A recent uproar in Evesham, N.J., was sparked by a video entitled “That’s A Family!”, which was shown to third graders in the town. The educational film depicts a wide spectrum of family backgrounds, including adoptive parents and children raised by grandparents and same-sex couples.
Not surprisingly, the segment featuring same-sex couples upset many parents, who cited personal moral beliefs against a lifestyle they do not wish their children to be exposed to.
These protests may seem like the typical cries from overzealous and protective parents. But the real message being sent is one that encourages intolerance and opposes diversity in public schools.
In the real world, diversity isn’t limited to racial, ethnic or religious categories. Varied family backgrounds affect the way children are socialized into daily life, perhaps just as much as race or other characteristics.
Women’s Education Media, which produced the documentary, explains on its Web site that “family is the first point of reference for children as they begin to understand themselves and the world around them. If children can name and understand differences among families, hopefully
this will help lay a foundation for them to understand and respect other kinds of differences as well.”
The producers are not condoning or condemning the lifestyles shown in their film. They are presenting them in a respectful and objective way. Acknowledging differences is just as important as acknowledging similarities between people. That’s what diversity is. So why teach children that a non-traditional family is somehow unacceptable when race and nationality are given equal footing?
Suggesting that there is a hierarchy of families is a confusing and harmful message to teach kids.
Some states, including New Jersey, have passed laws allowing civil unions for homosexuals, and many states are considering following suit. Although same-sex couples are being denied the full dignity of the term “marriage,” civil unions extend some of the same legal protections.
Many of these laws don’t specify adoption and parenting rights, but there are likely to be statutes in coming years, putting the status of the nuclear family in jeopardy.
But this limited view of ideal family life is outdated. The 2000 U.S. Census says only 24 percent of American homes consist of a mother and father with children. When factoring in high divorce rates, single parenthood, foreign adoptions and immigration, the concept of ‘family’ is as diverse as ever. The so-called sanctity of family was threatened long before same-sex parenthood became an issue.
There are signs that alternative lifestyles are shedding their taboo status. And as racial integration of public schools demonstrated in the 1950s and 1960s, where culture bends, the law will eventually follow, even if some are reluctant to accept this change. Objecting to this film is as illogical as objecting to a biology video about reproductive health out of fear that girls might be encouraged to become pregnant.
Believe it or not, these things exist. And so do same-sex couples. They’re not seeking to undermine the fabric of society – they’re only looking for their fair share of protection.
Whether or not major change is on its way, it’s still important to give children a full picture of the world. This film is only a tasteful attempt to do so. The best time to teach tolerance and respect is when children are still young and impressionable. A sense of diversity will benefit them their whole lives, whereas limiting their views will only hamper their growth.
Brian Krier can be reached at