People who have narrow-minded views are always a problem, but when those people also have some authority to force their views on others, they become more than a problem - they become a threat to the type of broadminded decisions that must be made if any sort of equity or fairness is to be achieved in government.
State Sen. Leonard Blackham is a man who holds that type of narrow-minded opinion and the authority to use it to muck up the works of the state's legislative task force on child care.In a meeting of the task force of which Blackham is co-chairman, he spent a good deal of the group's time promoting his agenda that mothers and fathers have separate roles - that mothers should stay home to care for children and that fathers should hold jobs - and said wording of the group's recommendations should reflect an acceptance of those narrowly defined roles.
His self-righteous belief that everyone's life should conform to his personal ideal of a strict division of roles between mothers and fathers is detrimental to the task force's goal of aiding the state's children and is beneath his position as an elected official and majority whip of the Senate.
Blackham obviously believes that ignoring reality will change it. It won't. Mothers often work, for reasons that should not have to be explained to Blackham. In cases in which the state's help is needed to provide child care for the children of working mothers, those mothers are working because they have to. It isn't a luxury; it's a necessity.
But not only does the image of mothers as breadwinners seem to annoy Blackham. He also appears to have a problem picturing fathers as capable care-givers. Why the role of fathers as caring and responsible parents should put a burr under Blackham's saddle blanket is a mystery.
Whether or not Blackham or others who share his opinions will acknowledge them, the facts are these: At 62 percent, Utah's percentage of working mothers is higher than the national average, and some of the children of those working mothers are in need of care that their parents can afford; women can be very capable breadwinners and mothers at the same time; men can be very capable care-givers and should be given every encouragement to make parenting a priority.
What Blackham apparently considers a sacrosanct division of family responsibilities between men and women has never been clear-cut. Not that long ago, when our society was more agrarian, women worked in the fields alongside their husbands and cared for children at the same time.
There is no shame in women working today simply because in today's world, paid jobs are usually done outside the home. Historically, women have always con-trib-u-ted to the family's income - by working inside or outside their homes - and have often been their children's sole providers.
And what can possibly be negative about a father staying at home when possible to care for his children? Children need to see the nurturing side of their fathers, wheth-er or not the fathers also have a role in which they bring home a paycheck.
What's important is that children are cared for, no matter what parenting arrangements the family has adopted. There is no justification for government to withhold help when parents need it because some government leaders can accept only one family model as the correct one.
The task force has a daunting job in finding ways to provide children with quality care so their parents can work and be independent. The myriad backgrounds of Utah's families create a diversity of opportunities and problems.
Many Utahns don't have what Blackham would consider the advantage of having been raised in traditional home environments where mom stays at home and dad works. Many have to struggle to pay bills; some haven't had opportunities for advanced education and family support. Some are subsisting in mimimum-wage jobs but want to do the best they can for their children and remain as independent as possible.
It is one role of government to help. It is not the role of government or elected officials to judge or set arbitrary standards their constituents must meet before being deemed deserving of help.