The delay in this latest blog post is due to the July 4th birth of my first grandchild amidst the crackling of fireworks. He’s a 9lb. 5.5oz bundle of preciousness. But I struggle to stay optimistic about the culture in which he will grow up. Two recent news stories illustrate the ongoing battle for hearts and minds of America’s children.
The first story illustrates senselessness. It comes from Provincetown, Massachusetts where on June 8th the school board voted unanimously to make free condoms available beginning this fall to all district students – including the ELEMENTARY students – without parental notification or consent. Local talk show hosts spoofed the absurdity of the decision: “So what size will they give out to little first grade boys . . . how about finger cots?” Once the story gained national media attention, public pressure prompted a modification of the policy to exclude the elementary students. But middle schoolers are still included . . . that would be 11-13 year olds!
Here is what disturbs me most about this controversy: Provincetown School Superintendent Dr. Beth Singer indicated that parents would NOT be notified nor required to give consent if their child requests condoms. Worse still, her school officials have been directed TO IGNORE the pre-emptive demands of concerned parents who become aware of the policy and do not want their minor children to receive condoms. This is a gross usurpation of parental authority, and violates the federal statute that gives parents the right to direct the upbringing of their children . . . especially the moral upbringing which shapes children’s character. As in so many other public school systems across America, Provincetown’s arrogant policy contributes to the delinquency of minors, and facilitates risky behavior that can have serious, even life-long consequences.
By contrast, the second story demonstrates a refreshing sensibility. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unapologetically established a company policy which does not allow pornographic applications to run on company products. An article in the July 3rd issue of World Magazine reported Jobs’ stated intent to offer “freedom from porn.” Critics falsely accused him of censorship, belying their own misunderstanding of its definition. Jobs was not trying to ban all porn (actual censorship) . . . he simply wanted to offer consumers a choice of porn-free devices regardless of the impact on Apple’s bottom line. Plenty of other companies make products for folks with appetites for pornographic apps. To the naysayers Jobs replied, “You might care more about porn when you have kids.”
Upon purchasing Apple devices, some techno-savvy users might illicitly reprogram them to run porn apps. Nevertheless, Steve Jobs has publicly taken a principled stand, and I applaud him for it. I think he’d make a terrific school superintendent in Provincetown, don’t you?