The Pasty Little Putz, Friedman, Dowd and Bruni

It really isn’t fair that after singing for 2 Easter Masses that I have to confront The Pasty Little Putz.  I’ll just put it down to the NYT hating Episcopalians…   (HEY — that sort of “I’m being hated and put upon” thing seems to work for Talibangelicals…)  So.  Putzy has decided to tell us that “Marriage Looks Different Now.”  The poor, terrified little creature squeaks that we’re seeing a revolution with wider ripples than its supporters admit.  I still want one, just ONE, of the Talibangelical bigots explain to me how my two friends’ marriage will endanger theirs.  (Did you assume my friends were of the same sex?  WRONG!  They’re both too old to procreate.  Which is one of two main branches the Talibangelicals hang their support of “same sex” marriage on…)  Passing along and hopefully ignoring The Putz we come to The Moustache of Wisdom.  Apparently the world is much flatter than we ever knew…  Wee Silly Tommy suggests the following:  “Need a Job? Invent It.”  Wee Silly Tommy has managed to shoot himself in his own wee foot.   Guess what, Tommy?  We’re not Finland.  Finland actually gives a shit about the future of its young.  We don’t, and certainly won’t pay for that sort of equality.  Next up comes MoDo.  She has a question:   “Will Gays Be Punished For Success?”  She says once more, the Supremes are singing: You can’t hurry love.  There are many, many times when I’ll hammer MoDo, but she’s on the right side of this issue.  Poor Mr. Bruni offers us “A Childless Bystander’s Baffled Hymn,” in which he suggests we’re obsessed with every nuance of child-rearing and offers us his view from the bleachers.  Obviously this guy has never seen an episode of “Supernanny” and has no earthly idea that some folks actually can learn how to raise children…  God help us, here’s the Putz:

In 1997, two prominent conservative writers, David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, debated same-sex marriage for the online magazine Slate.

Frum defended what was then the consensus conservative (and consensus national) position. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, he argued, would explicitly sever the institution’s connection to the two interrelated realities, gender difference and procreation, that it had evolved to address. In so doing, it would replace a traditional view of matrimony with a broader, thinner, more adult-centric view, which would ultimately be less likely to bind parents to children, husbands to wives.

“Proponents of gay marriage can only get what they want,” Frum wrote, “by weakening Americans’ attachment to the traditional family even more than it has already been weakened,” and speeding the “process of social dissolution” that the 1960s and 1970s began.

Sullivan countered that the “process” Frum feared was simply an established fact. Heterosexuals had already severed marriage from procreation and permanence, and so there was no more reason to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses than to deny them to the infertile and elderly. Indeed, far from being radical, gay marriage was more likely to be stabilizing, “sending a message about matrimonial responsibility and mutual caring” to gays and straights alike.

Half a generation later, Sullivan’s view has carried the day almost completely. The conservative argument still has serious exponents, but it’s now chuckled at in courtrooms, dismissed by intellectuals, mocked in the media and (in a sudden, recent rush) abandoned by politicians. Indeed, it has been abandoned by Frum himself, who is now energetically urging Republicans to embrace the redefinition of marriage he once warned against.

Yet for an argument that has persuaded so few, the conservative view has actually had decent predictive power. As the cause of gay marriage has pressed forward, the social link between marriage and childbearing has indeed weakened faster than before. As the public’s shift on the issue has accelerated, so has marriage’s overall decline.

Since Frum warned that gay marriage could advance only at traditional wedlock’s expense, the marriage rate has been falling faster, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been rising faster, and the substitution of cohabitation for marriage has markedly increased. Underlying these trends is a steady shift in values: Americans are less likely to see children as important to marriage and less likely to see marriage as important to childbearing (the generation gap on gay marriage shows up on unwed parenting as well) than even in the very recent past.

Correlations do not, of course, establish causation. The economy is obviously playing a leading role in the retreat from marriage — the shocks of recession, the stagnation of wages, the bleak prospects of blue-collar men. Culturally, what matters most is the emergence of what the National Marriage Project calls a “capstone” understanding of marriage, which treats wedlock less as a foundation for adulthood and more as a celebration of adult achievement — and which seems to work out far better for our disciplined upper class than for society as a whole.

But there is also a certain willed naïveté to the idea that the advance of gay marriage is unrelated to any other marital trend. For 10 years, America’s only major public debate about marriage and family has featured one side — judges and journalists, celebrities and now finally politicians — pressing the case that modern marriage has nothing to do with the way human beings reproduce themselves, that the procreative understanding of the institution was founded entirely on prejudice, and that the shift away from a male-female marital ideal is analogous to the end of segregation.

Now that this argument seems on its way to victory, is it really plausible that it has changed how Americans view gay relationships while leaving all other ideas about matrimony untouched?

You can tell this naïveté is willed because it’s selective. There are plenty of interesting arguments, often from gay writers, about how the march to gay marriage might be influencing heterosexual norms — from Alex Ross’s recent musings in The New Yorker on the sudden “queer vibe” in straight pop culture to Dan Savage’s famous argument that straights might do well to imitate the “monogamish” norms of some gay male couples. It’s only the claim that this influence might not always be positive that is dismissed as bigotry and unreason.

A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage. It would simply argue that those costs are too diffuse and hard to quantify to outweigh the immediate benefits of recognizing gay couples’ love and commitment.

Such honesty would make social liberals more magnanimous in what looks increasingly like victory, and less likely to hound and harass religious institutions that still want to elevate and defend the older marital ideal.

But whether people think they’re on the side of God or of History, magnanimity has rarely been a feature of the culture war.

To be as polite as I can possibly be, BITE ME you stupid little shit.  If you ever bothered to read the comments that the few are allowed to leave before the Times cuts them off you’d realize exactly how stupid you are.  Sorry, but now we’re forced to confront The Moustache of Wisdom (who also was skewered in the comments, which were cut off and closed by 4:00 AM EDT…):

When Tony Wagner, the Harvard education specialist, describes his job today, he says he’s “a translator between two hostile tribes” — the education world and the business world, the people who teach our kids and the people who give them jobs. Wagner’s argument in his book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” is that our K-12 and college tracks are not consistently “adding the value and teaching the skills that matter most in the marketplace.”

This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever. Which is why the goal of education today, argues Wagner, should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready” — ready to add value to whatever they do.

That is a tall task. I tracked Wagner down and asked him to elaborate. “Today,” he said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ”

 My generation had it easy. We got to “find” a job. But, more than ever, our kids will have to “invent” a job. (Fortunately, in today’s world, that’s easier and cheaper than ever before.) Sure, the lucky ones will find their first job, but, given the pace of change today, even they will have to reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it. If that’s true, I asked Wagner, what do young people need to know today?

“Every young person will continue to need basic knowledge, of course,” he said. “But they will need skills and motivation even more. Of these three education goals, motivation is the most critical. Young people who are intrinsically motivated — curious, persistent, and willing to take risks — will learn new knowledge and skills continuously. They will be able to find new opportunities or create their own — a disposition that will be increasingly important as many traditional careers disappear.”

So what should be the focus of education reform today?

“We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over,” said Wagner. “Because of this, the longer kids are in school, the less motivated they become. Gallup’s recent survey showed student engagement going from 80 percent in fifth grade to 40 percent in high school. More than a century ago, we ‘reinvented’ the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.”

What does that mean for teachers and principals?

“Teachers,” he said, “need to coach students to performance excellence, and principals must be instructional leaders who create the culture of collaboration required to innovate. But what gets tested is what gets taught, and so we need ‘Accountability 2.0.’ All students should have digital portfolios to show evidence of mastery of skills like critical thinking and communication, which they build up right through K-12 and postsecondary. Selective use of high-quality tests, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, is important. Finally, teachers should be judged on evidence of improvement in students’ work through the year — instead of a score on a bubble test in May. We need lab schools where students earn a high school diploma by completing a series of skill-based ‘merit badges’ in things like entrepreneurship. And schools of education where all new teachers have ‘residencies’ with master teachers and performance standards — not content standards — must become the new normal throughout the system.”

Who is doing it right?

“Finland is one of the most innovative economies in the world,” he said, “and it is the only country where students leave high school ‘innovation-ready.’  They learn concepts and creativity more than facts, and have a choice of many electives — all with a shorter school day, little homework, and almost no testing. In the U.S., 500 K-12 schools affiliated with Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning Initiative and a consortium of 100 school districts called EdLeader21 are developing new approaches to teaching 21st-century skills. There are also a growing number of ‘reinvented’ colleges like the Olin College of Engineering, the M.I.T. Media Lab and the ‘D-school’ at Stanford where students learn to innovate.”

Do bear in mind that wee, dumb little Tommy probably earns in one week more than you do in a year.  Why?  He invented his own job………  And actually found the twitching corpse of a once great newspaper to publish him.  Brace yourself, here comes MoDo:

Gays might not win because they’ve already won?

That was the moronic oxymoron at the heart of the Supreme Court debate on same-sex marriage.

As Washington shivered in a chilly spring, there was no music of history at America’s highest court. The justices offered no pearls on liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Justice Antonin Scalia didn’t even know how many states allowed gay marriage. Clarence Thomas looked distracted, whispering to clerks and tilting horizontally in his chair.

Justice Anthony Kennedy had a single compassionate moment, mentioning the children whose gay parents were stuck in marital limbo. But for the most part, the human factor, how demeaning it feels to be shunted to a lower plane than your fellow citizens, was ignored.

Kennedy offered no lovely odes to fairness as he did in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, striking down a sodomy law, when people in the courtroom actually wept at his majority opinion, which stated that “the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Brushing back originalists and troglodytes then, Kennedy said that “times can blind us to certain truths, and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.”

On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts played Karl Rove, musing not about moral imperatives but political momentum.

“You don’t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same-sex marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?” he asked Roberta Kaplan, the New York lawyer representing Edie Windsor, the captivating 83-year-old who argued that she would not have been socked with a whopping estate tax bill if her spouse had been named Theo instead of Thea.

Roberts pressed the point, noting, “As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.”

Certainly, the cascading headlines were buoying. “Gay Marriage Already Won,” Time proclaimed. “Why the Gay-Marriage Fight Is Over,” The New Yorker deemed. It was hard to find vocal opponents in the vibrant demonstration outside the Supreme Court, and Rush Limbaugh conceded, “This issue is lost.” There was even a Chick-fil-A franchise in Southern California giving free meals to gay-marriage supporters.

But Justice Roberts’s suggestion that gays are banishing a long, egregious history of blatant, disgusting, government-sponsored discrimination on their own is absurd. You could almost hear him thinking, “They’ve got ‘Glee,’ they’ve got Ellen, they’ve got Tammy Baldwin — what are they whining about?”

Can you imagine Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican, making a similar point about blacks during the 1967 Loving v. Virginia arguments? In that case, the 1964 Civil Rights Act had been passed and the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” was a harbinger of a sea change on mixed-race marriages. The court noted in its opinion that the political process had achieved significant progress around the country, with 14 states in 15 years repealing laws outlawing interracial marriages.

Yet the justices struck down the law anyway because, as they said, “the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” (Paving the way for Clarence and Ginni Thomas to live happily ever after in Virginia.)

When the suit against Proposition 8, the initiative that banned gay marriage in California, was filed in 2009, opponents argued that it was too soon and that a court decision favoring gay rights could cause a backlash. Now opponents say things are going so well for gays that they don’t need help from the Supreme Court. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. (Or in this case, damned if you say “I do.”)

Gays may be winning on atmospherics, but there’s only so much more progress they can make politically.

Women are protected from discrimination under the law even though they make up 51 percent of the population and are as responsible as anybody for putting Barack Obama in the Oval Office twice.

But Congress has passed no federal protections for gays on employment, housing and education. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire someone because of his or her sexual orientation. The F.B.I. says the only uptick in hate crimes involves attacks on gays.

Thirty-one states have enacted Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Beyond the nine states where they can marry, plus D.C., gays may pick up Illinois and Delaware, but then there’s a hard stop. Those struck by Cupid in places like Alabama, Arkansas and Utah will long be left either moving or saying, “I’m deliriously, madly in love with you, but let’s leave it to the states, honey.”

Even with Hispanics riding high in the public arena, the “wetback” crack by the Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska shows bigotry is always lurking.

What the political world giveth, it can taketh away. The Supreme Court should know that civil rights are not supposed to be determined on the whims of the people.

Bless her heart, there have been many, many, many times that I’ve howled at MoDo but when she gets it right she gets it right.  Next up we have childless, but pissed off about how YOU are raising YOUR children, Mr. Bruni:

Modern parenting confuses me. The vocabulary, for starters.

Take the word “last.” Usually it means final. Last exit: there are none beyond it. Last rites: you’re toast.

But the “last chance” for a 4-year-old to quit his screeching, lest he get a timeout? There are usually another seven or eight chances still to go, in a string of flaccid ultimatums: “Now this is your last chance.” “This is really your last chance.” “I’m giving you just one more chance. I’m not kidding.”

Of course you are, and your kids know it. They’re not idiots.

But they’re also not adults, so why this whole school of thought that they should be treated as if they are, long before they can perform such basic tasks of civilization as driving, say, or decanting?

Why all the choices — “What would you like to wear?”— and all the negotiating and the painstakingly calibrated diplomacy? They’re toddlers, not Pakistan. I understand that you want them to adore you. But having them fear you is surely the saner strategy, not just for you and for them but for the rest of us and the future of the republic.

Above all I’m confounded by the boundless fretting, as if ushering kids into adulthood were some newfangled sorcery dependent on a slew of child-rearing books and a bevy of child-rearing blogs. The counsel keeps coming, from every possible corner and from unexpected shamans. The actress Jessica Alba just produced a book, “The Honest Life,” which includes her take on mothering, and she noted pointedly in a recent interview that it’s more relevant than the tidbits proffered by the actress Gwyneth Paltrow in her online newsletter, goop.

Seemingly everyone has parenting opinions, so I hereby present mine, which are those of someone who isn’t in fact a parent and maybe has a valuable distance and objectivity as a result. Instead of the battle hymn of a tiger mother, it’s the baffled hymn of a cubless bystander, his thoughts turned toward children as the calendar reaches yet another holiday when we shower them with attention and chocolate.

While I have no kids of my own, I have many I can (and sometimes do) lease for the weekend: 11 actual nieces and nephews, whom I’ll be with this Easter Sunday, and perhaps twice that number of honorary ones. I have put in my time around tots and teens, and enjoy them. I have seen my share of parenting, and am not certain what to make of it.

Just a few decades ago, parenting wasn’t even a proper verb or gerund. Now it’s a compound one. There’s of course helicopter parenting, which hovers, and “free range” parenting, which doesn’t, but only by principled choice.

As the Me Generation spawned generations of mini-me’s, our rigorous self-fascination expanded to include the whole brood and philosophies about its proper care and feeding.

About the feeding: explain to me what’s gained by the voluminous discussions, within earshot of little Edwin or Edwina, of what he or she probably won’t eat or definitely won’t eat or must somehow be made to eat, perhaps with a bribe. Any food that lands on the table after that much tortured preamble is bound to be eyed with suspicion and ultimately spurned, in part because it has ceased to be a vessel of nutrition or an answer to hunger at that point. It has become a power struggle: the parents’ wishes versus the child’s defiance. And the battle seems to end one and only one way. With chicken fingers.

I’m equally confounded by the all-encompassing praise. Not every kid is gifted at every endeavor, and I wonder about the wisdom of telling him or her that a bit of doggerel is Shakespearean or that a wan patch of warbling is an “American Idol” audition waiting to happen. I wonder why everybody has to be a winner. You can eliminate the valedictorians from high school but you can’t eliminate them from life, which metes out Super Bowl rings and stock options with an uneven hand, and is probably best tackled with some preparatory girding for that. Do today’s parents provide it?

There’s a line between filling a kid with self-esteem and larding a kid with delusions, just as there’s a line between making your children feel that they’re the center of your universe, which they most definitely should be, and making them feel that they’re the center of the universe, which only Honey Boo Boo is.

Help me out here. Why is an adolescent’s TV watching patrolled more scrupulously than his or her iPhone use, which can lead to infinitely greater trouble? For that matter, why does an adolescent need an iPhone in the first place?

Yes, I know, it enables your kids to stay in touch with you, and vice versa. But 13-year-olds in my era didn’t have iPhones, and we got home. Eventually.

Parents routinely surrender control when they shouldn’t, replacing rules with requests, and children are expected to chart their own routes to good behavior, using the faulty GPS’s of their flowering consciences, I suppose. Families are run as democracies. Parents forget: in the political realm, you don’t get a say until you’re 18. There’s a reason for that.

Then parents turn around and try to grab control over circumstances that don’t readily yield to it, responding to children’s setbacks or shortcomings with insistences on diagnoses, accommodations, remedies. They can’t seem to bear the inevitability that their children will suffer disappointments and will have to reckon with inadequacies. They cling to the possibility of perfection, and seem to hold themselves responsible for it.

That part I do get. When you love people, really love them, you do everything you can to protect and help them. To give them a leg up. And in a world in which the competition grows ever crueler and the jockeying for advantage more intense, parents feel it’s more incumbent on them than ever to leave no stone unturned and to play an error-free game. They walk on eggshells and torment themselves.

But from my vantage point, watching the kids of my three siblings and of my many peers grow up, I’m struck less by the genius or folly of diverse child-rearing techniques than by the way most of the children matured into who they seemed, from the get-go, destined to be.

Some of them were held to early bedtimes and some weren’t. Some had their own computers and some shared. Some had nannies and some didn’t. Some of their parents were yellers, and some of their parents were brooders. All of them ate too many chicken fingers.

And while they were indeed coaxed toward better or worse etiquette and cleaner or sloppier rooms, they weren’t, generally speaking, transformed. At age 8 they were essentially larger, more articulate versions of who they’d been at age 4, and at age 13 they were larger and more articulate versions still, with iPhones affixed to their palms. What had always been wonderful about them remained so. What was difficult did, too.

This suggests to me that there’s something more consequential than Kumon or Montessori, a Ritalin prescription or rugby practice, attachment parenting or minimalist parenting, Alba’s doctrine or Paltrow’s dictums. Nature gets its say. Always has and always will.

So parents: cut yourselves some slack. Take a deep breath. No one false step or one missed call is going to consign your children to an entirely different future. Make sure that they know they’re loved. Make sure that they know their place. And make peace with the fact that you don’t hold all or even most of the cards. There may be a frustrating sense of helplessness in that realization. But there’s a mercy, too.

Goodness gracious.  It has dawned on me that y’all are probably very, very lucky that I usually do this very early in the morning before I’ve had enough tea to get really cross at these folks…

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