Opinion

Diversity or tragedy

byDale OLeary
6/27/2008

In recent decades there has been a big push among progressive educators for recognizing diversity; the idea being that school should be a place that welcomes all students regardless of their differences. There is in principle nothing wrong with making sure that children no matter their race, ethnic or religious background should feel that their heritage is represented and respected.

Diversity is, however, a Trojan horse. Once the idea of accepting diversity is inside the walls, we discover that, just as the wooden horse the Greeks left as a gift for the Trojans was filled with warriors who in the dead of night climbed out, opened the gates, and let in the Greek army, so hidden inside the diversity curriculum is something that undermines true respect. The promoters of diversity insist that just as we acknowledge racial, ethnic, and religious differences, we must also respect diversity of sexual orientation and family arrangements.

The promoters of the Trojan horse of diversity want to force educators, students, and parents to pretend that there is no difference between a family consisting of a husband and wife and their children, and other arrangements, such as a family shattered by death or divorce, the situation of a single parent, or same-sex couples who have acquired children by artificial reproduction or adoption.

There is a huge difference. Separation from ones biological father and/or mother in childhood is always a tragedy. Everyone understands that the death of a parent is a blow to a child. Adults who lost a parent in childhood remember that event as changing them in profound ways. Likewise, the fracturing of a family by divorce negatively affects the children no matter how hard the parents might try to soften the blow. One only has to read the books of Judith Wallerstein to see the long-term effects of divorce. Conception of a child outside of marriage leaves a child with tenuous or no ties to the father and children rightly feel the loss. Adoption by a married couple can provide marvelous benefits and much love, but the wound remains. Adopted children often feel a need to find their birth mother and father. As difficult as death, divorce, single parenthood or adoption are, in most cases children can console themselves with the belief that at least one parent tried to avoid the tragedy -- that someone was willing to put their needs first.

Children acquired by same-sex couples have been, by definition, made permanently and intentionally fatherless or motherless. The adults who did this expect to be applauded for their courage. They want the world to pretend that this is just diversity when in fact they have deprived their own children -- children they love and who love them -- with something essential: a parent of the opposite sex.

These parents are deeply offended when the school puts forward the image of father/mother families as the norm. They think that if the school promotes diversity of family forms their children wont notice they dont have a parent of each sex. They are fooling themselves. The children know, but they also know they cant mention it. Unlike the child whose parent dies, divorces, or never marries, these children are deprived not only of a parent, but also of the right to grieve their loss. They must pretend. The promoters of diversity are demanding that we join in the pretence -- that we also betray these children.

A family consisting of a husband and wife with their children is the norm. Study after study has shown that it is the best place to raise a child.

What then should we do about those children who have suffered the tragic separation from one or both biological parents? Pretending that they have not suffered is not the solution. I remember teaching a religion class and part of the lesson dealt with Jesus words on divorce. Sitting in the front row was a boy whose father had just left his mother for a woman half her age. I was hesitant, but I said what has to be said. The boy raised his hand, So God doesnt like divorce?

That is right, I answered.

Good, was his reply.

I saw by the look on his face that he was relieved that in spite of all the adults around him trying to excuse his fathers action, at least God understood his anger.

There are many other kinds of diversity which are tragedies: parental alcoholism or drug use, spousal or child abuse, morbid obesity, chronic physical or mental illness, compulsive gambling, spending or hoarding. Any teacher knows that children come to school carrying burdens. We dont ask them to pretend that an alcoholic father is just as good as a sober one. We dont have stories about happy abusive home lives. We respect their privacy and try to make the school a haven where the child can escape from a family situation over which he has no control.

Schools cannot solve all these problems, but they can provide a window into another world. Schools dont have to be relevant. The study of fairy tales, fables, classic stories, ancient history, and science can let children step beyond their current situation and expand their horizons.

School should not be a therapy session. Teachers should stop asking the children How they feel about a story or a historical event, and ask them what they know.

To pretend that all families are equal denies the truth of the childs experience. The desire for a father and a mother -- for our own father and our own mother -- burns deep in every human heart and all the diversity education in the world isnt going to put out that flame. Diversity propaganda is only going to make already wounded children feel guilty for wanting what the diversity educators tell them they dont need.

Dale OLeary is the author of The Gender Agenda and One Man, One Woman.