on rounding up to two

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 07, 2006

Re-reading J. Budziszewski's excellent essay in the July 2005 Touchstone, I knocked up against the following line:

Sociologists Sara S. McLanahan and Gary Sandefur remark in their book Growing Up with a Single Parent that "if we were asked to design a system for making sure that children's basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal."

It's hard to pack more academic cowardice into thirty words. Put aside the patronizing absurdity of the hypothesis and the pseudo-modest qualifier "probably." What can "something quite similar to the two-parent ideal" possibly mean? Do experiments show that two parents score slightly beyond the optimum, that the actual asymptote is reached at 1.888 parents?

As this wonderfully deadpan quote illustrates, the "soft sciences" are soft all over. In that world, it is clearly intolerable to assert the obvious truth that children are meant to have a mother and father; the best one can do is suggest that the best theoretical child-rearing design approximates the mom & pop arrangement.

An institution's inability to state an obvious truth means that institution is seriously deranged. It's not that McLanahan and Sandefur have tumbled into falsehood; the academy is indicted by their mandarin extravagance of apology for daring to dance around the vicinity of an unspeakable fact. Traditional marriage and child-rearing serve as a rebuke to those academics who have departed therefrom in their personal lives, and objective attribution of rightness to this "design model" has the sting of moral rebuke. Whence it's unmentionable.

NB: when the day arrives on which your ophthalmic surgeon assures you he's striving for "something quite similar to the two-eye ideal," ask him, gently, to put down his grapefruit knife while you make for the door. It's time to change doctors.

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  • Posted by: happyseaotter8027 - Dec. 03, 2010 7:21 PM ET USA

    I love it!! LOL!! Thank you for this little play. It is certainly appropriate. God bless Pope Benedict!!

  • Posted by: parochus - Dec. 02, 2010 5:29 PM ET USA

    Don't be so pessimistic, Uncle Di. They eventually got it on page 14.