- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Culture in disarray

" 'Where is everybody?' asks Wendy Shalit in her 1999 book, 'A Return to Modesty.' Like many young adults, Miss Shalit discovered that she had to invent her own rules to fight the chaos of nature caused by a culture that views sexual norms with suspicion and rules for young ladies as tools of oppression… . She wonders: 'Why is no one enforcing our rules? Don't they care about us at all?'

"Had she been born in an earlier generation or in another society, Miss Shalit may have never vented such frustration, as almost all human societies practice some version of courtship: a well-marked path by which young men and women can find appropriate partners to marry. But according to David Gilmore, Dana Mack, and Steven Nock, those patterns have all but disappeared in this land: 'In modern America our youth no longer looks forward to an accepted, anticipated stage in the human life cycle in which, governed by the intentional desire to seek a marriage partner, they subject themselves to certain ceremonies, strictures, obligations and communal oversight… . Thus, young American men and women have been left pretty much to their own devices in the selection of a marriage partner, in the negotiation of betrothal, and in the timing of marriage.'

"While some young people may welcome these new arrangements, anthropologists generally have found that informal courtship patterns are indicative of unhealthy social systems. When a key task of any civilization pairing off the next generation to create the following one is left to chance and to individuals, it is often a sign that a culture is in disarray, disorganization, or decline."

Maggie Gallagher, writing on "Where Have All the Grownups Gone?" in the September/October issue of Family PolicyHollywood lifestyle

Hollywood lifestyle

"US Weekly's cover just featured a softly lit close-up of two of the world's most admired movie stars, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, blissfully cuddling their two-week-old son, Dylan… .

"An accompanying interview features 55-year-old Douglas enthusing over his 30-year-old companion.

" 'Love is something that's so rewarding it just makes you feel great to have something to cherish, something to protect, something to nurture,' he purrs… .

"Like many other contemporary celebrities, these two lovebirds held up as the ultimate in romantic fulfillment for all their adoring fans never bothered to exchange vows before the birth of their baby… . Michael and Catherine say they want to give their baby boy everything in the world, but they denied him the greatest birthday gift of all: two parents married to one another."

Michael Medved, writing on "Remember love and marriage," in Monday's USA Today

Stop the e-mail

"To judge from the testimony of friends and colleagues, the volume of e-mail we process daily has reached some kind of crisis point. More and more, the medium has become both utterly integral and a major source of exhaustion and disquiet. I don't know any academics who feel they would become better teachers or intellectuals if they received and sent more e-mail… . I am just a regular 25-to-30 e-mails-a-day guy… . How, I wonder, do deans and chairs survive the e-mail tsunamis (80, 90 messages a day) that crash down on them unceasingly? …

"E-mail must rank as one of the most time-devouring time-savers of all time. Too often, it makes nothing happen fast… . Once upon a time, e-mail looked as if it would become an invigorating part of university life. By now, however, it has come to feel like a Sisyphean labor akin to hauling out the garbage or shoveling snow."

Rob Nixon, writing on "Please Don't E-Mail Me About This Article," in the Sept. 29 Chronicle of Higher Education

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