Love and Wellness

By Fields, Suzanne | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 8, 1998 | Go to article overview

Love and Wellness


Fields, Suzanne, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


When you think courtship and marriage, what comes first to mind? Romance? Passion? Commitment? Companionship? Intellectual compatibility? Emotional connection?

Not if you're in public high school in America and get your information from textbooks. Textbooks on courtship and marriage appeal to ideas of health, self-actualization and self-esteem. If you love, honor and cherish, you'll reduce your chances of disease, physical and emotional. If you've got a spouse you're more likely to avoid doctors and shrinks. That's true enough, but can you imagine Cupid's arrows labeled like that? But that's what you get in books that talk about marriage in terms of "health skills" and "wellness." (Zing went the "health skills" of my heart.)

We lament the loss of Ol' Blue Eyes, but at least he's spared having to ask: "What is the thing called `wellness'?" One text places the subject of marriage between chapters on "Mental Disorders and Suicide" and "Digestion and Excretion." Shakespeare missed the point: If music be the food of love, it's better to eat a balanced meal. Forget the idea that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. They go together like a vaccination and small pox.

Do I exaggerate? Only a little. Authors of textbooks for teenagers actually explain courtship and marriage in clinical terms. This is not sex-ed, either.

The Institute of American Values has published a study, called, with intentional irony, "The Course of True Love: Marriage in High School Textbooks," in which the authors examine what six high school texts have to say on the subject. These texts are used in 20 states and are similar to those used in the other 30.

The good news is that "they treat marriage respectfully, as an important personal commitment." But that's good news only because we've come to expect the worst in politically correct texts. Surely treating marriage respectfully is the least they could do. Alas, also the most.

What's grim is how these authors reduce marriage to a "health paradigm" - flat, flimsy, one-dimensional and boring. …

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