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Ann Bailey

Who’d have thought that a student artist portraying the traditional family in a school mural would be controversial?  But that was what 17-year-old Liz Bierendy was confronted with as she painted a wall mural showing the life progression of a boy to a man.  Liz concluded her mural of a lifecycle with a depiction of the boy as a married man with a wife and a child – a family.

But that was too much for the Pilgrim High School assistant principal there in Warwick, Rhode Island, so he asked that the family portrayal be painted over and that Liz “look at other ways to show the outcome of the subject’s progression to adulthood.”  According to a school district press release, the traditional family part of the mural was painted over because “some of the members of the Pilgrim High School community suggested that the depiction of a young man’s development from boyhood through adulthood as displayed may not represent the life experiences of many of the students at Pilgrim High School.”

This is a disturbing story on many levels:

1)  Political correctness has consumed a community to the degree that something as simple as a family in a school mural can cause “offense” that then creates a knee-jerk reaction on the part of a school administrator.

2)  We can no longer as a culture identify what a life progression for a male should actually look like.  Is it any wonder that so many males are adrift in today’s society?

3)  The traditional family is so controversial that we no longer viewed it as the “norm” let alone the ideal for adults.  A strong, vibrant nuclear family is no longer a goal and “may not represent the life experiences of many of the students at Pilgrim High School.”

This incident speaks volumes about our school system and about society – and none of it is good.  When marriage no longer represents the life experiences of students, we shouldn’t be surprised that a recent study showed that the U.S. has seen an 83 percent increase in the number of firstborn children being born out of wedlock (12 percent in 2002 to 22 percent in the years 2006-2010).

In the case of Liz Bierendy, the District Superintendent has stepped into the controversy and allowed Liz artistic license to make the decision as to how her mural should end.

But I am left with the words of anthropologist Joseph Daniel Unwin ringing in my ears.  Dr. Unwin, who after studying 87 ancient cultures, concluded:  “In human records, there is no instance of a civilization retaining its energy after a complete new generation which does not insist on prenuptial and postnuptial continence.”  Those civilizations that went from no sexual regulation to strict regulation of sexual activity advanced proportionately, while those that went from strict regulation to complete abandonment of sexual mores collapsed within about three generations.

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