Sunday, June 1, 2008

Should Republicans be Allowed to have Kids?

There is currently legislation in 16 different states, including Georgia, which would ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting children. This legislation is backed by conservative Republicans who believe that the best way to raise kids is in a two-parent, heterosexual environment. According to Republican congressman Ronald Hood, children raised by gay parents have increased risk of physical and emotional problems, and might question their own sexuality. Hood went on to state: "Studies have shown that the optimal setting to raise children is in a traditional setting with a mom and a dad."

Now regardless of what one may personally think of homosexuality (or gay marriage), it is important to discuss whether or not homosexual parenting is harmful to children. If science shows that homosexual parents are bad for children, conservatives would have more ground to stand on when attempting to ban gay couples from adoption. Fortunately, this is not the case. The American Psychological Association concluded in 2005 that "not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents."

And in 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote that "a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes."

So we can see that these gay adoption bans are not based on scientific evidence, but on bigotry and homophobia. If conservatives are going to bring up the topic of parenting and its effects on children, I am going to make a statement based not on ideology but on scientific evidence: Conservatives should not be allowed to raise children. This is not to suggest that I want the government to ban Republicans from reproducing. I just wish to state my opinion that it is wrong for any human being to have to be raised in a strict conservative household. If conservatives are openly condemning different types of families, I think it fair game to attack conservatives for their failures to understand the reality of raising children. And unlike the conservative position against gay adoption, the scientific research really does show that conservative parenting is harmful to children.

The conservative parenting model comes from the work of Christian fundamentalists such as James Dobson and Rev. Jack Hyles. Dobson states openly in his books that he doesn't believe in science and that the only source of truth about parenting comes from the bible. The main idea of conservative parenting is that children are bad and sinful and that only through the incentive of rewards and the fear of punishment can children learn discipline and become mature. Children must give absolute obedience to the father's authority, and defiance is punished by painful spanking. Spanking is to be administered until the child cries tears of broken will. This sort of punishment is actually a form of love. Dobson instructs parents to spank their kids and tell them "because I love you so much, I must teach you to obey me." This sort of respect for authority is supposed to make the children self-reliant and moral. They are supposed to learn self-discipline and become self-reliant adults who always do the right thing because of the fear of punishments and incentives of rewards.

Virtually every mainstream expert on child-rearing believes that the conservative approach is destructive to children. The conservative parent method does the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do to children. It is supposed to make children strong and turn them into effective leaders, but in reality it makes them lack social competence and be withdrawn.An upbringing with strict rules and punishments is supposed to produce a strong conscience in the child, but in reality these children are more likely to have an external, rather than internal, idea of what is right or wrong. Strict discipline is supposed to make a child internally strong but the opposite is true: it actually produces children with low self-esteem who need someone else to be in control. Even worse, studies show that adults who are violent and abusive grew up in authoritarian households. According to one study "the people who experienced the most punishment as teen-agers have a rate of wife-beating and husband-beating that is four times greater than those whose parents did not hit them."

Further studies have been done by psychologists showing why conservatives think the way they do. The results are terrifying. One example is a study conducted at Stanford showing the psychological motives behind conservatism are as follows: authoritarian personality style, detesting femininity in men, homophobia, arousal by gay male sex images, paranoia, avoidance of uncertainty, need for order, dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, low self-esteem, loss prevention, resistance to change, fear, rationalization of self-interest, group-based dominance.
This study shows that conservatives are emotionally and intellectually shallow and insecure and will never be convinced to change their mind through science and reason. The fact is that conservatism is being inherited from one generation to the next via family upbringing, the most important thing we can do is prevent conservatives from raising children in such a destructive Dobsonian way. The way we can do this is not through a top-down government regulations (as they wish to do to homosexuals) but by creating a nurturing society and extend our circle of compassion to more and more people over time, even those who don't want to be nurtured.

George Lakoff explains:

"Women throughout history have known that nurturance is a way of life. Many men have learned it instinctively from their mothers and nurturing fathers. But the challenge in contemporary America is to create a nurturant society when a significant portion of that society has been raised by either authoritarian or neglectful parents. America is between moral worlds and there is only one way to turn."

There is reason to be hopeful. Conservatives are almost gone. They are virtually non-existent in most of Europe. Conservatives in America have convinced more than 50% of the population to vote Republican because of the largest misinformation campaign in history. There is a well-funded network of conservative think-tanks and propaganda machines that attack science, the media, liberalism, and anyone else that stands in the way of the conservative agenda. Conservatives is so extreme that the only way for them to hold power is to lie to the public. It must be our job to effectively communicate the reality of conservatism in America, and to communicate the morality of the alternative.