Tag Archives: marriage

Three Cheers for Ira Stoll

On “Future of Capitalism,” Ira Stoll has excoriated two anonymous Harvard Kennedy School professors for their allegedly candid assessments of Paula Broadwell, who is at the center of one of those recurring sex and government scandals. Stoll’s account takes the anonymous professors to task for violating a trust, he insists, that is supposed to be implicit in the student-teacher relationship. He calls these professors hypocritical for condemning in Broadwell what they and others routinely do to promote themselves to the larger public. What Stoll does not observe is that by remaining anonymous, they do the sociological dirty work of institutional distancing, which can only be accomplished by holding the individual responsible for everything, despite the institution’s relentless efforts to take credit for anything that the individual did that positively accrued to the institution.

As simple as this may sound or appear, another layer beneath the surface of institutional embarrassment is also operating, and in full force. President Obama decided to define the consequences of adultery as a family matter, which it certainly is. The press has mostly focused on these consequences as a matter of concern for national security. Neither perspective captures the full force of the consequences of what is at stake in the kind of trust abrogated in what is still mostly recognized as adultery. Within the family, or more precisely, within a marriage, any manner of arrangements pertaining to judgments about sex may exist by consent, and this is why the President could conveniently avoid being “judgmental” except to infer without any concrete knowledge that pain had been caused in this “private” matter. Let’s assume that is true: why would inquiring minds want to know about the pain? On the other hand, the issue of national security is obviously about an entirely different scale of trust, but also about how when one is at the top, one is the institution, not simply its representative. General Petraeus’s position was the merging of individual and institution, what sociologists used to call “role models,” a term that had invested in it a moral meaning about obligations, responsibilities and integrity. All these terms have been effaced in the intense lights that shine on “roles” these days.

What does any of this have to do with higher education? Ira Stoll was incredulous about professors hiding behind their anonymity to trash a former student. But the real sin is the silence about what now is quaintly referred to as sex out of wedlock. To be opposed to sex out of wedlock means coming to terms with what also used to be called “premarital sex” and is now reduced to “hooking up”. The new so-called freedoms are heralded every day, even as real life and its personal and professional disasters play out for a public uncertain about what to make of its own incomprehension of what, if anything, is wrong with this picture.

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Jonathan B. Imber is Jean Glasscock Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and Editor-in-Chief of Society.

Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’

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The
ongoing controversy over University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus is a
textbook example of how a legitimate scholarly dispute can turn into a
political witch-hunt. Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at Texas’s
flagship campus in Austin, published a peer-reviewed paper in June in the
journal Social Science Research concluding that the adult children of
parents in same-sex relationships fare worse in a number of ways–alcoholism,
depression, drug use, and so forth–than the adult children of parents in
stable heterosexual marriages. Other sociologists have contested both
Regnerus’s findings and his methodology. But instead of challenging the results
of Regnerus’s research via normal scholarly channels–reviews, other scholarly
papers, or conference panels–Regnerus’s opponents have sought to delegitimize
him both personally and as a professional academic. They have attacked his
editors at Social Science Research, and they have goaded the UT-Austin
administration into investigating him for scientific misconduct. They have
fought their battle not in the journals but in the pages and web-pages of Mother
Jones
and the Huffington Post. Regnerus, a Catholic convert, has
even been aligned with the Catholic traditionalist group Opus Dei that is every
progressive’s favorite faith-based werewolf. Shades of The Da Vinci Code!

Continue reading Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’

NYU Targeted over Gay Marriage

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Cross-Posted from Open Market

New York
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to kick
Chick-fil-A
out of New York because its CEO, Dan Cathy, opposes gay
marriage. Accordingly, she informed
the head of New York University (which leases space to the one Chick-fil-A
restaurant in New York City) that “Chick-fil-A is not welcome in New York City
as long as the company’s president continues to uphold and promote his
discriminatory views […] I urge you to sever your relationship with the
Chick-fil-A establishment that exists on your campus.” 

My guess is
that the university will regard this letter more as an unstated threat than as
a mere statement of the Speaker’s opinion, since universities, vulnerable as
they are to ad hoc
government regulations and ordinances, are obligated to cultivate municipal
officials’ goodwill. As a rule, business owners are subject
to
municipal predation 
that can drive them out of business, and are thus forced them to ingratiate
themselves with city officials. Universities can end up with an enrollment
cap
or lose lucrative
eminent domain
prerogatives if they annoy municipal higher-ups. 

Continue reading NYU Targeted over Gay Marriage

College Won’t Make You Middle Class

The New York Times piece John Leo
referenced earlier cites a startling statistic: while almost 40% of births to
college-educated women are out-of-wedlock, the figure for women who haven’t graduated
college is over 90%. Another figure from same study indicates that though a
third of women who hold only a high school diploma have had children with more
than one man, none of the college-educated women studied had. 

These contrasts
are certainly stark; however, we should be wary of the argument that college
necessarily leads to the stable middle-class existence the piece describes.
College is but one of the many factors that support social mobility: individual
initiative, committed relationships, and familial support are equally if not
more important. As the article implies but never explicitly states, obtaining a
college degree often means you possess the qualities and resources for
necessary advancement; it does not guarantee said advancement.

Ultimately, the lasting bonds
of family and community matter more. Those championing the
cause of the middle class should take note. 

Dissenting Scholarship Draws ‘Misconduct’ Inquiry

Mark Regnerus is a tenured associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. He published a paper in the peer-reviewed sociological journal Social Science Research. The paper, detailing the results of a study of children growing up in households headed by same-sex couples, concluded that those children may be at disadvantage “when it comes to certain forms of success in adulthood,” Inside Higher Education reported. The study was funded by the Bradley Foundation and the Witherspoon Institute, two conservative organizations that have funded anti-same-sex-marriage advocacy.

Continue reading Dissenting Scholarship Draws ‘Misconduct’ Inquiry

Oppositional Gay Culture and the Future of Marriage

Parade.jpgThese are banner days for the gay-rights movement. “Banner Days” is in fact the front page headline in The New York Times Book Review for a review of Linda Hirshman’s new book, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. The reviewer, Rich Benjamin, praises Hirshman’s work but feels the need to chasten her on the extent of the “victory”–

There are no federal protections against anti-gay employment discrimination. Same-sex marriage is explicitly forbidden in 38 states. Most Southern states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Gay families face codified and implicit discrimination when adopting children. Gay youth across the country are stigmatized by their peers.

Benjamin is surely right that these are fairly large discrepancies to
accommodate to a thesis that the gay-rights movement has achieved
unalloyed victory. Gays and lesbians are a lot more mainstream than at
any earlier time in American history, but they nonetheless remain divided
from American culture and society in significant ways.

Continue reading Oppositional Gay Culture and the Future of Marriage

“Pinkwashing” Comes to CUNY

In a region in which the laws of many countries punish homosexuality with lengthy criminal sentences or even death, Israel’s laws and history stand out. Indeed, by virtually any measurement, Israel’s gay rights record far exceeds that of the United States. Decades before the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision, Israel had decriminalized homosexuality. During the nearly 20 years in which Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the United States kicking thousands of homosexuals out of the armed services, gays and lesbians served openly in the Israel Defense Forces. In contrast to the laws of several U.S. states, Israel allows gay or lesbian couples to jointly adopt children. Same-sex couples can’t marry in Israel, but the state does extend legal recognition to marriages performed in other countries, something that DOMA prevents the federal government from doing even for U.S. couples married in states like Massachusetts.

Continue reading “Pinkwashing” Comes to CUNY

Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Pressure has been building for President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression by federal contractors, a move that might make the recent controversy over requiring religious institutions to offer contraception services look mild by comparison.

Metro Weekly recently reported on a strategy session in retiring Rep. Barney Frank’s office attended by representatives of the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay and transgender equity advocacy organizations to organize a campaign for such an executive order. Shortly thereafter on Feb. 6 the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site published a press release from the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school calling for a gay rights executive order, and the New York Times published an OpEd, “What Obama Should Do About Workplace Discrimination,” by M.V. Lee Badgett, the Williams Institute’s research director.

Continue reading Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Campus Libertarianism up, Civic Commitment Down

One of the most mentioned findings in the annual UCLA survey of college freshmen is a decided trend toward more “liberal” political attitudes. The survey shows increased support for same-sex marriage (supported by 71.3% of students, representing a 6.4% increase since 2009); for a pro-choice position on abortion; for the legalization of marijuana; and a corresponding decrease in opposition to provision of public services to undocumented immigrants. One finding that seems at odds with the overall trend is support for national health care, which dropped nearly a point since 2010, and fourteen points since 2007.

As Mark Bauerlein rightly pointed out, the trends point not in a “liberal” direction, but rather one that is “libertarian,” with a strong stress upon being “individualists.” If there is one overwhelming conclusion that one can draw from this survey, today’s students are individualistic. As an article about the survey expressed, their dominant perspective is to “Live and Let Live (and Study).”

The study is striking for what it does not ask: while it asks about hot-button social issues ranging from same-sex marriage to abortion, it does not ask students very much about their views on the economy–something one would think in our current climate would be interesting to know (the survey claims that its findings should inform how issues should be framed in the upcoming Presidential election. If that is the case, why the avoidance of economic questions?).

My own more modest campus “survey” suggests that students are trending libertarian (what many would call “conservative”) in the economic sphere as well. In one class I teach at Georgetown, I assign students a short paper asking them to provide a “political autobiography.” I have been struck over the past several years at the increasing number of students who self-describe as “socially liberal and economically conservative.” Their political lexicon is fairly impoverished (doubtless with thanks to our political media), but what they in fact disclose is a growing embrace of a consistent ethic of libertarianism. If we take their fading support of national health care as a proxy for their view about government interference in the economy, then we can indeed conclude that today’s students demonstrate an overall disposition toward “live and let live,” in both the social and economic realms.

Toleration, Diversity and Me

This conclusion, I would submit, ought to be a source of deep concern for those who care about the future of the American polity.

The overarching emphasis in the highest echelons of society–among our “elites,” and especially those working at our public schools and universities, as well as in the media–has been upon the need for “toleration” and “diversity.” The underlying belief informing this widespread view is that a high level of toleration toward others will result in a decrease in social conflict, the cessation of the mistreatment of minorities and outsiders, and a more peaceful and hence prosperous society. This message has clearly been internalized by today’s students: among the worst possible sins one can commit is to be a “Hater”–or, in their parlance, to “H8.” To render judgments or critical views toward lifestyle decisions is to engage in an unacceptable form of prejudice; people should be allowed to behave in whatever way they wish, so long as no one is physically harmed (though, it should be noted, self-destructive behaviors such as smoking are now severely frowned upon–only 2% of the surveyed population today acknowledges being a smoker). In what possible way could one be disquieted by this seemingly praiseworthy disposition of toleration and acceptance of diversity?

What the data also demonstrates is a keen and intense emphasis on the self. Today’s students simultaneously urge toleration toward others, but also expect to be left alone. Their overarching emphasis upon individual achievement–particularly in the area of career advancement–suggests that the message of “toleration” and “diversity” seamlessly co-exists with a self-centered focus on material success and personal lifestyle autonomy. At risk is a cultivated belief in civic membership, a sense of shared fate and even forms of self-sacrifice.

One telling aspect of the survey has, to my knowledge, received no attention: while 72.3% state that the “chief benefit of college is to increase one’s earning power,” only 2% of current college graduates are enrolled in an ROTC or other military program. While likely career choices are fragmented among many possible choices (with the largest numbers of responses clustering around the choices of engineer, physician and business, together totaling 28%), only 1.5% responded that they foresaw a military career; 0.9% intended to enter government or public policy; and .1% stated an intention to become a member of the clergy. As many respondents indicated a likely future of unemployment (1.5%) as those willing to serve in the military!

Increasing Earning Power

Contemporary liberals who significantly shape the views of today’s young (especially through the media – 50% of respondents indicated watching television more than 3 hours a day) believe that they are ushering in a future of toleration and “laissez-faire.” However, this attitude in fact buttresses the other overwhelming finding of the survey: that students today are “in it” for themselves. Their view of college is already determined before they enroll: the purpose of college is to increase their earning power. They are not in college to be liberally educated or to understand the “meaning of life.” They are not there to prepare for a life of responsible citizenship, parenthood and neighborliness. They are “capitalist tools,” people whose lives are dominated by professional ambition and bottom-line accounting.

Several disquieting questions should come to mind: what kinds of citizens will these people grow up to be? What kinds of parents and what kinds of neighbors? They will likely be willing to leave other people alone–but will they care about others? Will they love? Will they serve? Will they sacrifice? According Charles Murray in his recent book Coming Apart, it is the upper classes (which will be composed of the students in this survey) that have largely abandoned any idea of trusteeship and moral and civic responsibility toward those who have not won the meritocratic sweepstakes. The survey suggests that this divide will only deepen in coming years.

I fear that we are not ushering in a utopia of toleration and sensitivity, but one of indifference and self-absorption. Today’s young people have deeply absorbed the lessons that have been taught them by their elders. Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?

Preferences for Homosexuals?

LGBT.jpgElmhurst College, in what is apparently a first, will ask this question on its admissions application:  “Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?”  Answering the question will be optional; applicants may chose “yes” or “no” or “prefer not to answer.” 

Those answering yes to the LGBT question will be eligible for a diversity-driven “enrichment scholarship” since they will be considered members of an “underrepresented group.”  On the other hand, according to Insider Higher Ed, the school “admits around 65 percent of applicants, and does not anticipate using sexual orientation as a factor in admissions decisions.”

You can read about all this on the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed websites, and the college itself subsequently put out a  statement on the matter (in which it notes that “the College did not seeks publicity for this step”).

There do not appear to be any federal legal problems with the college’s action, and if there are it will be, ironically, because of liberal rather than conservative legal theories. That is, the left has been aggressive in pushing legal arguments that federal law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation; to the extent that courts and bureaucrats accept those dubious arguments, then it opens the door to claims that preferences on the basis of sexual orientation are illegal, too.

Law aside, does Elmhurst’s action make sense as a policy matter?

Continue reading Preferences for Homosexuals?