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Mack, Dana 1954-

MACK, Dana 1954-

PERSONAL:

Born 1954. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A. (music); Columbia University, M.A., M.Phil (European history). Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Music, playing piano.

ADDRESSES:

Home—P.O. Box 7174, Wilton, CT 06897.

CAREER:

Writer. Center for Education Studies, New York, NY, researcher.

WRITINGS:

The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor, with David Blankenhorn) The Book of Marriage: The Wisest Answers to the Toughest Questions ("Religion, Marriage, and Family" series), William B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.

Contributor of reviews to periodicals, including Commentary.

SIDELIGHTS:

Researcher Dana Mack focuses on how the notion of family has been devalued in her study The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family. A "cult of professional expertise" has risen over the last three decades, according to Mack, guiding social reform and legislation in a direction that removes parents as the primary nurturing influences in their children's lives.

An anti-parent bias evolved because child-rearing professionals—counselors, government workers, teachers—have increasingly viewed the family as "a pathological institution," wrote Elizabeth Kristol in Commentary. U.S. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona noted in the Wall Street Journal that the "rescue efforts" of the professionals who intrude between a parent and child "have left too many children ill-educated, unsettled in their values, and hardly less likely to be abused by those parents who truly are unfit." Such a view is demonstrated by Mack in The Assault on Parenthood.

Kristol observed that in Mack's work, "Nowhere… are parents treated with more flagrant contempt than in the schools. Passing academic fads… are insinuated into the curriculum without parental approval, and often in spite of it. Likewise, sex education and 'life skills' programs actively encourage children to question their parents' values and beliefs." Mack charts the development of the "familism" movement, a grass-roots response by parents who seek to improve relationships with their children while minimizing their children's exposure to cultural influences hostile to the family. Many parents in the "familism" movement choose to send their kids to more traditional parochial schools, and some, more radically, opt for home schooling. Although Mack "clearly sympathizes with the new familists," Kristol remarked, "she is also surprisingly critical of them… dismayed by their isolationism and political apathy."

Reason reviewer Nick Gillespie wrote that "for Mack, the family is being undermined simultaneously by marketplace values and government intervention. Indeed, government at all levels is the main villain in Mack's analysis, a Kafkaesque overlord who has made it virtually impossible to raise kids who do not bring guns to school, engage in early sex, or talk back to their elders. For Mack, the failure of government is twofold: When it is not actively infringing on 'parental rights' by forcing condoms on students or prosecuting parents who dare to spank their wards, the government is turning a blind eye to the 'gratuitous vulgarity' of pop culture."

In a review of The Assault on Parenthood, a Publishers Weekly contributor found Mack's work "a compelling case" on the bias toward the American family, concluding that the author's "mixture of anecdotes, interviews with parents, and personal experiences takes 'family values' away from politics," returning it to the experiences "of real people." Kyl in the Wall Street Journal described The Assault on Parenthood as an "excellent book."

Mack and David Blankenhorn are coeditors of The Book of Marriage: The Wisest Answers to the Toughest Questions, an anthology that includes advice from the Bible to Bill Cosby. The ten sections address such questions as why get married at all, what are couples promising, and can love last a lifetime. First Things contributor Molly Finn noted, however, that this volume does not provide answers. "There is a wealth of imaginative literature here, all of which offers wise, sometimes witty, sometimes profound observations, illuminating images and metaphors, and material for reflection, but never answers." The closest thing to answers comes in those contributions that involved research-based evidence. Finn faulted the absence of question or commentary on sexual fulfillment, adding that the concluding chapter, titled "Will We Grow Old Together?" "comes closest to illustrating the strength of the sexual bond in marriage.… This whole section, which deals with illness and the death of spouses, with forced separation and widowhood, is a reflection on the indelible bond between long-married people, the permanent imprint of one person on another." Finn called Judith Wallerstein's essay on good marriage and divorce and its effects on children "one of the stars of this collection."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Commentary, May, 1997, Elizabeth Kristol, review of The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family, pp. 71-74.

First Things, October, 1997, Nancy R. Pearcey, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. 68; October, 2001, Molly Finn, review of The Book of Marriage: The Wisest Answers to the Toughest Questions, p. 51.

National Review, August 11, 1997, Frederica Mathewes-Green, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. 58; March 19, 2001, Kathryn Jean Lopez, review of The Book of Marriage.

New Republic, June 2, 1997, Alan Wolfe, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. 35.

New York Review of Books, December 4, 1997, Andrew Hacker, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, April 14, 1997, review of The Assault on Parenthood, pp. 62-63.

Reason, October, 1997, Nick Gillespie, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. 63.

Wall Street Journal, May 8, 1997, Jon Kyl, review of The Assault on Parenthood, p. A20; April 10, 2001, review of The Book of Marriage.

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