School Board Played Its Own Name Game What's Wrong With Good, Old-fashioned Marriage? Why Dance Around The Issue?

Posted: November 27, 1991

My seventh-grade students enjoy all sorts of word games. One in particular, anagrams, the rearranging or shuffling of letters to make a new word, is a favorite. My students solve these puzzles for pleasure, but in ancient and medieval times this practice was thought to have magical properties, to work miracles, and to reveal the truth.

One easy phrase, "life's aim" can be turned into "families." My students recognize this new order as a truthful and logical arrangement . . . an aim in life is to have a family. Further, they know instinctively and firsthand that families come from marriage. Marriage being defined as the union of a man and a woman in a loving, life-giving commitment.

I know that my students enjoy the word game, anagramming, and from the recent resolution passed by the Philadelphia Board of Education regarding Policy # 123 on adolescent sexuality, I think the board must like word games, too.

Unfortunately, the board wasn't as successful as my seventh grade, for it tried to shuffle the word marriage into the phrase "mutually monogamous relationship." Not only don't the letters fit, the concept gets all shuffled up, too.

Actually, the original resolution of the policy stated that the board wishes "to enable and encourage students to abstain from sexual intercourse until ready to establish a mutually monogamous relationship." The Family Life Educational Foundation, many parents, church leaders and other concerned caretakers of the system asked the board to delete the phrase "mutually monogamous relationship" in favor of the word marriage and marriage only.

In response to these appeals, the board agreed to vote on the motion requested. Unfortunately, during this meeting, the original request was buried. The word "marriage" was added, not a replacement for "mutually monogamous relationship." The vote was cast using both.

Many people who followed the vote thought the inclusion of marriage was a victory. Even the board seemed satisfied that it had appeased everyone. Dr. Ruth Hayre, president of the board, said, "It's unfortunate what kind of a society we live in today, with the breakdown of the family," but she added that the board could not exclude lifestyles that had become acceptable. Other members concurred in using both terms with only one dissenting vote. Andrew Farnese saw the foolishness of presenting a smorgasbord of lifestyles to young people.

This amended resolution weakens the Judeo-Christian tradition that preserves the value of marriage and the family, it undermines the institution of marriage, and it condones premarital and extramarital relationships.

Furthermore, the board's decision to compromise was a denial of the parents who gave public voice to their concern over the adolescent sexuality agenda. It was a denial to the church leaders who asked them to cast a single vote in favor of marriage alone. Finally, it was a violation of the classroom commandment, Thou Shalt Not Misguide Our Children.

The world glamorizes a variety of living arrangements that cannot be compared to marriage. Daytime TV soaps, Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo fail to show the calamities and casualties of such choices.

To recognize that marriages sometimes fail is to accept reality, but it is not a reason to abandon the ideal that marriage is the only worthy choice that can bring our young most directly to the real goal, the practice of abstinence. In spite of the message the world gives, the classroom must be the guardian and keeper of the truth, correct thinking, ideals and virtues.

In days gone by, to suggest that schools would teach alternatives to marriage would have been, in the language of film critics, "morally objectionable for all." Today, at best it should be tagged, "for adults, with reservations."

The school board failed to follow the wishes of the parents, failed to understand the real purpose of its role and failed to perpetuate the traditional values that they inherited, which govern their own lives.

When my students puzzle over their anagrams, it enhances language and thinking skills. If while having fun, they glean a little truth, so much the better. When the school board engages in word games, it must choose that new order carefully for fear of causing a dangerous erosion of a time-honored value - in this case, marriage.

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