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Allen Fatherhood Perspective from the Head

To Prom or Not to Prom

A few years ago around this time of year, I made an inquiry on my Facebook Status, “To Prom or not to Prom, that is the question”. I figured I might get a few responses, but after 36 comments over the course of 3 days from 21 different people, it seems there was no lack of opinions and interest in this subject. So I wrote a blog post about how we came to the decision for our oldest daughter.

The question I asked was not really fair to my friends, since I didn’t provide all the information required to really answer the question.

Based on the responses I received, it seems that there were two areas that people came from to make their recommendation, the event itself and the moral effect this event may have on my daughter and whether or not my daughter should go to a dance with a young man. In reality, both of these areas of concern were used to make our decision about whether our oldest daughter would attend the local high school prom with our neighbor’s oldest son.

A Partnership with our Daughter

I would like to begin by saying that our decision was made in partnership with our daughter, she was at the age where she had quite a bit of say in the activities in which she chose to participate, as her parents we provided guidance, and not ultimatums. Boundaries still exist and most are set by God and a few were set by us since she was still living in our home.

First of all I want to say that I am very proud of the young woman she has become and I have the utmost faith in her and her decisions. The question was never about whether or not she would attend the Prom and decide in one night to abandon her morality and rebel against us because she saw a different way of life and decided to embrace it. I certainly hoped we had done a good job of presenting Christianity and forming our children to be good Catholics. God is not some overbearing authority that says live this way or I will punish you; on the contrary, He presents us with a choice between life and death, between choosing God or choosing the world. We have hopefully taught our children that the good news proclaimed by Christ is freedom from sin and that this will lead to true happiness. We have confidence that the faith that we pledged to impart on our daughter at her baptism has been accepted by her as a young adult and that she not only embraces that faith, but also desires to bring light to those around her and share the good news of the gospel.

The Dangers of the Prom

high school prom photo
Photo by The Library of Virginia

The dance itself, while it may not cause my daughter to abandon her moral convictions, does need to be evaluated to determine if it is a good event to attend. For example, I would not attend a dance if the music being played was going to be offensive to my moral convictions. I would also not attend a dance if I could reasonably expect that the dancing would be lewd and sexually suggestive. I would also not attend a dance if those who were attending would be drinking excessively and thus acting as drunk people normally act. So there are certain events, through personal experience, that I would not attend because I would have concern for my own personal safety or my sense of decency would be insulted. I am sure each of you also can think of places or events that you would not partake in due to issues such as the ones listed above. Yes, it is a judgement call, and God made us this way, to judge whether or not something is good for us or not.

Based on personal accounts from friends who have been chaperones at this particular school’s proms in the past and based on the Prom Agreement Form, there must have been some pretty bad things happen at the Prom in the past including, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs by participants, immodest dress, and inappropriate dancing (lap dances, bumping and grinding and any other movement that appears to simulate sexual acts), and indecent exposure and/or removal of under garments. (this was all prohibited in the school’s Prom Agreement that both parent and child were required to sign).

Dating, What is it Good For?

Our children do not do recreational dating. I know this is a very foreign idea to most people I know. It is not how I nor my wife was raised, we both dated and dated each other and got married. Today, dating is the normal way to meet your future spouse. There are some common questions/criticisms I hear when I tell people that our children will not date.

  • How will your children meet their future spouse?
  • Everyone dates, and so did you, why would you deny your child this part of normal life?
  • What, really? Why not? Thats weird.
  • When will your kids start dating?
  • Thats what you think now, you will change you mind later.
  • Dating is the only way you get to know people of the other gender.
  • Your kids will never get married.

We assure people that we do desire our children to meet members of the opposite gender, to get married (probably sooner than those who date) and have fulfilled lives despite their lack of participating in the dating game.

So why do we not wish for our children to date? The answer is that we believe that dating is not an activity that will produce the desired results while helping our children to avoid the near occasion of sin. While societal norms have strayed greatly from the moral teachings of Christ, we do hope that we have equipped our children to rise above the peer pressure that exists to the contrary.

dating photoWe believe that dating is practice for divorce. Think about it, you go out with someone for a period of time, if you are following God’s laws, you don’t get physically intimate with the other person, but most dating relationships today do involve quite a bit of physical intimacy, if not intercourse. So the couple gets emotionally involved, sometimes very involved and then at some point (since most young people date more than one person in their quest for a spouse) breakup and stop seeing each other. Feelings are hurt, friends are lost and the young people grieve or rejoice (depending on if they were dumped or were the dumper – note the common terminology used) and move on to the next person who they find attractive.

The common response to this criticism is that you need to play the field to get to know lots of different people so you can figure out what you like in someone you would like to marry. If you don’t shop around, you may not know what you are missing. This is a flawed understanding of courtship. Courtship is not living in a vacuum and not interacting with potential spouses, you do it on a regular basis. But you shop around with friends. You guard your heart and your physical intimacy so that your feelings don’t cloud your judgement. The Courtship model actually helps you to shop around more effectively. This mode of interacting with members of the opposite gender requires not only physical chastity, but also emotional chastity. Emotional chastity may be more difficult as it requires guarding your thoughts as well as your actions. But we can take solace in the words of Christ found in the Gospel that call us to observe the sixth commandment concerning adultery, but also to avoid lust in our hearts. If Jesus called us to live in this way, then the Holy Spirit will enable us to be successful.

For a more thorough explanation of our ideas on Dating, please see my two articles on this subject: Let’s Talk about Dating and How to Avoid Heartache in Dating.

 Go/No Go Decision

So we met with the young man and got to know him a little better. Even though we have been neighbors for a few years, we had not interacted with him or his family much prior to his Prom invitation. I spoke with him and shared our views on dating and emphasized that our children do not date in the traditional sense and thus if my daughter were to accompany him to Prom, that it would be as a friend. We also discussed the parameters in which he would need to agree to abide if he were to take my daughter to Prom (no after parties, no drinking, etc). I shared with him the obligation and duty I have to protect my daughters and sons from both physical and spiritual harm and my duty to protect their honor. I told him that if Rachel would go with him to Prom that he would be agreeing to take on this role for the evening. He listened attentively and agreed to do his best, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, so we gave our permission for our daughter to attend.

Closing Thoughts

While I felt comfortable that my daughter’s friend would keep his word, I also knew what it was like to be 18 and that sometimes it is hard to discern when a situation is making someone else uncomfortable. So I signed up to be an official chaperone at the Prom for the first two hours. I must emphasize that my being a chaperone is in no way a statement of mistrust of either my daughter or her friend. I did not spy on them while they were at the Prom, I observed the environment and did what I could to make sure that it was “family friendly” and free of the activity cited in the Prom Permission form. I sincerely hoped that my daughter would have a good time, and that it would be a positive experience for both of them (since neither has been to a Prom before). Our daughter had been to a homeschool formal before and had a great time, the coordinators of the Homeschool Formal consistently do a great job, they require dance lessons prior to the formal by all attendees, they have dance cards to ensure that no one feels left out and that everyone gets to meet people other than the person who escorted them to the formal, and most of the attendees are strong in their Christian morals. We look forward to their report and Rachel’s opinion on which formal event was better.

What are your thoughts on Prom? What have you done when faced with a similar situation?

Turns out my fears about the nature of the Prom were justified, I witnessed all the rules being broken, except for alcohol abuse (which may have occurred).  Please read my follow up article for all the sordid details.


For a great book on Christian Courtship, check out Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World

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Catholic School Upholds Church Teaching while Others Demonstrate Hypocrisy

Recently the local Catholic High School in my area made the local news after an incident involving the school’s prom.  I heard about the story from two very different corners.  From one corner, praise for the school for holding up the teachings of the Church; from the other corner, a particular group I am affiliated with had concerns about representing itself at the school after this incident.  I was one applauding the school after the reported incident and found myself defending the school to the other group.  I’d like to take this opportunity to explore the issue, the facts, and the hypocrisy involved in this.

First, what was the issue?

A female student at the school and her girlfriend, also a student, were denied entrance to the senior prom because they were coming as a same-sex couple.  Remember: this is a Catholic school.

This made the local news in our area.  Including pointing out that the students had started a petition to be sent to the school’s principal, president, and the bishop.  I don’t expect it to go any further than that.  End of story.

The Catholics in the area that I know (and I know many people across several parishes) praised and applauded the school for standing by its Catholic roots.  It is a Catholic school after all.  It has every right to handle situations as it sees fit, according to the teachings of Mother Church, the Magisterium.

But then I got an email early this week that unexpectedly referred to this incident.  I am on the email list for the local Alumnae Club of the college where I received my master’s degree.  The college is an all-female, private school in New England and mostly an undergraduate school.  As a graduate student I did not participate in many of the college traditions that the undergraduates did (the House system, afternoon teas, etc.).  So although I am on the email list and have been to one gathering of local alumnae several years ago, I don’t participate in anything beyond that.

The Club presents a book award to a graduating female student at all the area high schools each year, including the Catholic high school.  So the email I received was from the person who had volunteered to present the award at the Catholic high school.  She was concerned that the Club shouldn’t give an award there in light of the “incident” and she felt “uncomfortable” attending the awards ceremony.

Initially I was shocked.  But then I realized that I should not be shocked at all.  What did I expect?  We do live in a world that thinks the secular way is the only way and anyone that lives differently must be wrong and must be corrected or boycotted or whatever until they conform.  Then I just got irritated.

I won’t go into the specifics of what transpired over the course of the afternoon and several more emails back and forth.  But I do want to present a few of the facts.  The facts that show the hypocrisy involved in something like this. Let’s look at those.

Fact #1-Catholic school: This is a private school.  Thus is has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #1-Private college: This is also a private school.  Thus it also has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #2-Catholic school: This school is Catholic.  Being Catholic means it must align itself with the Church in every respect.  They teach religion classes, they teach abstinence education, they expect their students to attend Mass once a week and on Holy Days of Obligation, etc.  They are Catholic and are allowed to be because of the religious freedom we are guaranteed in this country.

Fact #2-Private college: This school is all-female.  It prides itself in offering single sex education and in developing strong, female leaders for society.  They can remain an all-female college because they are private and thus are not considered to be discriminating based on gender.

Fact #3-Catholic school: This school admits any student willing to attend, willing to pay the tuition, and able to meet the standards set forth by the school, including an entrance exam.  Students of all faiths can be admitted if they score well on an entrance exam, but they must know that it is a Catholic school and it will not bend its teachings for non-Catholic students.

Fact #3-Private college: This school only admits women.  No men are admitted as regular, full-time undergraduate students.  The only men you’ll see on campus besides professors, college employees, and visitors are men from some of the other area colleges taking classes there as part of an agreement between the colleges and the occasional male graduate student (the graduate program overall is really small).

Fact #4-Catholic school: As a Catholic institution, the school is a part of the 2000 year old tradition of the Church.  2000 years of traditions!  2000 years of unchanging teachings!  The school is not free to bend teachings at will to please students or parents or anyone else.

Fact #4-Private college: Also has a long history of traditions that students and alumnae take great pride in, traditions that go back a hundred years or so, but traditions I can respect.

Considering these few facts, I see two private schools, one that follows the moral principles and teachings set forth by a 2000 year old church and the other who prides itself on single sex education.  Is the first discriminating unfairly for not admitting a same-sex couple to an event it is sponsoring on school grounds?  Is the other discriminating unfairly for not admitting men to its prestigious school?

Is respect too much to ask?

The answer to both is … no.  The first has religious freedom on its side, the other has the fact that it is private on its side.

Think what you want about the Catholic high school and its decision, but they are within their rights as a Catholic school.  The private all-female college is also within its rights to remain an all-female school.

My question is where is the respect?  Respect for a school who stands by a set of values, which is so rare in our society these days.  Respect does not have to mean agreement.  I would think a group of women who take pride in the single sex education they were privileged to receive through the private college they attended would be able to respect a high school that also functions under a set of guiding principles that go much deeper than their alma mater.  It seems hypocritical to me that they would fight for their school if it was somehow threatened to be made co-ed and expect others to stand with them while at the same time giving no respect to a school that also lives by a high moral standard that creates a unique set of circumstances.

Am I the only one that sees the hypocricy?

But maybe mutual respect is too much to ask?  How sad if that is true.

What say you?

[As of this writing, the original club member agreed to graciously attend the award ceremony (the NEXT day) to give the award (I wanted to volunteer, but I couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice) and the club decided to discuss the issue further with the national alumnae association to decide how to proceed in future years.  I may not have the same kind of connection to this particular alma mater of mine as the other ladies who spent their undergraduate years at this college, but I will be highly disappointed in my college if they advise the club to no longer attend the awards ceremony at this particular Catholic school.]