making the case for private school choice. Advocates [like the Friedman Foundation] generally like to say that 12 out of 13 gold-standard, randomized studies have found positive academic results for some or all students participating. Now, the gains haven’t been huge, but the pattern has been consistent.

3. The recurring trope that “voucher schools don’t participate in accountability programs” is curious on two counts. First, the three largest programs (Milwaukee, Indiana, and Louisiana) all have schools participate in accountability systems. Schools can lose the ability to accept voucher students for poor performance. Second, many of these same folks decry the fact that accountability systems are “inaccurate” or “unfair” and yet say that voucher schools should have to participate in them. If they’re bad, try and get schools out of them, not put more in.

4. There is lots of other research on civic outcomes like voting, voluntarism, and tolerance, and all of it shows positive results for students participating in voucher programs, as well as rigorous studies of the results of voucher programs on students left behind in public schools. Totally not mentioned in the Politico piece.

Part of the problem is that current programs are full, and schools are not being expanded nor are new ones being created. McShane adds, “in short, policymakers, private philanthropy, and school leaders need to get serious about what’s necessary to make the market work.” 

Another area of school choice that gets sort shrift in the press is the success of single-gender schools. CNN had this piece a few days ago about how at-risk black young men can benefit from all-male schools. The author, Freeden Oeur, is an assistant professor in the department of education at Tufts University. A common objection is that single-gender schools perpetuate stereotypes and are simply another form of segregation. But Oeur feels that separation from the other gender has enormous benefits.

For educators who are looking for a way to address the needs of black boys — who lag behind their peers on a range of academic and social measures, according to research — single-sex education is an important tool. Instead of abandoning the option, educators and policymakers should learn from the promising work of some of the schools that serve young black men. An all-male public school can celebrate many different ways of being a young man, freeing students from a straitjacket notion of masculinity.

He goes on to cite the success of just one east coast school he calls “Urban Charter” (to protect the boys’ identities). They have a near-perfect graduation rate, 80 percent of the boys go on to college, and the school has encouraged a wide variety of personal interests. The mock trial team is celebrated just as much as the basketball team, and almost all of the students attend school plays. A pro-academic focus has helped avoid a boot-camp atmosphere. 

Read more here and here

 

 

Championing ‘Choice’ Doesn’t Include Choosing Fecundity



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It seems it’s not enough simply to disagree with people. Some find it necessary to slam – with malice – those who make different life choices. Today’s case study: couples who choose to have a larger family. Mollie Hemingway has written a piece that eloquently questions ”fecundophobia.”. 

She points out that the bias is sneaking in everywhere. An ESPN reporter posed this “question” to an NFL star: “Six kids? Regardless of your profession, it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids. Not enough hours in the day.” Though the player had a nice response, I like what Hemingway added.

What kind of question is that? Seriously. Who asks a question like that? And who, knowing anything about human flourishing throughout history, would think that it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids? Since when did having kids become something that Americans irrationally fear and loathe?

The media remind us regularly that the most important cultural value relative to family life is what’s euphemistically called “choice.” The choice of whether to have kids or not is held so sacrosanct that our laws permit the decision to be made many months after a new human life begins…. So why the weird reaction to people receiving children as a blessing instead of fighting them tooth and nail with hormones, chemicals, surgery and scissors? Do we need some remedial courses in how babies are made? It’s entirely natural, of course, for babies to be conceived when men and women have sex. Treating the entirely expected procreation of children as something to be avoided at all costs — and an unspeakable atrocity if one has, say, three children already — would be weird even if our culture weren’t obsessed with sex at all times, in all places, in every context, at every moment.

She goes on to mention a story in the Washington Post that declared the “smug fecundity” of the Romneys and Santorums. (Hmm, do you think the Post has a problem with the procreative habits of the Kennedys?) The Post article also suggested that women who choose to have several children do so at the expense of their intelligence, their careers, and their independence. Hemingway’s reply is perfection:

There is much more than a whiff of the misogyny in denigrating mothers of multiple children as brainless, in stating that mothers who are homemakers are inferior to those who “earn” their living, or in attacking women for prioritizing fertility above independence. It’s not just that nobody on planet earth could be truly independent — which is to say completely self-reliant or free of any other human support. It’s not just that we each depended on others from the moment of our conception to birth, but all of society is comprised of individuals who work with each other and depend on each other throughout their lives. Or healthy societies are, at least. It may be impolitic to suggest that men and women are in any way different, science be damned, but many women have a particular specialty in cultivating relationships and family. To denigrate women who acknowledge and accept this as a good thing rather than fight against it is not exactly life-affirming.

The examples she then lists of the types of comments that are made about bigger families are truly unsettling. It’s hard to believe people think that way. My husband and I have been pretty lucky that our own experience has been limited to a few nasty folks on Twitter. Most folks are pretty supportive of the fact that we have seven children. I can’t be certain of what everyone we know thinks behind our backs, but we both are fully prepared to defend our choice — without denigrating anyone else’s.

Also on the “choice” front:  I was thoroughly enjoying an article on children with Down syndrome that was suggested by an organization that assists families in adopting children with special needs.  It points out the misinformation that still exists about children with Down syndrome, and how overwhelmingly doctors suggest and women choose an abortion. But just as the author is wrapping up her heartfelt plea for parents to give these special kids a chance — wham! There it was – she declares, “I believe all women have the right to end a pregnancy for any reason.” The disconnect was head-spinning. But maybe it was still a step in the right direction for the Huffington Post. 

 

 

 

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‘Dear Prudence’ on Prudence and Campus Drinking



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Last week Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. “Dear Prudence” at Slate, tackled binge drinking on college campuses and its most troubling repercussion — sexual assaults on overly intoxicated young women. She went ahead and declared what we all know, but too few are willing to say — especially in academic circles. 

Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.

Despite what you may think, it’s not coeds being slipped date-rape drugs that is the big problem. In about 80 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses, alcohol was a factor. Sometimes the young men are also intoxicated (which they use as an excuse), but there are also predators who either ply a target with loaded drinks or simply find the girl who has had far too much.

She adds that since there are also about 1,800 college fatalities per year linked to alcohol, universities need to get serious about underage drinking, or at the very least, bingeing. For example, instead of caving to the extended weekend by lightening class schedules on Fridays (resulting in Thursday night overindulgence) colleges should load Fridays (and I would say Mondays, too) with not just class sessions, but exams, quizzes, and deadlines.

But I think we should go beyond simply warning our college students about the pitfalls of overimbibing. As the ones footing the bills, parents should research a prospective school’s policies on alcohol and sexual assault. And if we find them lacking, we should not be afraid to walk away from that institution — and let the administration know why. Or if we select a school that has lax policies, we should not be afraid to speak up to officials to demand sensible protective and preventive measures to keep our children safe.

Read more here.

Stretching the Boundaries of Parental Ethics



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New York Magazine ran this article last week looking at the myriad ways parents breach ethical standards to get their children ahead in life. All I can say is I’m thoroughly depressed by the idea that my children are competing with the children of parents like the ones described in the story.

Sure, we’ve all helped our kids a bit too much when they had a tough assignment. And getting our child an internship at a buddy’s workplace or coaching our kids’ teams so they can get more playing time isn’t really unethical, right?

But check out these examples that the article presents as commonplace:

They’ll fake recommendation letters; they’ll neutralize their child’s competition for a spot on the hockey team by whispering something about someone’s alcohol use; and they’ll administer the occasional misbegotten tablet of Adderall. The ­ultimate litmus test in New York City is this one: How many good people do you know who have lied about their address to get their kids into the better public school?

While one expert describes the tendency to use unethical methods to help our kids as an addiction, another points out this paradox:

“It’s the opposite of the free-rider problem,” the Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz explains: If everybody recycles, then you can be the one person who doesn’t, and you still benefit from all the recycling that goes on. But if everybody is occupied full time making sure their kid wins and other kids lose, then taking the high road doesn’t serve you at all. “It’s a corrupt system, and your opting out won’t change it. You gain nothing, and you lose a lot.”

Hmm. Nothing to gain except self-respect, and teaching your child a lesson in integrity. Do we really want something that requires us to compromise our values? Can’t we still choose honesty, even if it means allowing the unscrupulous to get ahead?

The article also points out the obvious — that parents often find themselves preaching “do as I say, not as I do” despite their best intentions.

Of course, there are serious consequences to parents’s cheating to help their children; children don’t learn to fend for themselves and become ethically ambivalent when their parents’ behavior confuses them. Not to mention the inner conflict when children don’t even want what their parents are unethically procuring for them. (And not surprisingly, the article points out that the more affluent parents are, the more likely they feel “bending” the rules is okay.)

I couldn’t help thinking that parenting ethically must be more difficult without the benefit of a strong religious faith. Whatever the case may be, all parents should want to monitor their own behavior as much as their children’s in our highly competitive world.

Why You Might Want to Check School Assignments



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Alec Torres reported a couple days ago on a sixth-grade class in Arkansas that had been instructed to rewrite the “outdated” Bill of Rights. Now comes this story out of Illinois about a high school sophomore class that was assigned to choose which of ten people were “worthy” of  kidney dialysis when a hospital only had six machines.

“That means four people are not going to live,” the assignment states. “You must decide from the information below which six will survive.”

According to the worksheet [the reporter looked at], the student opted to spare the doctor, lawyer, housewife, teacher, cop and Lutheran minister. The others weren’t so lucky.

Among those unceremoniously dispatched to the hereafter were an ex-convict, a prostitute, college student and a disabled person.

Sarah Palin and other conservatives were taken aback and complained that such an excersice would desensitize kids about the idea of “death panels.” The pricipal responded that that was not the case.

He said the purpose of the lesson was to teach students about social values and how people in our society unfortunately create biases based off of professions, race and gender.

“The teacher’s goal is to educate students on the fact that these social value biases exist, and that hopefully students will see things from a different perspective after the activity is completed,” he said.

But as the author of this story asks, wasn’t there a better way to examine bias in our society? (Put aside that it is a false choice – patients do not need to be on dialysis 24 hours a day, so why couldn’t they treat all ten patients?) Having a 15-year-old sit as judge and essentially executioner seems a bit much. In this day and age when human life has been devalued so much, why engage in such serious conversations as if they are “just another assignment”?

At Odds with School ‘Health Programs’



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The first lady is taking credit for a drop in kids’ obesity rates, though she takes a lot of criticism for her efforts. But she isn’t the only one whose attempts to fight obesity in the young are controversial. A case in point is this story about ”fat letters” sent out to parents in Naples, Fla. Their children were determined to have high BMI scores from screenings administered by the school. 

“To give a kid a letter telling them the rest of their life they may be overweight or be obese because of a measurement you took one day, it’s just not fair,” said Kristen Grasso [a mom who received one of the letters].

Eating disorder experts, such as Claire Mysko, worry the screenings do more harm than good. “I would like to see BMI testing in schools banned,” Mysko said. “For those who are already insecure about their weight, these tests can potentially trigger an eating disorder.”

A panel of girls . . . said they dread the screenings. 

“I hate them,” replied student Zuzu Park-Stettner.

“It really doesn’t do much for people except for make them more insecure about themselves,” said student Carmen Kunkel.

Apparently such programs have been adopted in 19 states, even though the use of the BMI index to determine obesity has been questioned (especially in athletes and muscular children). Might be time to have a talk about with my kids about the health programs at their schools, and how they feel about them.

 

 

 

 

Are Your Kids Up on Their Current Events?



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I came across a piece by Laura Grace Weldon, author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, about helping your kid become more news savvy on GeekMom.com. There are many good ideas, but you may want to be a little selective. For example, I don’t think I’ll be letting my teens watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report anytime soon. And a link to this fringe site may have been offered purely for showing kids just how far out there some sources can get.

That said, there are some good ideas. One key point is to be a model of civility.

When people who disagree can engage in conversations with respect and integrity, they’re on the way to creating solutions. This is true in backyard squabbles, regional disputes, and diplomatic negotiations. A key is finding common ground. That happens after every person involved has access to the same information and feels that their input is understood. This is a critical skill to practice. Make it a part of your daily life for smaller issues so you can more easily use it when harder issues arise.

Practical ideas include comparing how different news shows report stories, and subscribing to kid-friendly magazines that include news stories. Another is to teach your child the different kinds of logical fallacies. The simplest suggestion is putting a world map up on a wall; the most involved is hosting an international student.

Read more suggestions, with a discerning eye, here

On the Education Front



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The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the success of the school-choice program in New Orleans.

And despite what the DOJ thinks, the NOLA program is promoting racial integration.

The decision upholding the Arizona school-choice program is a great response to those who claim such programs promote religion.

Schools with strong athletic programs have higher test scores and graduation rates.

No surprise: The L.A. high school program that gave all students an iPad is not working out as intended

The CEO of Upstart had an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about an innovative way to bring down college tuition.

And on a lighter note: A Connecticut school bans the phrase “hump day.”

Tackling the Marriage Crisis Would Help the Income-Inequality Problem



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In The Atlantic this week there was a piece that pointed out that income inequality shouldn’t be blamed only on tangible changes in the workplace, such as automation replacing middle-wage workers. A sincere effort to stem the gap between those at the top and bottom of the income scale would involve addressing the marriage crisis in our nation.

Marriage used to be a pairing of opposites: Men would work for pay and women would work at home. But in the second half of the 20th century, women flooded the labor force, raising their participation rate from 32 percent, in 1950, to nearly 60 percent in the last decade. As women closed the education gap, the very nature of marriage has changed. It has slowly become an arrangement pairing similarly rich and educated people. Ambitious workaholics used to seek partners who were happy to take care of the house. Today, they’re more likely to seek another ambitious workaholic.

So, any rise in family incomes is more often than not because mom has entered the workforce, too. Raising children seems to have become a two-income undertaking. So where does that leave single parents? The news is not good.

Single moms or single dads, once rare, now lead 26 percent of all families, twice their share in 1950. . . . Median incomes among families led by single dads and single moms have flat-lined or worse in the last few decades, falling behind those of married couples, whether or not the wife is working.

Single moms and single dads are more likely to be poor, not only because they don’t have help in the household, but also because they didn’t have much money to begin with.

In a strange twist, marriage has recently become a capstone for the privileged class. The decline of marriage, to the extent that we’re seeing it, is happening almost exclusively among the poor. The lowest-earning men and women (i.e.: the least-educated men and women) have seen the steepest declines in marriage rates.

And the majority of single-parent households are found among minorities. Though the reasons are still up for debate, the results are not. 

The decline in marriage rates among poorer men and women robs parents of supplemental income, of work-life balance, and of time to prepare a child for school. Single-parenthood and inter-generational poverty feed each other. The marriage gap and the income gap amplify one another.

The marriage inequality crisis creates a virtuous cycle at the top and a vicious one at the bottom. It pushes educated and non-educated Americans into entirely different worlds.

Read the full story here.

 

 

 

 

More Play



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How often do you read an article and then have the author’s assertions prove to be correct the very next day? “Rarely, if ever,” would have been my answer before I saw evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray’s piece “The Play Deficit.”

Gray explains that kids today are having a hard time successfully growing into adulthood because they are overprotected, over-pressured, and are not given enough time for free play. It is a grim assessment that caused me — the mother of four young children — a lot of anxiety. But the very next day after reading the article I found that something Gray described actually happened among my kids. It was a revelation.

Gray writes about the nature and virtues of play among children of different ages:

The reason why play is such a powerful way to impart social skills is that it is voluntary. Players are always free to quit, and if they are unhappy they will quit. Every player knows that, and so the goal, for every player who wants to keep the game going, is to satisfy his or her own needs and desires while also satisfying those of the other players, so they don’t quit….

[W]atch an age-mixed group of children playing a ‘pickup’ game of baseball… directed by the players themselves. … They have to co-operate not just with the players on their team, but also with those on the other team, and they have to be sensitive to the needs and abilities of all the players. Big Billy might be the best pitcher, but if others want a turn at pitching he’d better let them have it, so they don’t quit. And when he pitches to tiny Timmy, who is just learning the game, he’d better toss the ball gently, right toward Timmy’s bat, or even his own teammates will call him mean. When he pitches to walloping Wally, however, he’d better throw his best stuff, because Wally would feel insulted by anything less. In the pickup game, keeping the game going and fun for everyone is far more important than winning. 

On a walk with my own children a day later, I saw exactly what Gray means about keeping the game going. My five-year-old and three-year-old were racing each other down the sidewalk with the kindergartener smoking the toddler. Losing made the toddler give up racing and start crying that she didn’t want to play anymore. The five-year-old’s response was to do whatever she had to to keep her little sister playing. She faked an injury, grasping her knee and fake crying that she was hurt and couldn’t run anymore. (Her eye-roll let me, and her older sister, know that she was acting.) The three-year-old jumped at the opportunity and shot forward. When the little one had just passed her older sister, my “injured” daughter made a miraculous recovery and started chasing her younger sister down the block, catching up, and overtaking her almost immediately. This caused the little one to give up again and the whole game of racing, stopping, injury, recovery, and racing was replayed over and over again.

Gray’s analysis about the importance of mixed-aged play came to life before my eyes. Perhaps we don’t have to rush our children into adult-organized, age-segregated after-school activities. His larger point about the need to break down traditional school structures and to stop focusing on test scores also deserves attention, especially when he correctly points out the holes in the current dogma – Gray is talking to you, President Obama — about how Chinese and other Asian students do so much better than American kids on standardized tests. Did you know that those societies are suffering from the limitations of their supposed success?

— Abby W. Schachter authors the captainmommy.com blog, about the intersection of parenting and government policy.

Ann Romney’s New Cookbook: Family, Fun, and ‘Fluff’



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In a USA Today interview with Susan Page, Ann Romney talks about her new cookbook, The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions (Shadow Mountain). The beautiful 224-page book features stories from the Romney family, gorgeous photos, and apparently a description of a Romney food group called “fluff.”  

What kind of recipes does Ann include?  She kept it simple, and shared with us some family favorites: Mimi’s Buttermilk Pancakes, Chicken Pot Pie, Welsh Skillet Cakes, and Mitt’s Meat Loaf Cakes.

Of course, it’s more than a cookbook, it’s a glimpse inside their very strong family. The interview has some wonderful tidbits, like the fact that she made pancakes for the Secret Service the day after the 2012 election. She also discusses whether another campaign is in the family’s future and explains why it became hard to count their grandchildren recently.  

 

Mitt Romney’s Son Adopts a Child and the Left Erupts with Venom



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Last week, I wrote about a strange phenomenon we experienced firsthand after adopting our daughter from Ethiopia: Liberals think adoption is great, unless white, Christian, Republicans are the ones doing it. It was odd and sad to have strangers questioning and criticizing our family composition. The same crowd who emphasizes that there are all kinds of families — gay, lesbian, straight, divorced — suddenly got the vapors when they saw my black child on my hip at a GOP convention.

Well, as if on cue . . . check out the liberal Twitter reaction to Mitt and Ann Romney’s announcement last week that their son Ben and his wife Andelyne recently adopted.

Tags: Mitt Romney , adoption , race

Kids Need to Be Taught the Skill of Paying Attention



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We all know — or like me, may have — a child who struggles with paying attention. A Slate article by psychology professor Barry Schwarz is not about clinical diagnoses. It’s about a generation that is growing up with under-five-minute videos and SNL skits, 140-character tweets, and cable-news sound bites. How we need to teach them how to pay attention if they are to truly get ahead in life. 

Again and again, we are told in this information-overloaded digital age, complex and subtle arguments just won’t hold the reader’s or viewer’s attention. If you can’t keep it simple and punchy, you’ll lose your audience. What’s the point of having a New York Times article about the U.S. stance toward the Syria that continues on an inside page if nobody is going to turn to the inside page? Even talking about “inside pages” is anachronistic, since more and more people get their news online, with articles that are “up-to-the-minute” but frustrating in their brevity.

By catering to diminished attention, we are making a colossal and unconscionable mistake. The world is a complex and subtle place, and efforts to understand it and improve it must match its complexity and subtlety. We are treating as unalterable a characteristic that can be changed. Yes, there is no point in publishing a long article if no one will read it to the end. The question is, what does it take to get people to read things to the end?

Schwarz points out that instead of teaching children how to flex their “attention muscle” we are catering to their short attention spans — and not doing them any favors in our well-meaning efforts. Kids who are being raised on concise recaps of topics will never find any reason to dig deeper.

Before long, people stop realizing that they have an intellectual deficiency that needs correction. Oversimplified becomes the only game in town, at which point, it stops being “over” simplified. If people are fed a steady diet of the oversimple, it can’t help but affect the way they think about things. Before we know it, the complexity and subtlety of the world we inhabit will be invisible to us when we try to make sense of what is going on around us.

Even the ingenious TED talks should be reexamined, Schwarz feels, since their 18-minute length is now considered an “extensive” look at any given complex idea. While commercial enterprises may be a lost cause, Schwarz thinks that our education system should teach the skill of paying attention, and cites the example of the KIPP schools in addressing the short spans of their students. 

Read the entire piece here.

The Politics of Adoption



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After my husband and I adopted our daughter Naomi, we were thrust into the world of “adoption politics.”

I’d figured adoption was universally considered to be wonderful, like chocolate cake, rainbows, or a heavy snowfall that keeps everyone home from work and school. Who could be against helping orphans?

Apparently, this isn’t quite the case.  For liberals, adoption is just great . . . unless white conservative Christians are doing it.

Tags: adoption , Politics , race

H.S. Football Coach Suspends Entire Team to Teach Lesson



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Another cyberbullying incident. But this time — even though the culprits were not specifically caught — a thoughtful coaching staff was able to fight back and teach a lesson that brought a team back together.

Matt Labrum believes football helps create great men.

And it is that belief and his passion for the game that led the Union High School head football coach and his staff to suspend all 80 players from the team because of off-field problems ranging from cyberbullying to skipping classes.

“We felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going,” said Labrum, an alumnus of the program he’s coached for the past two years. “We felt like we needed to make a stand.”

So the coach and his staff gathered the team together after Friday night’s loss to Judge Memorial Catholic High School and told them he was concerned about some of the players’ actions and behavior off the field. He then instructed them all to turn in their jerseys and their equipment. There would be no football until they earned the privilege to play.

The story recounts the players’ reactions and their parents’ as each young man reexamined what it meant to deserve the right to play on that team. Read about the multiple steps each player had to take to earn back their spot and the results of the coaches’ drastic move here

 

When a Man Loves a Pregnant Woman



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I forgot to check out Verily, a relatively new women’s magazine which has been highly recommended by Kathryn Jean Lopez. Thankfully a tweet brought a touching tribute to my attention (and now I’m following Verily so I will have the inside scoop on future features).

Tim Carney has written a short-but-sweet love letter, in essence, to his wife. He relates how witnessing her carry and give birth to his four children has made him fall even more in love with her.

Women may worry about how pregnancy and childbirth will affect their bodies and their husband’s view of their bodies. In my experience, it can help a man love his wife’s whole person – body and soul.

It’s natural for women to want unconditional love—you know, that patient, kind, not-selfish love you hear about at weddings. We know our bodies will age and become less beautiful in time; I’ve vowed to love my wife just the same. But I don’t mean I’ll love her soul despite her body—I mean I unconditionally love them both as essential parts of her.

He goes on to tell the tale of how watching his wife go through the trials of pregnancy and childbirth cemented his devotion. Read the whole piece here — and then have your spouse read it, too!

Instilling Religious Faith in Our Children



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A new interview with Vern Bergtson, a scholar who has studied the impact of faith in families for 35 years, was published in Christianity Today this week. He has released a new book, Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations that examines the ways parents attempt to instill religious faith in their children in light of today’s individualistic society. He has found that the influence of parents is about the same as it was thirty five years ago.

Despite the many societal changes that have lurched us towards greater individualism and away from a more collective family focus, over half of young adult children are following in their parents’ footsteps, in that they are affiliated with the parents’ religious tradition. (To a lesser extent, their religious practices and beliefs also align with those of their parents). This number is the same now as it was in the 1970s. In today’s culture, one that often disparages family continuity and assumes that families are not doing a good job, our research reflects a basic resiliency in American families over generations. Good news for the church.

The number of people who followed in the footsteps of parents who had no faith also stayed about the same. Bergtson suggests that in order to have children retain the same faith, parents need to provide some flexibility and tolerance of deviations.

. . . W]e found that allowing children religious choice can encourage religious continuity. A “hard-nosed” approach that says, “This is our faith, you will follow it, you will practice it, and you are prohibited to experiment with any other faith,” tends to be less successful. A better approach says, “We want your faith to be your own, we believe we have found the faith that is meaningful to us and our family, but we don’t want to impose it on you. Feel free to experiment.” In evangelical families, the latter soft-minded approach by the parents was much more successful than prohibitions on straying or experimenting.

The author also relates the importance that the faith of grandparents can have, as well as how churches need to be more welcoming to “prodigals.” Read more here.

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