Another Perspective

Family Night

Once again, New Jersey shows the way.

By 3.11.11

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Tuesday the public school teachers of Madison, New Jersey, were told to belay all homework assignments for the next day. After-school sports activities, practices, games, whatever, were shortened in order to get everybody home by 5 pm. Was it a public emergency? Well, in a way it was. It was "Family Night."

By e-mail to the parents' homes the schools declared it to be "Family Night," which meant a turn-off of all the electronic devices that occupy nearly all family members even when they are all home together. The idea was to set aside this night to chat, see a movie together, or do something in concert, an activity that so many families no longer engage.

Somebody says the idea for that evening originated in Connecticut schools, but it doesn't matter where the idea originated. A return to family seemed a novel and original idea, especially when it was being promoted by the schools which in many cases have become substitutes for families.

The rarity of such a night bespeaks the powerful need for a return to those olden times when the most signal event of a child's, or for that matter, an adult's life, was the time when all the family members got together and either did something as a unit, or just talked.

These days, adults would be surprised to learn what a child is thinking and the child would also be surprised at how much a parent knows. It is not too much to believe that the strength of the nation is centered not in political parties, civic organizations, or armed forces, but rather in that now-ignored unit, the family.

So, here's to more "Family Nights" and the restoration of a tradition -- looking at one another, and talking.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.