Monday, April 1, 2013

What's the Difference? Why Do We Make Distinctions?

* Recently, A Middle School principal decided to cancel the school's Honor Night. The rationale was that it would be "devastating" to other students who, although they worked very hard, did not earn Honors. The principal also concluded that a student's achievement can be positively influenced by support of their family - both emotional and academic support. I cannot dispute that family involvement can make a difference; nor can I dispute that some students work hard yet fail to achieve Honors. Given that, why issue any recognition of Honors students (which the principal planned on doing on graduation night)? The singling out of such students still leaves non-Honors students out. Needless to say, this principal had no concern for the students who did work hard and did well enough to achieve Honors.

* But, if we use this principal's logic, and carry it to its logical conclusion, why give any grades? Don't "C" students feel badly, knowing that others obtained "B"s and even "A"s? Can't those students be "devastated" by those lower grades? So, should we not give grades? And if we are not giving grades, how should colleges and universities know who to accept? Or maybe schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford should just randomly pick names out of a hat of all those who apply. And those in the professions tend to make significantly more money than many others; that is surely unfair and can also be "devastating" to those who do not do nearly as well.

* So what's the difference? Why do we make distinctions between Honors and non-Honors students? Why do we give different grades: A, B, C, D and F? Why should some colleges and universities be considered more prestigious than others? And why should some professions pay more than others?

* Gay marriage - is there a difference from heterosexual marriage? The Supreme Court just heard arguments on California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. I have asked those opposed to Prop 8 if they believe there is any difference between men and women. In other words, are two women (or two men) the same as a man and a woman? What I have found is that everyone agrees there is a difference. If that is the case, what is the argument against calling such a relationship something different, such as a Civil Union? Is it because the term Civil Union might be "devastating" to same-sex couples? Why do we make distinctions?

* As one letter-to-the-editor noted in the 3/27/13 LA Times: "Advocates of same-sex marriage confuse equality and sameness." The writer goes on: "If the Supreme Court supports (gay marriage), it will eliminate the distinctive legal reality of gender. The consequences of this would be far-reaching and dangerous. Men and women are equal, but they are not the same. Marriage is the unique custodian of this difference." Another letter writer (as seen in the 3/28/13 NY Times) opined "I favor full and equal rights for gay couples, but this legally recognized relationship cannot be called "marriage" without hijacking and destroying the meaning of that term." Why do we make distinctions? What's the difference?

* When France recently drafted their gay marriage statute, they added a provision that no government document shall hereafter use the terms "mother" or "father." Is there a difference between mothers and fathers? Why do we have separate words for mother and father? What's the difference? Why do we make distinctions? The US is the most litigious society on earth. I have little doubt that sometime down the road a little boy with two dads will hear his teacher talk about all the things moms do and go home from school terribly upset. The Dads, in turn, will sue - seeking the end of the use of the words "mother" and "father" in the classroom. Before you tell me that is far fetched, would you have expected the country of France to bar the use of the words "mother" and "father" in their government documents?

* Most proponents of "gay marriage" say that they do not believe gays getting married will have any impact on heterosexuals who are married. I suspect that is correct. But those same people have generally given little or no thought to what the other, long term consequences of allowing gay marriage might be. If the US Government decided to ban the use of the words "mother" and "father" as France proposed, the pressure on the private, civil society to do the same would be tremendous. At the Supreme Court hearings, Justice Alito asked: "You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?...We do not have the ability to see the future."

* But the left never worries about consequences. Who does not sympathize with same-sex couples who merely want to confirm their love for one another through marriage? It feels good to allow them to get married. It might be "devastating" to those unable to get married. But, why do we have a "Mother's Day?" Why is there a separate "Father's Day?" Why did one principal put an end to the Father-Daughter dances at his school? Some girls do not have a father. Some may have two mothers. And maybe it would be "devastating" to the girls without a Dad. Maybe. But what lesson do we want to pass on to our kids? That every time it hurts we will change society so the hurt stops?

* When I got a "B" in seventh grade science (yes, I actually remember this) I was, perhaps, "devastated." But I used that feeling to my advantage and worked doubly hard so that the next time grades were handed out that "B" had turned into an "A+." So, do we take away all grades so some kids are not "devastated?" Or, do we recognize that doing so takes away a kid's motivation to strive to do better? Admittedly, gays do not choose their sexual orientation and therefore cannot "strive" to a different outcome. So in that sense the analogy to grades does not work. But is the lesson that societal institutions must change every time someone feels bad? What if I don't feel we should have prisons; after all, the emotional support one gets from their family can determine not only one's grades, but what path they may take in life. Should people who do bad be put away, when maybe their behavior is due to a weak family structure?

* I have repeatedly asked in this blog post: What's the difference? Why do we make distinctions? Maybe you don't believe we should make any distinctions. Maybe you think the banning of the words "mother" and "father" could not happen; or that Father-Daughter dances could ever be banned. But look at what Justice Alito said and then ask yourself - have you really thought about what the long term consequences of gay marriage might be? Personally, I get nervous when we are able to make words mean whatever we want them to mean. Think about "1984." With political correctness, we already have the "word police" in many aspects of our society. As was said in 1984: "War is Peace." But is it? Why do we make distinctions? What difference does it make?