Our boys attended both public and private schools, and even did a couple of years of homeschooling. There were pros and cons to each choice, and specific reasons for choosing different schooling options at different times in their lives.
Back then, it didn’t occur to me that there was such festering resentment toward parents who do not take advantage of public school systems. After all–our taxes are still going there, aren’t they?
But with the advent of vouchers, my money can leave the public school. However, THE question in many minds is, “Should it?”
Rich Lowry’s op-ed piece in the New York Post for April 8 was provocatively titled “Why the Left Resents Good Parents.” In it, Lowry reacted to a short video produced by Melissa Harris-Perry for MSNBC, in which she bemoaned the lack of investment in public education (“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have”--I’m restraining myself from answering that statement; perhaps in another post?) and blames a “private notion of children…that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families.”
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.”
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.”
I can only imagine Ms. Harris-Perry’s reaction to the recent Indiana Supreme Court ruling in favor of school vouchers, which lower and middle-income parents can use to send their children to private/parochial schools. The unanimous decision deemed the 2011 law constitutional, because religious schools are not the direct beneficiaries of the funds. Rather, eligible families may choose to use the vouchers to select any program-eligible school, religious or not; participation in the program is entirely voluntary.
Kevin Leininger, my favorite editorial writer in our local News-Sentinel, observed of this ruling that:
“…those who would use public schools to promote their agendas have been put on notice that there are – and will remain – other options for discerning parents who disagree with those agendas.”
I do believe that there is an overarching agenda in the public schools, to embrace diversity at the expense of discernment, and acceptance at the expense of personal beliefs and values. [Want to argue? Go read JTR’s post from last December…]
But I was willing to hear Ms. Harris-Perry out, when I saw that she had written a follow-up blog post in the wake of an outpouring of “vitriolic” hate mail in response to her weekend video.
One thing is for sure: I have no intention of apologizing for saying that our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities…
…I started asking myself where did I learn this lesson about our collective responsibility to children…
I learned it from my mother who, long after her own kids were teens, volunteered on the non profit boards of day care centers that served under-resourced children.
I learned it from my father who, despite a demanding career and a large family of his own, always coached boys’ basketball teams in our town.
I learned it from my third-grade public school teacher, who gave me creative extra work and opened up her classroom to me after school so that I wouldn’t get bored and get in trouble.
I learned it from the men who volunteered as crossing guards in my neighborhood even if they don’t have kids in the schools.
All right, we get the point… (she goes on for quite a bit longer). There were many excellent adult role models in her life, including two parents. And each of those men and women chose to invest in the lives of children who were not “their own.” But is that actually what she meant when she made her video saying that if we all thought of kids as belonging to the whole community, we’d make better “investments”? [For an excellent piece analyzing Harris-Perry’s message, you should also read Allahpundit’s post over at HotAir.com.]
My husband grew up in one of those idyllic 1950s neighborhoods we’ve sighed over, where all the adults knew all the kids; where the kids respected adult authority, and knew that if Mrs. Smith saw them doing wrong, Mom and Dad would surely hear about it. So in that sense, there was a “village”–a voluntary community of care and concern.
But, as my brother JTR pointed out when we talked about this, those adult role models in the ’50s were reinforcing what kids were already hearing at home. Little Johnny listened to Mrs. Smith in the same way he listened to his own Mom…, and if a child didn’t listen to authority, that disrespect started at home and branched outward, and he was then usually labelled incorrigible.
Ask yourself: how often do you find a young person who is horrible to her parents, but perfectly compliant to all other authority figures? Ever?
Let’s look at the “village” from the other direction: If my child breaks a neighbor’s window, is my neighbor going to blame himself for not being a better parent? Are the police going to ask the community to pool resources in order to replace the glass?
No. They’re going to look at me–it was my kid who did the deed.
No one is denying that children are part of a community. No one is arguing against safety regulations that will impact all children (such as child seat-belt laws, curfews, or lower speed limits near schools). We are protesting the notion that we should blindly trust public schools, regardless of their track record, out of some misguided, Utopian notion that our children “belong to the community” rather than to us.
In supporting vouchers, private schools, homeschooling, charters, and anything else that appears to “threaten” public education, parents are simply saying that the State has no right to require their children to set sail in a leaking ship. If parents deem the local public school system inadequate for their child’s need–who is ultimately responsible for that child? Is it not the parents?
If the parents feel that by staying in a broken system, they can make a positive difference, without harming their own child, fine. By all means, stay. BUT: if the parents fear that the potential harm outweighs any possible good–then not only do they have the right to make a different educational choice for their family, they have a responsibility to do so.
Our children are not pawns on a chess board for the Harris-Perrys of the world to sacrifice in their national collectivist campaign: each one is a gift, a privilege and a sacred duty given to us by God. We can choose any number of ways to raise and educate them, but we can never escape our highest obligation to Him, first and always.
And if MSNBC deems my perspective to be terrifically selfish and/or misguided, well…I couldn’t disagree more…or begin to care less.