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Are Our Nation’s Policies Hurting Our Children?

with Dr. David Tubbs | May 15, 2008

How is the culture impacting your kids for good or bad? On the broadcast today, author David Tubbs, an assistant professor of politics at King’s College, tells Dennis Rainey how the expansion of new rights as defined by our courts may have a negative impact on our children now and in the future.

How is the culture impacting your kids for good or bad? On the broadcast today, author David Tubbs, an assistant professor of politics at King’s College, tells Dennis Rainey how the expansion of new rights as defined by our courts may have a negative impact on our children now and in the future.

Are Our Nation’s Policies Hurting Our Children?

With Dr. David Tubbs
|
May 15, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

That's the kind of dilemma that Christian students on secular college campuses are facing all the time, according to Professor David Tubbs.

David: I heard this quite a bit when I was an undergraduate.  Students are likely to say, "I don't agree with the professor, but I want to get a good grade in the course, and I don't want to lock horns with the professor."  If they are in an environment, in an academic environment that is overwhelmingly secular, and if the classroom is a place where secular views only are being entertained sympathetically, well, it's going to be very difficult for a young man or young woman to challenge the professor.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 15th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  The college campus isn't the only place where it's becoming more difficult to take a stand for your Christian faith, as you undoubtedly know.  We'll talk about that with Professor David Tubbs today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, one of the things that we're committed to here at FamilyLife is helping moms and dads pass along a legacy of spiritual vitality to the next generation, right?

Dennis: Right.

Bob: I'm afraid that the culture in which we live is making that assignment increasingly more difficult, don't you think?

Dennis: I do.  In fact, the Apostle Paul exhorts us in Ephesians, chapter 5 – "Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise men but as wise, making the best use of your time because the days are evil."  And there's a lot taking place in our culture today that would seek to seduce us and our children as we attempt to raise them to maturity.

And we have with us today, a scholarly gentleman from the East Coast, who teaches at the King's College.  Dr. David Tubbs joins us.  Dr. Tubbs, welcome to the broadcast.

David: I'm delighted to be here, gentlemen, thanks for having me.

Dennis: Bob is familiar with Dr. Tubbs.  He has taught his daughter, Katy, at the King's College.

Bob: Challenged her, exhorted her, scolded her a couple of times.

Dennis: You think?

Bob: Yeah, and it was all good, I was glad.

Dennis: Well, Dr. Tubbs is the assistant professor of politics at the King's College in New York City.  He is a fellow of the Witherspoon Institute and has written a book called "Freedom's Orphans, Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children."  And before we get to the topic at hand here, David, and equipping moms and dads to know how to handle what's taking place in our culture today – as you look at this crop of college students coming into the university today, what's your biggest burden, your biggest concern about them?

David:  Well, I think it's quite possible that regardless of how hard the parents have tried, a lot of young people today are going to, as you suggested, be seduced by things that are going to cause them big problems in the long run.  And this, in part, is one reason why I wrote the book; that is, the book is about the fundamental social problem of a society perpetuating itself.  What does a society need to do to make sure that the next generation of citizens is fully equipped to run the society as mature adults?  That is, how do we, as a society, make sure that the next generation of citizens will be responsible, compassionate, responsible for themselves, responsible for the well-being of the whole society?

And I see more and more things in American society like those you were hinting at, Dennis; that is, all kinds of things that can seduce young people and lead them astray.

Dennis: Such as?

David: Well, pornography, violence, a sense of purposelessness, a lack of self-discipline, things on the Internet, things on television, things in the movie theater, and so forth – music that their kids might be listening to.

Bob: And part of the challenge we face, as parents, is that when our family values are at odds with the culture's values, for a while your kids will lock into the family values.  I mean, they're living at home, and they love Mommy and Daddy …

Dennis: Oh, it's the golden years.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: All the way up right to the edge and the cusp of adolescence, they are nodding their heads dutifully, buying into our values, but then …

Bob: At least since Bob Dylan, and it probably goes back before then, but when Bob Dylan said, "Come, mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don't criticize what you can't understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old world is rapidly changing, get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand, for the times they are a-changing." 

And teenagers have said, "You know, the culture is probably smarter than Mom and Dad, and maybe we need to believe more of what the culture has taught us than what Mom and Dad are teaching us," and, as parents, we go, "Don't do that."

David: Right.  Now, I could imagine somebody saying, "Well, this has always been the case.  Parents raise their children, when children become adults, there's always a possibility that children are going to turn their back on their parents and go in another direction."  But I think that the problem is more acute today than it has been in previous generations because the environment outside the home of conscientious parents is so inhospitable.

Dennis: Dr. Tubbs, you studied at Princeton not too many years ago …

David: That's right.

Dennis: At an Ivy League university where – well, there's a lot of thoughts and a lot of seductions that take place in a school like that.

David: This is true, this is true, and you talk about the culture and how many parents today regard the culture as, in some ways, important ways, at odds with what they are trying to impart to their children, and this, no doubt, is related to some developments in American higher education.  It's just indisputable that in the humanities and social sciences in many American colleges and universities, the instructors are going to be telling the students most of what you were taught about traditional morality just can't be justified.  It doesn't make sense, it needs to go by the wayside or to be modified in fundamental ways.

Dennis: You're saying that when we send our son or daughter to college that one of the first things they're going to hear from a professor is what you were taught at home doesn't count.

David: Professors aren't …

Dennis: They're not going to be that blatant.

David: They're not going to be that overt about it, but that's going to be the upshot, and it's going to be something that takes place over time at many, many colleges and universities.

Dennis: So how do you teach your son or daughter to spot that and then to combat it and to reason their way through and not be seduced by it?

David: Well, it means several things practically.  It means parents have to be very careful about the kind of school they send their children to.  They need to make sure that at least some faculty members at the college or university is broadly in agreement with the parents' view of the world, and it would be important to identify those faculty members and, ideally, the parents should try to get in touch with that faculty member before the student enrolls at the college.

I went to Princeton as a graduate student and, in candor, I survived it largely because I found one faculty member whose own moral concerns were close to mine, and I ended up working with that person, that person was my dissertation supervisor.  I went to Penn State University as an undergraduate, and I think I got a good education there, but the problem I'm describing now was part of my experience.

I had classes at Penn State in which it was apparent from the first day of the semester – "In this class I am going to teach you new ideas, new things, I am going to show you that many of the views that you've brought with you to this college, to this university, are outdated."  And it was awkward for me at different points.  At different points, I disagreed strongly with different professors, what they were saying but, for the most part, I wanted to get good grades and not create too much of a problem, so I sort of minded my own business and, on occasion, I wrote a paper that I thought would be well received by the professor whose views were so different from mine.

Bob: Part of the thesis in your book "Freedom's Orphans" is that one of the dominant strains of political thought in our country, contemporary liberal thinking, is a strain of thought that values, above all else, individual rights and freedoms.  Would that be accurate?

David: Yes, and especially rights for adults.

Bob: And when we think about individual rights for adults, I think most of us think, "Well, that doesn't sound like a bad thing.  Don't we want to ensure the rights of adults in a culture?  Isn't that part of the role of government?"

David: It is, and our Constitution guarantees fundamental rights.  We look at the first eight amendments to the Constitution, the rights that are listed there, I think, most people in the United States and not even in the United States – people who live in other countries would say these are basic political rights that every decent government should be respecting.

The problem, however, is that in the United States since, roughly, the end of World War II, there has been a great expansion of rights, and many of the new rights, in the judgment of scholars such as myself, are much, much harder to justify.

So the big question – is there really, in the Constitution, a right to pornography?  Is there a right to pornography?  A lot of people would say, "Well, I look at the First Amendment, and I read it, and it says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging freedom of speech of the press."  So people say, "Yeah, that means there has to be a right to pornography because Congress can't abridge freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

Well, the answer here is more complicated.  It's a lot more complicated than that quick reading of the First Amendment would suggest.  Why do I say that?  Well, when the Constitution was ratified, written and ratified in the late 18th century, it would have been unthinkable to the framers if somebody had said, "Well, this First Amendment allows you to write and say whatever you want regardless of the social consequences, regardless of the content of what you're saying or writing." 

That is, we have a new reading of the First Amendment.  A new reading since the end of World War II, and it's a much more permissive reading, and I'm happy to talk about this in a little more detail, but that's the general point.  Rights are important, certainly, our system of government would be unthinkable without basic rights like those we find in the first eight amendments, but there are new rights, which are much harder to justify, new rights, which are morally questionable.

Dennis: And it seems to me, Dr. Tubbs, that when we talk about rights to the exclusion of responsibility …

David: Yes.

Dennis: … that there is where we get into trouble, because rights begin to become self-focused not responsibility-focused as an adult, where I am responsible for much more than just me.  I am responsible for my wife, my children, my community, and back when the Constitution was framed, it seems to me, as I understand history, that the Bible and its teachings from a normative standpoint and as a cultural North Pole, to guide moral thought, were more in place and more embraced than they are today.

And, it seems to me, that's part of why we've redefined the Constitution.  We've left the Scriptures and now want to separate the Constitution from the Scriptures so that the Bible doesn't have any influence on the Constitution.

David: I think the general point here – here is how I would make it, Dennis – a very thoughtful comment from you.  The general point here is something like this – it's hard to know exactly the religious convictions of those men who wrote the Constitution and who ratified it in the 13 states.  It's hard to know – would we recognize them as Christians if we knew everything about their biographies?  I'm not so sure of that.

The point that I think is indisputable is that the Bible informed their view of their world.  The Bible informed their understanding of public morality and, without question, they would have said, "Yes, rights are important, but there have to be corresponding responsibilities.  A society can't endure, a society like ours won't last unless there is a public discussion about responsibilities as another component of rights."  I agree with that entirely.

Bob: I've had this conversation with my teenage son.  I have said, "I think it's a proper function of government to put boundaries even in areas of moral behavior as a part of what government should do because you are essentially establishing a social contract, and that's an appropriate thing.  He says, "Dad, the Constitution doesn't acknowledge that as a proper function of government.  Where in the Constitution does it say you set moral boundaries for the citizenry?"

David: And the answer is you look at the Tenth Amendment, and the Tenth Amendment says that all those powers that have not been delegated to the national government are retained by the people for the state.  Now what does that mean concretely?  Well, it means that in our system of government, states are charged with the responsibility of promoting public morality.  States do this in all sorts of different ways.

So for instance, states, for most of American history, had the responsibility of writing laws for marriage.  Why, for instance, in the United States do we have slightly different laws of marriage?  Well, because this is a state function.  We don't need to go into the details at any great length here, but we understand some states regulate marriage, different aspects of marriage, which other states choose not to regulate.  The main point here is that state legislatures, in the traditional understanding of the American system of government, are responsible for promoting public morality in all sorts of ways.

Bob: But what happens when the Utah Territory wants to have polygamy or when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts wants to have same-sex marriage?  Do they get so far off the reservation – is that where the federal government comes in and says, "Oh, you can regulate it but not that much?"

David: Good questions, Bob.  So with respect to the federal territories in the United States, Congress – if it was a federal territory over which Congress had exclusive jurisdiction, Congress had the responsibility to promote public morality.  So that's why in the 19th century you have Congress passing laws prohibiting polygamy in the federal territories, okay?

Bob: All right.

David: With respect to Massachusetts, Massachusetts is an excellent example of the problem we now face, because when I say that states are charged with the responsibility of promoting public morality, the more accurate way of expressing that idea would be to say state legislatures.  State legislatures rather than state supreme courts.  The controversy in Massachusetts is that the state supreme court decided several years ago, three years ago, that it was constitutionally charged with defining marriage for citizens in the state.  That is, it read the state constitution and said according to the state constitution, there is no rational basis for denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

So I read just a few days ago that in New York state, there is a prediction that the New York state legislature will be fully Democratic after the election in November.  So the New York senate has been controlled by the Republicans for quite a long time, but there are now predictions that the Republicans will lose the state senate after November.

This means that you'll have the house controlled by the Democrats, the senate controlled by the Democrats, and you have a Democratic governor.  The prediction is if the senate in New York becomes Democratic, it will be the first state that legislatively introduces same-sex marriage.

Now, people might say to me, "If New York democratically enacts same-sex marriage, you have absolutely no basis to complain."  People might say that to me, and my response would be, "No, I do have a basis to complain because New York state legislature got a huge push from courts all across the country – the Supreme Court with some of its decisions – the national Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of the United States, and Massachusetts supreme court.  That is, it made the work of the New York legislature, assuming that this happens in the future, it made it that much easier.  It made a policy that probably would have unthinkable to most Americans not too long ago, it made it much easier to consider such that now we could imagine that New York might actually enact this legislation.

Bob: You know, this is a little different than the kind of conversation we have most days here on FamilyLife Today but given the fact that we're in a year when we do participate in a political process and have an opportunity and a responsibility to do that, I think it's important to have these kinds of conversations and, as moms and dads, we need to recognize that we're not just talking about abstract ideas but things that will shape the culture in which our children and grandchildren will live someday.

Dennis: You know, Bob, that's right, and I think, as each individual person, whether single, married, whether married with children, or married without children, as you look to the ballot box this fall, what you have to do as a follower of Christ, in my personal opinion, is I think you have to take the Bible with you into the ballot box.

Now, I'm not talking about carrying your family's heirloom Bible to the polling place.  What I'm talking about doing is internalizing what the Bible is teaching about individual rights and responsibilities, moral conduct, about the definition of marriage, about issues like when life begins and how we're to value life, that we, as a Christian and as a follower of Christ, can't leave our convictions at the door and leave our Bible at the door.  We must, as we enter the polling place, be a thinking people and making sure that those that we elect to represent us at every level represent, as close as they possibly can, what we believe the Bible teaches about issues of marriage and about morality and about same-sex marriage and about no-fault divorce and about abortion, et cetera.  We have to be thinking biblically as we go to the poll.

As you know, Bob, we've never endorsed a candidate here on FamilyLife Today, but what we do endorse is a biblical way of thinking, and we want to encourage followers of Christ to do that as they vote this fall.

Bob: And even to use your illustration, Dr. Tubbs, of what's going on in New York with Republicans and Democrats, it's not so much that it's one party versus another party as it is two different ideologies, and we're saying that it's incumbent upon Christians to bring a biblical worldview with them as they wrestle through these social and cultural and political ideologies to help you make a decision of not just how you're going to vote but what you're going to argue for and what you're going to suggest to others that is founded on the Scriptures. 

And I hope your book, which, again, is called "Freedom's Orphans," and it's a book we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center, I hope it provokes a healthy debate in the academic community and beyond it in the broader culture on how we balance the issue of personal liberty with the needs of our children and others in society.  What is our cultural responsibility and what personal liberties should we set aside for the greater good?

Again, the title of the book Dr. Tubbs has written is called "Freedom's Orphans," and any of our listeners who are interested in getting a copy can go to our website at FamilyLife.com.  On the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click that box, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about how to get a copy of Dr. Tubbs' book.

There is also a link on that page to the FamilyLife Culture Watch blog where we try to keep an eye on the kinds of cultural issues that affect our families, and I want to encourage you to find out more about the Culture Watch blog and check it out.  Again, the link to it is on our website at FamilyLife.com, click the box on the right side of the screen that says "Today's Broadcast," and you'll find the link to the Culture Watch blog there, and you'll find information on Dr. Tubbs' book.  You can order it online, if you'd like, or if it's easier, just call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have a copy of this book sent directly to you.

Before we are done today, I want to remind you that over the next few weeks we have an opportunity here at FamilyLife that we're hoping to take full advantage of, and if we're going to be able to do this, we need your help.

We've had some friend who have made available to us this month a matching gift.  They have said that they will match every donation we receive at FamilyLife during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $635,000, very generous matching gift opportunity, and if we're going to take full advantage of their generosity over the next couple of weeks, then we need as many of our listeners as possible to either go online at FamilyLife.com or to call 1-800-FLTODAY and say, "We'd like to make a donation of $50 or $100 or $25 or $1,000, whatever you can afford, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar thanks to the generosity of these friends of FamilyLife, and the time is starting to tick away, and we are stretched out toward the finish line hoping that we'll be able to cross it having taken full advantage of this match.

So can we ask you to consider today going to FamilyLife.com and making a donation or calling 1-800-FLTODAY and making a donation?  We always appreciate your generous financial support but even moreso now during this special matching gift opportunity.  We hope to hear from you, and we want you to know we appreciate you.

Now, when we come back tomorrow, Dr. David Tubbs is going to be with us again, and we're going to continue talking about how as individual seek their rights, children are being damaged in the process.  We'll talk more about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 

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