Education Quandary: 'I believe the experience of parents is undervalued in the workplace. But will Sarah Palin help my cause – or hinder it?'

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

The job of parenting is complicated and demanding, and people hone their management, human resources, communications, creative and many other skills as they do it. In fact, as Regina Herzfeldt, a research fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, pointed out in the Financial Times last week, studies by her organisation have shown that parents have the multi-tasking skills needed by senior management and are good at challenges. They also suffer less stress at work, which tends to improve their creative thinking and decision-making.

So, definitely, let's have a Mom in the White House. Just not Sarah Palin. And for two reasons. First, her values as reflected through the prism of "momhood" are scary. She seems to think that being a hockey mom is a role of great merit but, in my direct experience, most American hockey moms are ruthless, overbearing and focused on their own children's success to a near-pathological degree. She also advocates teaching creationism, which raises questions about her ability to pursue rational thought.

But touting herself as a hands-on "Mom candidate" when her career means she can hardly have spent any time with her children is misleading. Not that there's anything wrong with the choices she has made; it's just that if she is a dedicated career politician, she cannot also put herself about as an ordinary Mom and expect to be taken seriously.

Readers' advice

You ask whether being a hockey mom and an advocate of teaching creationism is good preparation for high public office. Compared to what? Being a lawyer, or a PR consultant? At least Palin has experience of the real world. She has a disabled child, which is thought to count in favour of David Cameron and Gordon Brown. Not having an abortion in spite of knowing he had Down syndrome shows that she is true to her principles.

Like Margaret Thatcher, she would emphatically wish to be rewarded solely on merit, marking her as a much better role model than whingeing feminists.

Advocating the teaching of creationism does raise questions. The US constitutional separation of church and state should put paid to any potential excesses on that issue.

Palin has views that would make most readers wince, but she is more of a conviction politician than nearly all on these shores.

Rupert Fast, Surrey

A pity Obama did not share your wisdom and choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate. He would not be in the trouble he's in now.

Geraldine Stellen, Nottinghamshire

Sarah Palin looks good and she wears great glasses, so in our image-obsessed world she undoubtedly does help to promote your cause. That Hollywood gloss is certainly helping McCain's.

Jerry Winslow, London N1

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary, I am shocked to hear that a leading academic is urging us to abandon traditional spelling and take up text spelling in order to make things easier for children. Is this really the way things should be going in school? Won't we lose something of great value if we do this? Why does everything have to be made easy for children today?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed in this column, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries can be found on www.hilarywilce.com, where they can be searched by topic.

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