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Human worth often measured in beauty, intelligence

July 17, 1997|By James Dobson

Question: You have referred to a "system" of evaluating human worth in our culture, beginning with the most important attribute of physical attractiveness. What ranks second in significance?

Dr. Dobson: It is the presence of intelligence, as expressed in scholastic aptitude. When the birth of a firstborn child is imminent, his parents pray that he will be normal . . . that is, "average."

But from that moment on, average will not be good enough. Their child must excel. He must succeed.

He must triumph. He must earn a stunning report card and amaze his teachers with his wit and wisdom. He must star in Little League, and later he must be the quarterback or the senior class president or the valedictorian.

His sister must be the cheerleader or the soloist or the homecoming queen. Throughout the formative years of childhood, his parents give him the same message day after day: "We're counting on you to do something fantastic, son. Now don't disappoint us!"

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According to Martha Weinman Lear, author of "The Child Worshippers," the younger generation is our most reliable status symbol. Middle-class parents vigorously compete with each other in raising the best-dressed, best-fed, best-educated, best-mannered, best-medicated, best-cultured and best-adjusted child on the block. The hopes, dreams and ambitions of an entire family sometimes rest on the shoulders of an immature child. And in this atmosphere of fierce competition, the parent who produces an intellectually gifted child is clearly holding the winning lottery ticket.

Unfortunately, exceptional children are just that - exceptions. Seldom does a 5-year-old memorize the Bible, or play chess blindfolded, or compose symphonies in the Mozart manner. To the contrary, the vast majority of our children are not dazzlingly brilliant, extremely witty, highly coordinated, tremendously talented or universally popular! They are just plain kids with oversized needs to be loved and accepted as they are.

James Dobson is a psychologist, author and president of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. Write to him in care of The Herald-Mail Co., P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741.

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