Al Gore’s new book (excerpted at Time.com) is called The Assault on Reason. It’s mainly about the absence of reason in the public/political square, best I can tell. The description calls it “A visionary analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the degration of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason.” Finally, something Gore and I agree on!
But I see broader evidence that reason is at risk. For one thing, Americans seem increasingly to ignore their God-given common sense, mental faculties and wisdom in the face of every challenge. And more and more challenges come from our children. Case in point: the following stories, from Newsweek:
Jona Rose, a 6-year-old kindergartner in northern California, seems like a girl in nearly every way—she wears dresses, loves pink and purple, and bestowed female names on all her stuffed animals. But Jona, who was born Jonah, also has a penis. When she was 4, her mom, Pam, offered to buy Jona a dress, and she was so excited she nearly hyperventilated. She began wearing dresses every day to preschool and no one seemed to mind. It wasn’t easy at first. “We wrung our hands about this every night,” says her dad, Joel. But finally he and Pam decided to let their son live as a girl. They chose a private kindergarten where Jona wouldn’t have to hide the fact that he was born a boy, but could comfortably dress like a girl and even use the girls’ bathroom. “She has been pretty adamant from the get-go: ‘I am a girl’,” says Joel.
For parents like Colleen Vincente, 44, following a child’s lead seems only natural. Her second child, M. (Vincente asked to use an initial to protect the child’s privacy), was born female. But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes. Though M. had plenty of dolls, she gravitated toward “the boy things” and soon wanted to shave off all her hair. “We went along with that,” says Vincente. “We figured it was a phase.” One day, when she was 2½, M. overheard her parents talking about her using female pronouns. “He said, ‘No—I’m a him. You need to call me him’,” Vincente recalls. “We were shocked.” In his California preschool, M. continued to insist he was a boy and decided to change his name. Vincente and her husband, John, consulted a therapist, who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them. Now 9, M. lives as a boy and most people have no idea he was born otherwise. “The most important thing is to realize this is who your child is,” Vincente says.
Lest you miss the monumental “advance” in these stories, let me summarize the details: Parents let their toddlers decide their gender. Let that sink in for a moment. Doctors have recently decided that letting children lead the way is the right way to go in these matters, rather than encouraging more gender-appropriate activities.
For perspective on these matters, consider that my four-year-old recently announced he was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I guess I should have suggested that he abandon his clothes, exchange speech for roaring, and attack the neighbors and their pets. To his apparent detriment, I encouraged his imagination but reminded him of reality when playtime was over.
Maybe I chose wrongly. I do hate that cat across the street.