A high school commencement speech that called on women to recognize that their greatest contribution to the world will be as a wife and a mother has drawn reactions ranging from agreement to chagrin, The Indy Channel reports. Eastern High School Social Studies teacher Peter Heck spoke to graduates about focusing on their families first ahead of careers, but it was his comments about the specific role of women that sparked the biggest controversy.
He said that problems experienced by society today didn't call for more women to pursue success in the workplace. More of them could be solved, he explained, by women dedicating themselves to motherhood, and at least some of the students took exception to the comments.
"It jumped out at me that he said they shouldn't pursue a professional career," said junior Corey Parton. "Maybe that's not how he meant it. Maybe he does want women to be successful and get a college degree, but it was a little out of place."
Student Zach Patterson's grandmother was not nearly as forgiving.
"My grandmother was dead-set against it," Patterson said. "She believes that women should work as hard as they can and still have successful careers in the workplace and not go back to the past where they are just housewives, basically."
Reached for an interview later, Heck explained that his remarks were directed equally at both genders – saying that students need to remember to allow their families to be their priority not their jobs and careers. His comments directed at the men in the audience differed somewhat. Instead of calling on them to find satisfaction in being husbands and fathers, he instead said that their role in society should be as protectors of their wives and providers for their family.
According to RTV6, Heck – who was the senior class sponsor and is also a conservative speaker and radio talk show – also touched many students and their parents with his words. Lisa Swaggerty, a mother of an Eastern junior Marina, said that she appreciates his views on morality and the line he took with his graduation speech.
Women and family proved a contentious topic at another event this week when Mississippi's Republican Governor Phil Bryant drew ire with his remarks that the recent decline in education quality in the country could be traced to the time when women started increasingly leaving the home to work.
He added it was not his intention to blame mothers for education problems, reports Emily Wagster Pettus of ABC News, but his words proved controversial. The statement was made on Tuesday in Washington during an education forum hosted by The Washington Post when Bryant and two other governors were asked why America's education system became so mediocre.