Father Knows Best

By: Carey Roberts

Father Knows Best was one of the most widely-viewed and long-running TV shows of the 1950s. True, the program played to a romanticized image of middle-class Americana. But that beats the modern-day alternative of a raging epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases, safe havens for abandoned infants, and 11-year-old girls wearing thong underwear.

Father Knows Best was yanked from the air in 1960. Before long the popular discourse was filled with the now-familiar litany of feminist grievance.

The women’s libbers were especially troubled with the notion of the traditional family. Arch-feminist Simone de Beauvoir argued, “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children … precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Robin Morgan, former editor of Ms. Magazine, chillingly predicted, “We can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” And Andrea Dworkin compared marriage to legalized prostitution.

Most laughed at the hyperbole. But the hairy-legged hags were dead serious.

Exactly how do you go about destroying the family which is, after all, the primordial unit of society? The best tactic, they decided, would be to go after the provider and protector image of Dear Old Dad.

Homer Simpson became emblematic of the well-intentioned but inept father. “Patriarchal” was inverted into an epithet synonymous with the mistreatment of women. “Paternalistic” was nearly as bad.

Media accounts began to tar men as wife-beaters, deadbeats, child abusers, clods, and all-around dufuses. Every one of those stereotypes was false or highly exaggerated, but no matter. As author Warren Farrell quipped, “father knows best” turned into “fathers molest.”

Since men weren’t up to the task, the government would need to step in, the Lefties argued. A series of legal opinions, laws, and government programs came along, all claiming to “empower” women: Roe v. Wade, Violence Against Women Act, welfare programs, maternal custody preference, draconian child support programs, and more.

If removing flocks of children from their fathers is your yardstick, these programs were successful beyond belief. From 1960 to 1990, says the Census Bureau, the number of American children living with their biological fathers plunged from 82% to 62%. As columnist Dennis Prager recently wrote, “The contemporary absence of men in boys’ lives is not only unprecedented in American history; it is probably unprecedented in recorded history.”

These fatherless children are far more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience a range of educational and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior.

But at least they’re liberated from the baleful influence of their fathers!

Fortunately, family advocates saw where this was all headed and began to question the fem-think. Several groups are now coming to the rescue of daddy-hood (I’m including the web address if you want more information):

- This week the National Partnership for Community Leadership is holding a major conference in Washington DC to honor African-American dads: www.npclstrongfamilies.com

- Next week the National Fatherhood Initiative will release a landmark report, “The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man: The Public Costs of Father Absence:” www.fatherhood.org

- Fathers and Families has been working with the media to promote positive images of dads: www.fathersandfamilies.org

And several groups are working to increase father involvement after divorce:

- Marriage Savers has just come out in support of shared parenting, revealing that “of the six states that passed the strongest Joint Custody laws, five experienced the largest drops in the divorce rate.” www.marriagesavers.org

- The American Coalition for Fathers and Children is urging citizens to sign a petition that reminds us, “Children thrive with the active involvement of both parents”: www.acfc.org

- And the Children’s Rights Council has succeeded in introducing a Congressional resolution in favor of joint custody: www.crckids.org

True, frazzled fathers don’t always measure up to the iconic images of Father Knows Best. But on one point, these groups have hit the nail right on the head: a government program is a lousy substitute for a dad.

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