I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CNN ~ Commentary: Let's end disposable marriage

Comments left on the CNN site: I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Suicide by marginalized dads is an epidemic that flies under the radar of everyone. Compare the differential rates for suicides by moms and dads (not just men and women) and what you will find may shock you. In Canada there is a 3x's difference. Many of these are a result of dads being marginalized by family court judges. I would ask you to become an advocate for equal/shared parenting with co-residency after separation/divorce with stronger rules of evidence for allegations of abuse. The term gender apartheid sounds very strong but when one analyzes the downturn in the value of men and boys it applies. Note just the following from Mark Perry's research at the U of Michigan: Perry shows that men are now on the wrong side of the degree gap at every stage of education. Here are his figures for the class of 2009: Associate’s degrees: 167 for women for every 100 for men. Bachelor’s degrees: 142 for women for every 100 for men. Master’s degrees: 159 for women for every 100 for men. Professional degrees: 104 for women for every 100 for men. Doctoral degrees: 107 for women for every 100 for men. Degrees at all levels: 148 for women for every 100 for men. The pendulum has swung way too far to the left of centre, much of it based on feminist mythology of oppression at the hands of the patriarchy. The above doesn't look too oppressive to most scholars.MJM Story Highlights
  • Leah Sears: My brother despaired at the effects of divorce
  • She says America's disposable marriages are hurting parents and children
  • She says it's become too easy for people to walk away from their marriages
  • By Leah Ward Sears Special to CNN

    Editor's note: Leah Ward Sears stepped down this week as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. In 1992, she became the first woman -- and youngest person -- appointed to Georgia's highest court.

    ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- After Tommy's sudden death, we found among my brother's personal effects a questionnaire he had completed in 2005 for a church class.

    The very first question was a fill-in-the-blank that went like this: "At the end of my life, I'd love to be able to look back and know I'd done something about ....."

    "Fathers," Tommy wrote.

    When asked to identify something that angered him that could be changed, Tommy wrote, "Re-establishment of equity and balance and sanity within the American family."

    My brother was born to be a father, and he grew into a good and loving one. Tommy was tall and handsome, smart, witty and fun. A graduate of the Naval Academy and a Stanford-educated lawyer, he married and fathered a little girl and boy who were the center of his life.

    Tommy felt that one of the worst problems in our country today was family breakdown and fatherlessness. He railed against intentional unwed childbearing and the ease with which divorce was possible. He didn't like that we have become a society that values the rights of adults to do their own thing over our responsibility to protect our children.

    As a judge I have long held a front row seat to the wreckage left behind by our culture of disposable marriage and casual divorce that my brother so despised.

    No-fault divorce was a response to a very real problem. The social and legal landscape that preceded it largely prevented casual divorce, but it often trapped people in abusive marriages. It also turned divorces into even uglier affairs than they are today, forcing people to expose in court damaging information about their children's other parent. That system was intolerable, and we should never go back to that.

    But no-fault divorce's broad acceptance as an unquestioned social good helped usher in an era that fundamentally altered the seriousness with which marriage is viewed. It effectively ended marriage as a legal contract since either party can terminate it, with or without cause. This leaves many people struggling to remake their lives after painful divorces that they do not want. It also left many parents cut off from, or sidelined in, the lives of the children they love.

    When Tommy divorced, as in so many cases, a bitter struggle over resources and the children ensued. My brother came to believe that the legal system turned him into a mere visitor of his children.

    Tommy eventually accepted a job as a lawyer for the State Department and went to Iraq (and later to Dubai) in order to make the money needed to support his children. Being in a war zone, under terrible conditions without the children he loved, was unbearable to him.

    On November 5, 2007, my phone rang before daybreak. A U.S. Foreign Service officer was on the other line. Was I the sister of William Thomas Sears?

    I knew before I was told what had happened. Tommy had died. But the cause took my breath away: My brother had taken his own life.

    I know I'll never understand fully all that factored into his decision to kill himself. No doubt Tommy was wrestling with more demons than he had ever admitted to me or knew himself. But as a divorcee myself and, for a number of years, a single parent, I know the immense pain of divorce and its aftermath. The limitations the law placed on Tommy's right to raise his own children after his divorce magnified my brother's pain and was, I believe, more than he could live with.

    Tommy was only 53 when he committed suicide. That was more than a year ago, and I am still learning to live without him and live with the fact that this man I looked up to all my life chose to end his own life.

    Tommy's loss has catapulted me even farther down a path I was already on. This may sound like heresy, but I believe the United States and a host of Western democracies are engaged in an unintended campaign to diminish the importance of marriage and fatherhood. By refusing to do everything we can to stem the rising rate of divorce and unwed childbearing, our country often isolates fathers (and sometimes mothers) from their children and their families.

    Of course, there are occasions when divorce is necessary. And not everyone should marry. But it has become too easy for people to walk away from their families and commitments without a real regard for the gravity of their decision and the consequences for other people, particularly children.

    Removing no-fault divorce as a legal option may not be the right way to move forward, and the solutions we need may not be entirely legal in nature. But answers must be found. The coupling and uncoupling we've become accustomed to undermines our democracy, destroys our families and devastates the lives of our children, who are not as resilient as we may wish to think. The one-parent norm, which is necessary and successful in many cases, nevertheless often creates a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

    The loss of my brother has changed my life, as these losses so often do to people. This summer, after 26 years, I'm hanging up my robe as a judge to return to private practice.

    I will spend some of my time teaching a course in family law at the University of Georgia Law School. And I have accepted a fellowship at the Institute of American Values in New York -- a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that contributes intellectually to strengthening families and civil society in the United States and the world.

    At my request, the fellowship is named after my brother. As the William Thomas Sears Distinguished Fellow in Family Law, perhaps now I can truly do "something about fathers" -- a mission I'm on for Tommy and a critical calling for all of us.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Leah Ward Sears.

    All AboutFamilyParentingChild Development

    © 2008 Cable News Network

    Baseless Bias and the New Second Sex

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    AMERICAN.COM

    A Magazine of Ideas

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Claims of bias against women in academic science have been greatly exaggerated. Meanwhile, men are becoming the second sex in American higher education.

    In 2006 the National Academy of Sciences released Beyond Bias And Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, which found “pervasive unexamined gender bias” against women in academic science. Donna Shalala, a former Clinton administration cabinet secretary, chaired the committee that wrote the report. When she spoke at a congressional hearing in October 2007, she warned that strong measures would be needed to improve the “hostile climate” women face in university science. This “crisis,” as she called it, “clearly calls for a transformation of academic institutions . . . Our nation’s future depends on it.”

    While some scholars contend that ‘unconscious bias’ and persistent stereotypes are primary reasons for the paucity of women in the high echelons of math and science, others, perhaps a majority, suggest that men and women, on average, have different career interests and propensities.

    The study was controversial from the beginning. John Tierney of the New York Times interviewed several researchers who dismissed it as politically driven propaganda—the “triumph of politics over science.” Linda Gottfredson of the University of Delaware said, “I am embarrassed that this female-dominated panel of scientists would ignore decades of scientific evidence to justify an already disproved conclusion, namely, that the sexes do not differ in career-relevant interests and abilities.”

    This past Tuesday the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a non-political, objective study of women in academic science entitled Gender Difference at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty. The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and mandated by Congress. It contradicts key findings of Beyond Bias and Barriers. According to its executive summary:

    Our survey findings do indicate that, at many critical transition points in their academic careers (e.g., hiring for tenure-track and tenure positions and promotions) women appear to have fared as well as or better than men... These findings are in contrast to the COSEPUP [Shalala] committee’s general conclusions, that “women who are interested in science and engineering careers are lost at every educational transition” and the “evaluation criterion contain arbitrary and subjective components that disadvantage women.”

    To give one typical finding, in the years studied, 2004 and 2005, women accounted for approximately 20 percent of applicants for positions in mathematics, but were 28 percent of those interviewed and 32 percent of those who received job offers. Furthermore, once women attained jobs in math or science programs, their teaching loads and research resources were comparable to men’s. Female full professors were paid, on average, 8 percent less than males. But the committee attributed this to the fact that the senior male professors had more years of experience. There were no differences in salaries for male and female assistant and associate professors. “I don’t think we would have anticipated that in so many areas that there would have been such a balance in opportunities for men and women,” said Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Yale University research scientist and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.

    The new study does not claim that women have achieved parity with men. It found, for example, that women with Ph.D.s in math and science are far less likely than men to pursue a career at a research-intensive university. Why should that be? The report does not say, but suggests it would be an important question to pursue. In fact, there is now a lively and growing literature on gender and vocation. While some scholars contend that “unconscious bias” and persistent stereotypes are primary reasons for the paucity of women in the high echelons of math and science, others, perhaps a majority, suggest that men and women, on average, have different career interests and propensities. (AEI Press will soon be publishing The Science on Women and Science, a collection of articles by scholars who argue different sides of this issue.)

    The unfortunate news is that this objective new study has come after the Bias and Barriers report has already accomplished its purpose. Congress has authorized NSF to spend millions of dollars on anti-bias programs.

    The unfortunate news is that this temperate, well-reasoned, and objective new NAS study has come after the Shalala/Bias and Barriers report has already accomplished its purpose. Many members of Congress from both parties (especially Republican Congressman Vernon Ehlers and Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Barbara Boxer) were electrified by the Bias and Barriers report—as well as by the volumes of highly tendentious advocacy research that preceded it (see my “Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like a Man?”). Congress has already authorized NSF to spend millions of dollars on anti-bias programs, and instructed federal agencies such as NASA and the Department of Education to begin stringent Title IX gender equity reviews of science programs in the nation’s universities. These expensive and aggressive policies and programs were put in place without any genuine evidence that sexist bias against women in academic science is actually a problem.

    Members of Congress who are concerned about gender equity should take a look at what is happening in the academy as a whole. University of Michigan economist Mark Perry, using Department of Education data, has prepared this useful chart:

    Sommers Graph

    Perry shows that men are now on the wrong side of the degree gap at every stage of education. Here are his figures for the class of 2009:

    Associate’s degrees: 167 for women for every 100 for men.

    Bachelor’s degrees: 142 for women for every 100 for men.

    Master’s degrees: 159 for women for every 100 for men.

    Professional degrees: 104 for women for every 100 for men.

    Doctoral degrees: 107 for women for every 100 for men.

    Degrees at all levels: 148 for women for every 100 for men.

    Education Department projections though 2017 show a worsening picture for men with every passing year. If there is a crisis in the academy that merits a congressional investigation, it is not that women Ph.D.s are being shortchanged in math and science hiring and tenure committees, for that is not true. It is that men are quickly becoming the second sex in American education.

    Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Image by Darren Wamboldt/Bergman Group.

    http://www.american.com/archive/2009/june/baseless-bias-and-the-new-second-sex/