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  • Dads-Endangered Species
  • By Paul Gray
  • Herald Sun
  • 03/12/2002 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 30 articles in 2002 )
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FEW stories sum up the madness of political correctness like the tale of Melbourne's runaway 12-year-old boy.

Revealed by the Sunday Herald Sun last week, the case involves a boy separated from his father and forced to live with his mother and her lesbian partner by order of the Family Court.

Cruel and unusual punishment? While expecting a boy to live with his mother seems reasonable, in this case the boy has run away from his mother's several times since being separated from his Dad.

The father has a good record of caring for the boy -- a child who has said he'd kill himself if running away didn't work.

"My dad is the best person in the world,'' the boy said. "He always plays with me, he understands me -- he's a pretty caring person.''

One safe statement to make about this tragic case is that it's a painful study in the way our society -- through its public institutions -- undermines the vital role of fathers.

So afraid are we of confronting our failure to support fatherhood as an ideal that otherwise responsible community leaders are afraid to even speak of the problem. We fudge the father issue continually, preferring to speak of "changing family structures''.

But while family structures certainly are changing, it is grossly irresponsible for the community's leading voices to say nothing about the core evil this is producing: the loss of fathers from children's lives.

Many of them say they are trying to help children, of course. The PR position publicly endorsed by senior family law court judges, for example, is that our family law system is focused on helping both parents have a day-to-day role in raising children.

But the reality for many fathers is that there is a deep-seated cultural and political resistance towards letting dads have an effective role.

Mum's new lesbian partner comes first.

And if the boy turns out illiterate, well, the taxpayers can fix the problem through expensive remedial programs later on.

Programs such as the Howard Government's new $4 million scheme to hire more male teachers and set up "lighthouse schools'' to combat rising illiteracy among boys.

This new scheme was announced by Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson last week.

"It is unacceptable that 14-year-old boys are doing worse in literacy tests than they were 25 years ago,'' Dr Nelson said.

He's right, but why won't the Government make a full confession of the reasons this is happening?

THE absence of a father from children's lives is a big part of that picture, as researcher Jennifer Buckingham from Sydney's Centre for Independent Studies has recently shown.

Buckingham has written an important report called Getting it Right Some of the Time -- a response to the Federal Government's 2002 report Boys: Getting it Right (It's on this report that Dr Nelson's initiative is based.)

Buckingham picks gaping holes in the logic of the Government's position. On one hand, in its report the Government denies that family structure is a factor in boys' under-achieving at school.

But it goes on to say that "the absence of fathers in many families . . . has raised concerns about the under-fathering of children, which is held by some to be particularly detrimental to boys''.

It continues: "This is a generally accepted, but not thoroughly researched view, that is supported by the anecdotal evidence.''

So if it's a generally accepted view supported by evidence, why won't the Government agree with it?

Political correctness is the answer: the fear so many of our leaders have of seeming out of step with fashionable opinion.

Deep down, this whole issue is about fashion -- the conservative, 1970s-era fashions that still dominate our public institutions, including the courts and parliaments.

What a regrettable era the '70s was -- platform heels, disgusting ties and a passionate belief that "personal freedom'' counts for more than the commitments of marriage.

It doesn't, of course, and the proof is that small, innocent child who needs both his mother and his father to help him grow.

Who cares about him today?

Edition 1 - FIRSTTUE 03 DEC 2002,
Page 019

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