Do Loving Families Create Inequality in Society?

social justice-parenting

Sometimes it’s astounding to hear the ideas that smart people will entertain.

I thought it would be fun to start off the year by joyfully ignoring some smart people’s wisdom. My hope is that you too will be encouraged and confident in your parenting by taking care to do the precise opposite of what certain smart people recommend.

In 2015, a couple of philosophers, Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse, released some of their thoughts on social justice. To be fair to them, their hearts are in the right place. Unfortunately, they seem to have the hearts of robots. I believe they are still at large.

Swift turned his blinking antennae toward the disturbing fact that certain parental practices can create an “unfair advantage” for kids who come from loving homes. He sees this as a problem.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

Well…I’m interested in equality of opportunity too. But somehow it never occurred to me to discourage good parenting as a way to level the playing field.

Swift muses, ‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’   

Why even entertain this idea? The family is not “the source of unfairness in society.” That’s like wondering if food is the source of eating disorders. Or if cars are the source of auto collisions. Or if water is the cause of drowning.

Shouldn’t the possibility of user-error be considered here?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to wonder if it’s bad parenting and dysfunctional family dynamics that disadvantages kids? So much societal good comes from good parenting that it would necessarily harm society to “create a level playing field” by abolishing the family. Maybe Swift could direct his time and energy toward supporting and equipping disadvantaged families.

I can’t find the source of the following quote, but I think it explains a lot:

“Progressives seek to create a system that is so good that individual goodness and responsibility are no longer necessary.”

Swift’s comment goes to show how decisively one’s worldview will guide one to a particular destination, for better or for worse. Fortunately, he and Brighouse do reject the notion of abolishing the family. But unfortunately, they instead favor the “mere” redefining of marriage, family, and parenting.

Swift continues,

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

Here he has in view economic advantages such as private schooling for kids. He’s against that. However, he is willing to allow parents to read bedtime stories to their kids at night, so long as they feel at least a little guilty about it sometimes:

‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’

I wish I were making this up.

Since this is my blog, I get to state the obvious: Benefiting your children through loving and attentive parenting does not “disadvantage other people’s children”! Please DO benefit your children to the very best of your ability! Daily! Use wisdom! Pray for them! Work at having a great marriage for the sake of your kids! These things will also not disadvantage or hurt anyone!

Yes, it’s true… Reading to young children does indeed benefit them in many ways. Notably, it helps to build empathy in them, and can transmit good values to them. The compassionate course for compassionate parents is to raise “advantaged”, well-adjusted kids who will become compassionate adults. Somebody is going to have to care for the disadvantaged in society, after all.

Not surprisingly, in his quest for equality Swift ultimately lands in the same place where our culture increasingly finds itself bobbing like a cork in the ocean with no anchor – the redefining of marriage and parenting:

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift…Politicians love to talk about family values, but meanwhile the family is in flux and so we wanted to go back to philosophical basics to work out what are families for and what’s so great about them and then we can start to figure out whether it matters whether you have two parents or three or one, or whether they’re heterosexual etcetera.’

While I’m thrilled that these guys are working on figuring out all this stuff for us, I’m not super confident that they will arrive at the truth.

In fact, regarding his basic questions, natural law, empirical research, and the teaching of Jesus all coincide nicely:

“What are families for?”
Even from a non-religious standpoint, lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage benefits society in a way that no other type of social arrangement does, (to borrow a thought from Ryan T. Anderson.) If a man and a woman make a baby together, and they fail to raise that baby, then the costs to that child and to society can be great. If this happens on a large scale, pathologies will increase to the point where a free society will begin to disintegrate.

On the other hand, there is a mountain of research showing that children raised in a low conflict home with a married mom and dad statistically reap benefits, across the board. If society has an interest in seeing children grow up to be contributing citizens, then the traditional family is crucial for healthy society.

“What’s so great about families?”
Love. Love is great. Security. Acceptance and belonging. Identity. An environment where vulnerable children are cared for by adults who are utterly invested in their lives. The village and the state may or may not help, but they are a pale substitute for a married mom and dad.

Are the roles of “mom” and “dad” dispensable?
If one wants to think about what will disadvantage children, this is the place to look.

It is now fashionable among smart people to believe that family structure is not important; that what matters is loving adults, regardless of gender. This is an ideological fabrication that ignores science and research.

I don’t intend to be unkind here. I’m simply saying that biological connection matters, and that kids tend to yearn for relational connection with their biological parents. Adoption is wonderful. We all know many single parents who work heroically to raise their kids well. Gay couples can be just as capable as hetero couples when it comes to parenting. But this issue is not ultimately about love or competency; it’s about what kids are wired to need. Specifically, what a single parent or a gay couple cannot be to a child is a mom and a dad. These roles matter:

A boy simply cannot have his masculine identity imparted and affirmed by his mom. Not because she is incompetent but because she is female. At the same time he cannot experience and appreciate the unity-in-diversity of the deep emotional connection of maternal love with his dad. Not because he is unloving, but because he is male.

A girl cannot receive non-sexual masculine attention, affirmation, and acceptance from her mom. Because mom is female. She cannot receive intimate knowledge and shared, comfortable connection around her innate femininity from her dad. Because he is a dude.

This is simply the shape of reality. I might even agree that it’s not fair.

No one is advocating chasing down gay parents and taking away their children, or shaming single parents, or stoning step-parents. We should all support each other in our parenting and create community to whatever extent possible. But parenting should ultimately be for the sake of children, and it is right to advocate for what is best for them when it comes to public policy. Redefining marriage necessarily redefines parenting, and intentionally denying the unique and complimentary roles of mothers and fathers will inevitably disadvantage kids.


Are you on Pinterest? I would be grateful if you would follow me as I try build momentum for marketing my KIDS’ BOOKS on Pinterest. (I’m using the name Scott Freeman) Thanks!


8 comments on “Do Loving Families Create Inequality in Society?

  1. You are WAAAAY too nice and generous in your assessment of such “scholars”. I’m not so generous, so let me be frank…because I AM Frank.

    The guys writing that nonsense are not “smart”, I don’t care how many letters they have after their name (or perhaps they’re smart but disingenuous and intellectually dishonest with the data). First, as you well pointed out, the empirical evidence already demonstrates the trouble perpetrated on society by fatherless homes. It’s not even a matter of debate by anyone who takes the issue seriously.

    Second, being a good parent doesn’t give one’s child any advantage. It merely places them in a place of normalcy. It’s like suggesting that my not taking drugs places drug-addicts at a disadvantage. But my advancing my pawn forward isn’t equivalent to moving my opponent’s pawn backwards, even if there is a relational difference between the two after my move. The problem seems to be that society has degraded to such a point that a corroded culture appears “normal” to some while an actual normal family appears to some as having some unfair advantage.

    Which brings me to, so what if my kid were advantaged? What business is that of others? It’s not my job as a parent to see that other children are equal to mine, nor does anyone have a right to handicap some children in order to level the playing field for others. In fact, the authors’ methods are very revealing and admits something that conservatives have been saying all along about marxist socialism/communism and collectivist policies in general, namely, socialism/marxism doesn’t make people equal by improving the lot of the poor; rather, it makes everyone equal by ruining the lot of those who are blessed, making everyone equally miserable. And that unintended admission, in a nutshell, is the only valuable contribution made by such “scholars” with regard to the subject.

    On your final note, I subscribed to your Pinterest page; very cool stuff. I also looked at your “Poster Art I Love” page; I have the actual theater poster of the Rocketeer film in my studio. Isn’t that the coolest design? I also dig Mucha a lot as well (I have too many books on his art, in fact). I enjoyed looking at your fine art; very impressive stuff. Your work makes me miss working in traditional media!

    • Thank you for being Frank. I’m happy that you think I was too generous, ‘cuz I thought I came off a little more snotty than usual, which I am trying to avoid in hopes of remaining civil. But dang sometimes they make it hard! I do continue to hold out hope for respectful discussion with those who may disagree. Though rare, I have seen it happen.

      Thanks for the Pinterest follow! I have returned the favor. Yes, I have always loved the Rocketeer poster. (I like the movie too.) And retro robots. I almost started a robot page.

      • You are NEVER snotty. You’re very gracious and generous in EVERYTHING you write. And while I think it’s very important to be civil in discussions, sometimes unpleasant things need to be said, even if that means rocking the boat a bit. The fact is, there will always be people who get offended at what you have to say because of the content, not because of the manner in which you say it. Jesus, I’m pretty sure, was inoffensive in His manner, nevertheless He offended many because of the content of His claims. And if people find/found offense with Jesus, one can be sure one will provoke similar responses today when declaring the truth.

        • So Frank.
          I’m not looking for a fight here but I gotta take issue with your statement: “The guys writing that nonsense are not “smart”… (or perhaps they’re smart but disingenuous and intellectually dishonest with the data).

          This is kind of a big issue for me. My contention is that degree of intelligence is not what matters most. Rather, I think it’s one’s presuppositional beliefs, or worldview is most consequential. And we don’t necessarily arrive at those because of great intelligence or education.

          The guy I reference attended Oxford, and I think you have to be pretty (academically) smart to get in there. I don’t even think he has to be disingenuous or dishonest with the data, (although I tend to agree that he is.) I think our preconceptions can cause us to look directly at data, and interpret it incorrectly. Like an evolutionary scientist who will only allow himself to consider naturalistic causes, even if the evidence leads to a supernatural cause.

          So c’mon! You have to admit this guy is pretty smart. But that doesn’t make him right.

          • Dennis Prager often states that he prefers clarity over agreement. That’s important because clarity prevents people from talking past one another and, in fact, may prevent disagreements once people realize each is equivocating and using terminology differently. This is why the task of philosophy is to split hairs and define terms so that there’s a minimum of confusion and a maximizing of clarity of thought and understanding. With that said…

            My use of “smart” was used in a Biblically epistemic sense, i.e., the wise person doesn’t fear the Lord, rather, those who fear the Lord begin to exercise wisdom. Were it the other way around, the apostle Paul would not write, in 1 Corinthians, that “not many wise [“wise” from a worldly perspective, not from a Biblical perspective] …are called.” (Though I didn’t look up the original languages, translations of the Bible even equivocate on the use of “wise” when, for example, the serpent is said to be wise or unbelievers are said to be wise from a clever or subtle point of view.)

            So I agree with you when you write, “we don’t necessarily arrive at those because of great intelligence or education.” I agree with you because I think a confession of truth is a free, volitional act of intelligence [Biblically speaking], not the result of worldly or academic intelligence (in other words, the act doesn’t require prior academic training but is in itself a volitional emergence of intelligence, i.e., the beginning of wisdom). This is why I think the researchers in question are either not “smart” (i.e., not exercising their volition to acknowledge truth) or disingenuous (as Paul likes to say, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness).

            All of that to say that you’re using “smart” in an academic sense and I’m using “smart” in the Biblical sense of exercising wisdom. Were I using the term in an academic sense, then of course I must agree with you that anyone who attended Oxford is likely to be “smart” insofar as they’re able to think abstractly or have an ability to recall data and so forth.

            You wrote: “I think our preconceptions can cause us to look directly at data, and interpret it incorrectly.”

            I agree. The question is, are one’s preconceptions a matter of academic intelligence or Biblical wisdom? The person who only interprets data in a naturalistic way still has to give an account for his philosophical naturalism and explain how it comports with the world and its phenomena (things like abstract mental objects, life, sentience, volition, objective moral imperatives and notions like justice, rights, duties, and laws of physics and chemistry, etc).

            • Good words there. I think one of the maxims out there that we have to fight against is that one is anti-intellectual if one disagrees with a majority of “intellectuals.” I hate that. I think it’s anti-intellectual to think so. Of course, one must have a sound basis for disagreeing with a majority of highly educated intellectuals. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to find a sound basis.

  2. Unfortunately, even being armed with a sound basis isn’t always enough.

    The reality is that academic/scientific institutions are largely ideological monoliths where any challenge to the reigning dogmas are squashed via the threat of a failing grade or loss of job and, when they have no power to inflict punishment, they engage in intellectual bullying in the form of painting dissenters with the “anti-intellectual” or “anti-science” brush. More often than not, they’re successful at marginalizing those who challenge them, and the media and government is usually complicit in helping them do so.

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