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After a rash of criticism following his statements to a political gathering of Congressional heavyweights, Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family clarified their objections to the music video produced by the We Are Family Foundation. Instead of focusing on SpongeBob Squarepants, Dr. Dobson clearly states that his objection comes from the use of the video and its accompanying teaching material being presented in the schools outside of the control of parents:
We applaud the ideal of championing to children the value and dignity of every human life as well as respect for our differences. What we vehemently object to is using these beloved characters to help advance an agenda that's beyond the comprehension of 6 and 7 year-old children, not to mention morally offensive to millions of moms and dads.
The video in question is slated to be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools throughout the United States. Where it is shown, schoolchildren will be left with the impression that their teachers are offering their endorsement of the values and agenda associated with the video's sponsor. While some of the goals associated with this organization are noble in nature, their inclusion of the reference to "sexual identity" within their "tolerance pledge" is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line.
The tone in this argument is much more reasoned than that provided by the spokesman for Focus on the Family on Thursday. When approached by the New York Times, Paul Batura said, "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It is a classic bait and switch." It comes closer to my original post on the subject, in which I also expressed annoyance with the constant barrage of non-essential teaching and the focus that teachers and administrators place on that at the expense of actual learning. I agree that this practice has great potential for abuse and indoctrination and should be eliminated.
On the other hand, it's a pretty narrow line to walk to claim on one hand that moral values should be taught at home, and at the same time push for religious teachings in public schools, such as Intelligent Design and creationism, especially in earlier grades. Objectively speaking, both sides of this issue can claim that schools would fall into indoctrination, and the question becomes less pure and more partisan as to which belief systems one chooses to proclaim in public schools. That's why I argue that public schools should stick to educating students and let parents teach moral values as they see fit. (Note: I support allowing students to pray, read the Bible, and form religious clubs in public schools, as these are voluntary activities.)
At the least, though, Dr. Dobson should have anticipated the reaction towards an attack on this video program and built a complete message regarding their objections. Part of the reason this misunderstanding took place is that Focus on the Family was woefully underprepared to explain their position to believers and opponents alike. When this story broke in the Times, I searched the Focus on the Family website and could find no reference to SpongeBob except for a movie review. That's a mistake on the part of Focus leadership, and it allowed others to fill the message in for them.
I still disagree with Dr. Dobson's focus on SpongeBob (read Joe Carter's take for a good explanation), but I agree with the general thrust of his argument. I wish he had made that more clear from the start.
UPDATE: Read Hugh Hewitt for more; as always, Hugh puts things in excellent perspective. I agree that people were quick to get personal while attacking Dr. Dobson, but I think that this was self-inflicted to a certain degree.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» SpongeBob's not my type... from Daly Thoughts and Dales' Electoral College Breakdown 2004
... but that Texas squirrel chick might grow up to be something. A few days ago, I saw a post on Michael J. Totten's blog that tore into Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Still. Some people on the more crimson end of the spectrum don’t ... [Read More]
Tracked on January 22, 2005 12:41 PM
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