THE DEADLY CONSEQUENCES OF "EXPERT" ADVICE ON CHILDREARING
By now, most people know about the 17-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University freshman, Taylor Marie Behl, whose decomposed body was found October 5th in a ravine on a farm owned by one of the primary suspect�s former girlfriends. The funeral took place October 14th. The suspect, 38-year-old Benjamin Fawley, confessed while under arrest on unrelated child pornography and firearms possession charges. He told police that Taylor Behl died accidentally during their sexual encounter and that he panicked, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The couple�s relationship had been ongoing for an undisclosed length of time.
The victim�s mother, Janet Pelasara, commanded national attention with her smiling, upbeat demeanor during the search for her daughter, missing since September, and only in the aftermath of the funeral did she finally lash out against �the sick subhuman that murdered my beautiful daughter.� She said she does not believe Fawley�s claim of �accidental� death (although, given the popular forms of �kinky sex,� who knows?) and has called for the death penalty should he, or anyone else, be convicted of the crime.
Well, who can blame her?
But there is a more troubling aspect of this case, whether or not Miss Behl�s autopsy points to an accidental or deliberate act � the elephant in the living room nobody wants to talk about.
Specifically, what was a 17-year-old minor female doing consorting alone with a 38-year-old male, much less having a sexual relationship with him? And why was a 38-year-old man interested in this 17-year-old girl?
So far, none of her friends are talking, publicly at least, about any of her earlier dating relationships. No one has offered anything that is in any way negative about Miss Behl. Everything points to a normal, friendly, cheerful teenager who, according to her mother, had sex with Fawley �once out of curiosity,� but then apparently changed her mind about a further relationship. From news accounts, one can assume she had had sexual relationships with others fellows before this incident.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of result we get when children are tasked early on with �making their own decisions� and �discovering their own values� � things the child experts � psychologists � have been trying to �sell� to parents and teachers for decades. And they succeeded � through parents� magazines, childrearing texts and university departments of teacher preparation.
As a young teacher in the late 1960s, on into the 70s and early 80s, I saw history made. I was there when child experts told parents and teachers to "take the screws off" and let toddlers express themselves. I was there when psychologists admonished adults to stop "snooping" in kids' belongings and give them some "space." I was there when educational psychologists scrapped the dress codes, and advised educators and parents to be children�s pals instead of their superiors. I was there when school psychologists and counselors started advising adults to stop lecturing and moralizing, because kids wouldn't listen anyway. I was there when schools started sponsoring dances and dating for pre-pubescent youngsters � crushing tender egos and making peer pressure the end-all that it finally became.
I noticed now that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is sponsoring TV ads telling parents that they "have more influence than they think,� that they are the "anti-drug." A little late for that!
Where was the ONDCP in the mid-�80s, when all we heard was that "children have rights" � rights to sexual information and paraphernalia, rights to access porn on the Internet, rights to sue their parents for disciplining them.
But when the fire hit the fan at Little, CO; Paducah, KY; and Santee, CA � guess what? It was parents who got blamed for not doing all those things the �experts� had been lobbying against for some 40 years. By obliterating the lines between right and wrong and advising kids to discover their own values, youngsters like Taylor Behl are now dealing with horrific dangers never previously experienced, not even in the bad old days when students had to stoke the fire to heat up the classroom. Yet experts continue to call early sexual experimentation �normal� � and the resulting atrocities �mental health issues� instead of moral issues.
The logic goes like this: Guilt over supposed "sins" produces neurosis, as opposed to being a civilizing influence. Therefore, redefining "morality" will produce happier, guilt-free, and mentally healthy people. Guilt supposedly begins when youngsters feel forced to take responsibility for things beyond their control.
Eventually, of course, all behaviors have been deemed outside of individual control. If one�s genes and hormones predispose them to behave a certain way, then spiritual awareness is delusional; self-discipline unattainable.
Not content with early, graphic sexual training, child experts now are hot to push the rest of their agenda in schools, including exposure to homosexuality, sodomy, oral sex and even self-labeling.
I really do not blame Taylor Behl�s mother, Janet Pelasara, for what happened to her daughter. She is a Baby Boomer, after all. She followed the parenting advice doled out stridently and often to her age-group.
But an earlier generation would have recognized that Taylor Behl was not ready for college, that she needed a lot of oversight and guidance. She clearly lacked the maturity and judgment to be on her own.
Today�s parents mistake secondary sex characteristics for emotional maturity. The two do not necessarily go together.
I remember my own high school and college freshman experience. Neither was pleasant. In high school, I was not permitted to attend mixed-sex parties unless they were well-chaperoned, or to car date until I was 16 � and even then, not until my parents had met the fellow. I remember my mother complaining bitterly that even at the private school where I was enrolled, some parents in the 1950s and 60s would wait for folks like mine to put their foot down on unchaperoned events like beach parties before stepping up to the plate and saying �no� themselves.
As a 17-year-old college freshman, I started going out with a 25-year-old part-time student living at a nearby air force base. I was flattered, because he was handsome and treated me like an adult � and because he �rescued� me from a truly awful blind date at a college dance. When my parents met him, however, they put a stop to our romance � not because the fellow actually did anything particularly offensive or was unkempt or rude, but simply because he seemed too old for me, and something seemed �off.� They nipped our dating in the bud, certainly before it became anything even close to sexual. But they were extremely authoritarian about it and, I thought at the time, downright insulting.
I hated them for being what would be called �over-protective� and �paternalistic� today. But they were right. The fellow turned out to be frequenting strip clubs in his spare time. Had I married him (which we had discussed), it would not have been a year before I would have discovered that I �wasn�t enough� for him. My parents knew me well enough to know I was insecure and that I found it difficult to �hurt� someone by ending a even a friendship, much less a romance. So they did the hardest thing they ever had to do; they refused ever to let me see him again, at the threat of pulling me out of college. They checked on my whereabouts (�stalking?�) from 300 miles away.
Today, I have been married 37 years � to someone else. I�ve never had to worry about my core values being different from my husband�s, or worse, getting some sexually transmitted disease from a philandering mate � thanks to my parents� intervention some 40 years ago. For sure, they had better things to do with their time than deal with my indignation.
it�s all the rage to make fun of anyone who applauds the values of
the 1940s and 50s, or endorses monogamy within a marital context,
or engages in �paternalism.� But Taylor Behl�s death � and the trauma
of hundreds of young people like her � should stand as a lesson to
us all. Before psychiatrists were considered childrearing experts,
there were parents who took the difficult road. They risked alienating
their children out of love for them, even if it meant scrutinizing
the friendships, clothing and activities of their youngsters. Today,
between Internet stalkers, mainstreamed pornography, vulgar �music�
lyrics and �sexploitive� school curricula � not to mention virulent
forms of the old sexually transmitted diseases � such oversight is
more important than ever.
Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive Director, National Education Consortium.
E-Mail: [email protected]
I remember my own high school and college freshman experience. Neither was pleasant. In high school, I was not permitted to attend mixed-sex parties unless they were well-chaperoned...