Last year, a high school in Cranston, Rhode Island attracted national attention when it removed a “prayer banner” that had been displayed in the school for 20 years. (This was the text of the terribly dangerous, offensive prayer: “Our Heavenly Father. Grant us each day the desire to do our best. To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West. Amen.”)
Now, in 2012, with the help of the ACLU, Cranston, Rhode Island is back in the news. According to NBC News, “The school system in Cranston, R.I., announced it is banning traditional father-daughter and mother-son activities, saying they are a violation of the state’s gender discrimination law, the Providence Journal reported late Monday.”
Care to read that again? A father-daughter (or mother-son) dance or related activity constitute a “violation of the state’s gender discrimination law”? Is someone making this up? Not a chance.
“Superintendent Judith Lundsten told the newspaper the decision was in response to a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a single mother who said her daughter was not able to attend a father-daughter dance.”
But of course! Normal life and normal society must be upended because one person is offended. Everyone’s freedoms and liberties and privileges must be removed because one person is left out. That’s the American way, according to the ACLU, and the truth be told, it has little to do with compassion for this girl who is living without her father.
But it gets worse. According to Steven Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU, “This is 2012 and they [public schools] should not be in the business of fostering blatant gender stereotypes.”
Blatant gender stereotypes? Like moms and dads and daughters and sons? Like husbands and wives and boys and girls? Like male and female? Is that what he means by “blatant gender stereotypes”? Is that what public schools should not be fostering?
It must be a constant source of frustration to people like Steven Brown that every day, expectant parents are told by their doctors that, “It’s a girl (or, a boy),” based on the physical form of the child, or that every day, wedding ceremonies culminate with the words, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
Perish the thought that public schools should be complicit in such blatant stereotyping. This, after all, is 2012, a time in which elementary school children are taught terms like genderqueer, a time in which girls kissing girls is the fad in middle school and high school, a time in which a mother in rural Georgia can have a baby girl, then undergo sex-change surgery and become the girl’s “father,” then claim that her/his child identified as a boy at 18 months, and then sue his/her daughter’s elementary school to force them to allow her/his daughter (now, allegedly son) to use the boy’s bathroom. Oh yes, this is 2012.
According to local station WPRO, Superintendent Lundsten sent out a letter in August stating, “I acknowledge that many of these events have long traditions and for many parents, these types of gender-based events are not an issue, however, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should we be isolating any student from full participation in school activities and events based on gender.” (For the record, “Lundsten said that while federal law banning gender discrimination gives an exemption for such gender-specific events, Rhode Island law does not.”)
As the host of a daily talk radio show, as well as a preacher, professor, columnist, and author, it’s not often that words fail me, but this report literally leaves me speechless. What has become of moral sanity? What has become of common sense?
This, however, is not the end of the story. The Associated Press reports that “School Committee member Janice Ruggieri said the school system can begin hosting ‘family dances’ to accommodate all kinds of parenting situations.” I’m sure the polyamorous families will be thrilled to hear this latest piece of news.
Thankfully, not everyone has lost their gender compass. The article I have been citing, carried by NBC News online, closed with this question: “Do you think father-daughter dances are inherently discriminatory?” As of this writing, 49,888 readers had responded. 88.3 percent said No; 11.7 percent said Yes.
Are you listening, Steven Brown and the ACLU? All hope is not lost in 2012.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.