An excerpt from Ladies and Gentlemen: Why the Survival of Our Republic Depends on the Revival of Honor, by Dr. Gina Loudon and Dr. Dathan Paterno.
Lady and gentleman are somewhat familiar terms, for sure. We hear them from magicians and carnival emcees. Billboard advertising manipulates those words into a twisted description of strip clubs. We sometimes view examples of them on quaint Hallmark films. Our children even study literary characters with these names (e.g., Lady Macbeth).
But rarely do we hear the terms used to teach or uphold virtues. When was the last time you heard a parent say to a child, “That was not very ladylike” or “Hold the door open like a gentleman, son”? When was the last time anyone heard a politician or actor referred to as a “true gentleman” or an actress’s behavior mentioned as “ladylike”? How many television programs lift up virtuous young men and women while decrying their polar opposites?
Modern culture is more desperate than ever for a return to solid character with uniform, universal virtues. Our nation is starved for male and female models of virtue. Recall the Michael Jordan commercial with the tagline “Be like Mike.” Right idea, wrong model. Sure, Michael Jordan inspired many to desire excellence, fame, and financial success. But he inspired few to behave with virtue (one could argue that he inspired the opposite).
Parents wander in a wilderness of disparate parenting techniques and philosophies, without adequate terms to refer to or ideals to emu- late. Mothers lack commitment to behaving like ladies; our culture does not inspire them to exhibit ladylike virtues.
And why would they? Where are these virtues modeled and glorified? Certainly not in popular magazines or television shows. Certainly not on YouTube. Certainly not in their social circles, where peers could encourage, reward, and model female virtue with the dual goals of personal satisfaction and bequeathing their values and character to their daughters.
Fathers are performing no better in this regard. Normally the parent responsible for more direct instruction of values and virtues, fathers are by and large neglecting this solemn duty. Some fathers, of course, have indeed become more involved in their children’s lives; they now bear some of the everyday burdens of driving, helping with homework, and sharing household chores. But they are quite often taking a backseat in the discipline of their children.
The inevitable consequence is that fathers are inadvertently training their children to perceive themselves as entitled, overly free autocrats. The results have been disastrous.