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Family ultimately must be responsible for values, panelist says
STANFORD -- Television may be a wasteland and the schools in disarray, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the family to pass on values to America's children, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving told a Stanford audience on Sept. 30.
"We do not in this country anywhere believe in personal accountability," said Candy Lightner, one of six panelists to speak at a Stanford centennial roundtable on "Values: How Are They Imparted to the Next Generation?"
"We can argue about TV, and discuss what should be on here and what should be on there," Lightner said to applause, "but I'll tell you what it boils down to is the values that we as a family hold dear to us and promote to our children.
"If you don't like what's on TV, you can turn it off. You can change the channel, you can rent videos, you can teach your children to read, you can take them to church, you can do whatever it is you believe is important for the family to do."
As a parent, Lightner said, she made sure her children were involved in after-school sports and other extracurricular activities.
Such choices may be easier for the affluent than for poor inner city families, countered Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. Butts recently gained publicity for painting over billboards for cigarettes and alcohol, which he feels are harmful to his community.
"I think the spirit of the law never meant to allow for some of the things that we are faced with, not only on television but also in motion pictures and also magazines and books," Butts said, also to applause.
"I would move to limit if not eliminate violence on television. I would eliminate drinking on television, and I would eliminate the free, liberal sex that we see on soap operas."
His approach was vigorously contested by Jack Valenti, president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America since 1966.
"I'm a First Amendment man," Valenti declared. "And while I lament what I believe is the slop that's on television, I don't think anybody's smart enough to insert their judgment in the place of someone else."
Agreed Peggy Charren, founder and president of Action for Children's Television, "We wouldn't ban anything from television, in the same way we wouldn't burn any book. I think the law and the Constitution are much better guarantees of values of the society than even perhaps a collection of religious documents that tend to give a variety of messages, many of them at odds with each other."
Other speakers on the panel included Sanford Dornbusch, Reed- Hodgson Professor of Human Biology and professor of sociology and education at Stanford, and Richard "Pete" Mesa, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, who spoke of the need for reform in the educational system.
The roundtable was moderated by Charles Ogletree, professor of law at Harvard, who has worked extensively on constitutional issues of law and ethics.
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