On February 27th, Family Talk will celebrate the first anniversary of its founding. What a year it has been. In early March, Shirley and I filed the necessary legal documents with the IRS and announced our intention to launch Family Talk at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. It was such an exciting moment for us. Family Talk leased a beautiful little building in Colorado Springs a few weeks later and this ministry was underway. We had absolutely nothing at that stage, and it looked for several months like we were going to keep it! But God has been gracious to us, and you, our friends who believed in us, were there when it mattered most. My co-hosts, LuAnne Crane and Ryan Dobson, along with our entire team want to THANK YOU ALL.
In my first general letter, sent in March of last year, I promised to work diligently to protect and support the institution of the family in every way possible. Marriage and parenthood would be our central themes, of course, but I also made it clear that we would seek to defend righteousness in the culture. There would be no "softer, gentler" approach to the critical issues of the day. Some things are worth fighting for, including the sanctity of human life, morality in our schools, decisions of government, and the pervasiveness of the entertainment industry – arenas with powerful influences on our kids and families!
This month, I want to share a case in point. Something shocking occurred in a California classroom a few weeks ago that demands our attention. You probably haven't heard about it, because the media largely ignored it. We have to wonder why, given its scandalous nature. This is one of the few reports of the incidents that occurred the third week of January.
OAKLAND (CBS 5) — A teacher at Oakland's Markham Elementary School has been suspended indefinitely after school officials said a pair of second-graders performed sex acts on each other in class – with the teacher present.
"I think everyone is taken aback over this shocking incident," Troy Flint, the spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District, told CBS 5. "Of course, it is hard to understand how that could have occurred."
Flint said the sex acts incident was one of two separate cases under investigation involving the teacher; both incidents occurred last week in the same classroom but he said they didn't come to the attention of school officials until Wednesday. In one case, several students apparently took off their clothes and were naked in the classroom. In the second incident, a boy and girl reportedly engaged in oral sex in front of their classmates.
Flint indicated that the suspended teacher, whose name was not released by the school district, was present for both of the incidents.
Flint and Markham principal Pam Booker said they were limited in terms of the details they could release at this time because of the ongoing investigation into the matter.
Booker noted that the students said to be involved in the incidents were interviewed by school leaders.
In a letter sent to parents of Markham students on Thursday, Booker offered an apology by telling them that the incidents "represent an unacceptable lack of supervision. I understand there is great anger over this news."1
Did you catch the words of Troy Flint, representing the Oakland school district? He said everyone is "taken aback" by the incident. Taken aback? Is that it? What happened in that classroom involved seven-year old children stripping themselves naked in front of their teacher, who apparently did nothing to stop them. During that week, second-grade children in the same classroom performed a perverse act in front of other children. And what are school officials doing about it? Well, they suspended the teacher and are "investigating."2 Are parents not going to be given any more information than that? Apparently not. Principal Pam Booker said they were "limited in terms of details they could release…" She can't be serious.
Mr. Flint is quoted in another article in which he said, "Children have a natural curiosity about the human body, and they're prone to exploration. But, of course, we have to work with children to make sure they understand that there's a proper time, place, and manner to do so."3
Perhaps this educator would suggest for us what "the proper time, place and manner" is for seven-year-olds to get naked and perform oral sex with one another.
Dr. Stuart Lustig, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at UC San Francisco said that sexual play among children – even though often worrisome to adults – is not uncommon, even at a very young age. "They do experiment with each other's bodies," he said. "It's part of normal development." He concluded by saying oral sex is not as common, "and probably more concerning."4
Probably more concerning, Sir?
I am amazed that hundreds of parents from that school district have not demanded to know what really happened to their kids at Markham Elementary School. Did the teacher condone the behavior? Has anything like this happened before? Has this teacher ever been charged with child abuse or other inappropriate conduct? Was he fired for the recent incident or simply put on paid leave until things settle down? There has to be more to the story than this. Is a report going to be released to the public, to the parents and to the press? If so, when?
What may be evident here is a changing attitude in the professional community toward the psychological harm that early sexual experience has on children. If so, I believe it is terribly wrong. You may remember that in July, 2010, the Helena School District considered a proposal to extend sex education to children as young as kindergarten age. Fox News filed this report:
According to the 62-page draft proposal, beginning in kindergarten, school nurses will teach students proper terms such as "nipple, breast, penis, scrotum and uterus." Once they are promoted to first grade, children will learn that sexual relations could happen between two men or two women. By the time students are 10 years old, instruction will include the various ways people can have intercourse, be it vaginally, orally or through "anal penetration," according to the proposal.
"As educators and as parents and as communities, we need to be more proactive in helping inform our students at an appropriate age what the risk factors are associated with their own behaviors so that they can make better decisions about their well-being," Dr. Bruce Messinger, the Superintendent of Helena Public Schools, told Fox News.5
I have shared this information with you to illustrate how blasé many adults have become in response to the welfare of our children. If parents would not react with passion to second-grade boys and girls taking off their clothes and performing lewd acts in front of a teacher, what would it take to alarm them? And where was the media in this affair?
Dr. Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, wrote a book some years ago called, The Death of Outrage.6 In it, he addressed the changing nature of the culture and how we have become desensitized to behavior that would have set previous generations on fire. There was a time, not that long ago, when parents protested loudly over Elvis Presley's gyrations on stage before audiences of teenagers. They felt the morality of their kids was being assaulted. When Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, the cameramen were told to aim above his waist.7 Admittedly, that was an extreme reaction by parents, but we have descended dramatically from that innocent day to this.
Compare the puritanical leanings of the 1950s with what is occurring now. Have you heard about the no-holds-barred depictions of raw sexuality in MTV's new series called Skins? Though the original version may be toned down, the channel says, as I write, that it will stand pat. The third episode features a nude 17-year-old boy who has taken erectile dysfunction pills, and is seen running down the road obviously aroused. Other shows depict lesbian acts and other explicit sexuality.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, described the program in his Washington Update8 this way:
As if Hollywood didn't have enough homegrown filth, MTV is looking to import more. Desperate to out-sleaze the competition, the channel is remaking the British show Skins, which takes teen sexuality to a level that U.S. television has never seen. …the show is littered with nudity, drug abuse, masturbation, drinking, and other acts that you don't want your children to know about—let alone watch. … In fact, the episodes—which feature actors as young as 15—are so explicit that MTV executives are concerned that "it could be deemed child pornography." Based on the latest reports from [Attorney General] Eric Holder's Justice Department, they have nothing to worry about. Apparently, the Department of Justice doesn't prosecute child porn anymore, despite brand new technology identifying a half-million suspects "trafficking in horrific video and photographs of children being raped, abused, and even tortured." Unfortunately, this lack of enforcement from the DOJ is what helps shows like Skins thrive.
It is reassuring to know that in this instance, at least, some parents and other responsible adults have reacted angrily to the Skins series. I might ask, have you written to protest to the sponsors, which could have a powerful influence? You can find a link detailing the list of sponsors, which is changing almost daily. Numerous sponsors have pulled out because of negative reaction. I would not recommend that you waste your time and energy complaining to MTV. There is evidence that they are trying to entice you and me into watching. Many commentators have speculated that MTV began publicizing its concern about child pornography, not because they feared it, but to draw viewers. Naked children and teens in sexual situations have a tremendous commercial value in this culture, and MTV knows it. These are evil people running this wretched channel!
My point is that our society is changing dramatically, and parents would be well advised to recognize the growing danger to the moral character and welfare of their children.
Let me share an excerpt from my latest book, Bringing Up Girls, that addresses this essential understanding:
Like their brothers, many girls are being victimized by cultural influences that are increasingly more violent, hypersexualized, and spiritually impoverished. And this is the key: our society is at war with good parents who are trying desperately to protect their kids from the harmful forces swirling around them.
Let me ask some rhetorical questions to those of you who are raising girls [and boys]. Do you hope your daughters will be sexually promiscuous even from their early teen years? Do you prefer that your girls be brash, loud, and aggressive in their relationships with males? Do you hope they will be easy marks for boys seeking sexual conquest? Is it your desire that they imitate rogue masculine behavior, such as being quick-tempered, immodest, insensitive, and disrespectful of others? Do you want them to be foulmouthed, crude, rude, profane, and discourteous?
Is it your desire that they dress provocatively in order to attract the attention of guys, revealing more than they conceal? When they become teenagers, do you want them to look like prostitutes, pumping up their lips with collagen and their breasts with silicone? Would you like them to dangle rings from their body parts and dye their hair green, orange, purple, and pink? Do you want them to be so ashamed of their bodies that they feel compelled to diet at nine years of age and are afraid to eat by thirteen?
Are you comfortable with professors who will encourage your nearly grown daughters to experiment with lesbian relationships and tell them that bisexuality is an even greater trip? Do you hope that your girls will learn that marriage is an outdated institution that should be redefined or discarded? Do you want them to disdain the cherished spiritual beliefs you have been teaching them since they were babies?
If these are your aspirations for your vulnerable little girls, and I'm sure they are not, then you need do nothing to achieve them. The popular culture will do the job for you. It is designed to turn this generation of kids into politically correct little MTV clones. The influence of the entertainment industry, Madison Avenue, the Internet, hip-hop musicians, some public schools, liberal universities, and other institutions is shaping and warping youngsters and infusing them with harmful ideas that will rob them of the innocence of childhood. As a result, some of our girls will lose their prospects of having a productive and happy life. The stability of their future families is hanging in the balance.
This is what lies in the paths of children whose parents are overworked, distracted, exhausted, and uninvolved. Without their care and concern, the culture will take them to hell. I have witnessed it a thousand times. Even with proper parental supervision, many of our kids are on the bubble.
I am most concerned about the children among us who are chronically lonely. Their parents are gone much of the time, leaving them to fend for themselves. Human beings desperately need each other, and those who are isolated do not thrive. Not only do lonely children tend to get into trouble, they also become sitting ducks for abusers who understand their emptiness and use it for their own purposes.
One thing is certain: your children are being targeted by businesses that are willing to exploit them for quick profits. Is there any doubt that the pornography industry wants to sell salacious and perverse images to curious adolescents, regardless of where that exposure leads? The dirty old men (and women) who sell this stuff don't wait for "customers" to come knocking on the door. They go out looking for them. According to former attorney general John Ashcroft, nine out of ten teens have been exposed to pornographic images. Those who stumble across this wretched stuff on the Web or in other media are highly susceptible to what they see. Boys as young as thirteen are easily trapped in addictive and progressive behavior that will plague them for a lifetime. Girls are directly affected because their boyfriends expect them to imitate what is depicted in obscene products.
I hope you understand now why I am so concerned about girls. [I am equally concerned about boys, but the book I'm quoting was about girls.] They are at maximal risk today. They are tender and more easily wounded than their brothers. And politically correct or not, I maintain that their inherent emotional nature makes them more easily manipulated. A longing for love and connectedness lies deep within their feminine souls. This is why they open themselves without commitment to guys who might, given a miracle, give them the affirmation they crave. They don't seem to get much pleasure out of the perverse acts they perform. They are hoping against hope that some adolescent boy out there will fill the void and ease the ache inside. And increasingly, those unmet needs are created by something missing in the girls' relationships with their mothers and/or fathers.
For now, parents, this is the world in which your kids are growing up. Not all of them have succumbed to the temptations and pressures I have described, of course. Nevertheless, the forces that are enticing the younger generation are still having their tragic impact. Our children desperately need us to guide their steps and set reasonable boundaries to protect them.
They remind me of little bunny rabbits running through the meadow, unaware that owls and coyotes and bears and hawks are out there trying to catch them and tear them apart. At times it seems as though every predator in the field is after those same vulnerable little creatures. You, Mom and Dad, are their only defenders. Your public school can't be counted on to do what is clearly your responsibility. Not even your church can save them. The clergy is trying to counter a culture much further gone into moral decline than the world into which we were born. Meeting together with teens on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights is helpful, but even it is not enough.
You, however, can provide the care and guidance that is needed, and most important, you can fill the void that will otherwise send your bright-eyed kids into the meadow in a desperate search for nurturance and the warm company of other lost bunnies.
Together, perhaps we can protect some of today's children and teens from the dangers I have described.9
Well, that is my message for this month. I want to assure you that Family Talk will do everything we can to assist parents in their challenging task of raising healthy and God-fearing children. Your family is our mission.
Thank you so much for your support. Let us hear from you when time permits.
James Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and President
Current advertisers of MTV's Skins
6. Bennett, William J. (1999). Death of Outrage. New York: Free Press
9. Dobson, James C. (2010). Bringing Up Girls. Tyndale: 9-12.
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