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Members of the Counterculture

Columnist Ellen Goodman

Members of the Counterculture

Sooner or later, most Americans become card-carrying members of the counterculture. This is not an underground holdout of Hippies. No beads are required. All you need to join is a child. At some point between Lamaze and PTA, it becomes clear that one of your main jobs as a parent is to counter the culture. What the media deliver to children by the masses, you are expected to rebut one at a time. But it occurs to me now that the call for "parental responsibility" is increasing in direct proportion to the irresponsibility of the market place. Parents are expected to protect their children from an increasingly hostile environment. Are the kids being solid junk food? Just say no. Is TV bad? Turn it off. are there messages about sex, drugs, violence all around? Counter the culture. Mothers and fathers are expected to screen virtually every aspect of their children's lives. To check the ratings on the movies, to read the labels on the CD's. To find out if there's MTV in the house next door. All the while keeping in touch with school and in their free time, earning a living. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a research associate at the Institute for American Values, found this out in interviews with middle-class parents. "A common complaint I heard from parents was their sense of being overwhelmed by the culture. They felt relatively more helpless than their parents."