The TV cable-news network MSNBC runs sermonettes from its anchors during ad breaks. They’re like public-service announcements illuminating the progressive mind — and perhaps none has ever been as revealing and remarkable as the one cut by weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry.He notes this wasn't a passing comments but something preplanned by the speaker and MSNBC.
Harris-Perry set out to explain what is, by her lights, the failure to invest adequately in public education. She located the source of the problem in the insidious idea of parental responsibility for children.
"We’ve always had kind of a private notion of children,” she said, in the tone of an anthropologist explaining a strange practice she discovered when out doing far-flung fieldwork. “Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility.” So long as this retrograde conception prevails, according to Harris-Perry, we’ll never spend enough money on children. “We have to break through,” she urged, “our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families.”
Her statement wasn’t an aside on live TV. The spot was shot, produced and aired without, apparently, raising any alarm bells. No one raised his or her hand and said, “Should we really broadcast something that sounds so outlandish?”This really points out the different worldview, mindset of the left and the right.
The foundation of the Harris-Perry view is that society is a large-scale kibbutz. The title of Hillary Clinton’s best-seller in the 1990s expressed the same point in comforting folk wisdom: “It Takes a Village.”The worldview difference is worked out daily at our state legislature, especially this session. The push for more and more early childhood and all day kindergarten is a case in point. The goal is to get three and four years in families making less than $40,000 into preschool programs. The rationale? They come from bad, dysfunctional families and need experts to raise them, get them ready for kindergarten and beyond.
As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they’re holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded and backward. “Once it’s everybody’s responsibility,” Harris-Perry said of child-rearing, “and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.”
This impulse is based on a profound fallacy and a profound truth. The fallacy is that anyone can care about someone else’s children as much as his own. Ex-Sen. Phil Gramm liked to illustrate the hollowness of professions to the contrary with a story. He told a woman, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” She said, “No, you don’t.” Gramm replied, “OK: What are their names?”
The truth is that parents are one of society’s most incorrigible sources of inequality. If you have two of them who stay married and are invested in your upbringing, you’ve hit life’s lottery. You’ll reap untold benefits denied to children who aren’t so lucky. That the family is so essential to the well-being of children has to be a constant source of frustration to the egalitarian statist, a reminder of the limits of his power.
If the left wants to equalize the investments in children that matter most, it should promote intact families and engaged parents, even if it means embracing shockingly old-fashioned private child-rearing.
The problems with this approach? Fundamentally, parents raise kids not day care centers. The facts prove this out. Any positive academic benefits are disappear after a couple of years. And one study by Berkley and Stanford researchers found that the more time spent in preschool the more aggressive and anti-social behaviors developed and the less excited about learning they became.
Certainly some kids come from royally messed up homes. And it breaks one's heart to see this. But the answer isn't the state taking over the parenting of kids. What the state can do is promote marriage and intact families. We never or very seldom hear a word about this at our state legislature.
The state can empower families with school choice options to choose the best education for their kids which includes private, religious and home education.
Stop trying to redefine moms and dads out of kids lives and protect the integrity of marriage by reforming unilateral divorce laws.