Michael P. Farris served as founding president of Patrick Henry College (2000-2006) and is now Chancellor. In addition to teaching Constitutional Law and coaching the Moot Court team, he organizes a mentorship program for PHC students called Tyndale's Ploughmen. He serves as Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Read full bio.
In last week’s Washington Post, Petula Dvorak offered quite a prelude to Mother’s Day by arguing that schools should stop identifying parents as “fathers and mothers.” After all, in today’s world of same-sex parenting and all manner of other arrangements, no child should be subjected to practices that “continually impose a traditional mother-and-father construct on their children.”
If you read more than a few paragraphs from a post-modern writer you will be told that some traditional idea or practice is a “construct.” What does this mean to people like Dvorak?
Social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature.
Another post-modernist at New York University describes the theory of social constructionism:
This thing could not have existed had we not built it; and we need not have built it at all, at least not in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had we had different needs, values, or interests, we might well have built a different kind of thing, or built this one differently. The inevitable contrast is with a naturally existing object, something that exists independently of us and which we did not have a hand in shaping.
Dvorak is contending that human beings made up the idea of “fathers and mothers.” If we had different values, the idea might never have happened at all. And since humans just made it up, the idea of mothers and fathers has no claim to moral superiority over the notion of two mothers or two fathers.
The term should always just be “parent” rather than the sexist social constructionist terms of “father” or “mother.”
But once you buy into the lunacy of social constructionism, the term “parent” becomes suspect. My professor of international rights of the child at the University of London argued in her book that “childhood” itself is a construct. If “childhood” is a construct, then it logically follows that “parenthood” is also a construct.
Thus, if Dvorak really was interested in schools that free children from stereotypes and constructs, then the term should not be even be “parent” but simply “roommate.”
Dvorak is not merely being silly—although she has my vote for the silliest article of the month in the Washington Post—her thinking is dangerous.
On the front page of the Post on that same day was a follow-up story on arrests for gang-related multiple murders. The young men who had been apprehended lived in a world where they took the duty of revenge seriously. Shoot my friend, they believed, and I will hunt you down and shoot you.
Anyone who has watched movies of the old West knows that there was a day where such a philosophy – or construct -- was in common practice. And the movie End of the Spear revealed that the Auca Indians (who massacred missionary Jim Eliot) believed and practiced this same idea of revenge.
If right and wrong is just a construct, then how then can we impose our ever-pliable social construct of “murder” on the young men in the DC gang? Why is it that only the government can punish murder? Who are we to say, according to Dvorak’s reasoning, that it is even wrong for them to take a life in revenge? What gives us the authority to impose our rigid judicial values and our constructs on the DC gang members?
This nation was built on the philosophy that all men are created equal and that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. This is the world of fathers and mothers, of right and wrong, of truth and error. Post-modernism can do nothing more than attempt to tear down truth. When you strip it to its core there is nothing more than chaos.
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