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My Children are NOT Your Children

Shorter Melissa Harris Perry  All Your Kids Are Belong to Us   MRCTV

Melissa Harris-Perry says that our kids aren’t ours, except collectively, and that parents need to get over the idea that their children are their responsibility. Do you agree?

First, go watch this short clip.

Right now, you will have one of two reactions. Either complete indifference because you agree that children are not part of their family, but are a shared resource which must be nurtured and properly guided for the good of our community, or irritation ranging from a mild unease at the concept of children as community property to full on outrage at the idea that somebody else has the right to raise your children as they see fit, regardless of your beliefs.

So where do you fall in? As you can guess from the title of this post, I’m in the latter group, and somewhat closer to outraged than irritated.

I’m sure she means well, but the implications of what she is saying are terrifying to me as a Christian, a parent, and a libertarian.

We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or that kids belong to families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

On the one hand, this is the logical outgrowth of Hillary Clinton’s ‘It takes a village’ mentality. In her book by the same name, Clinton advance the idea that raising a child properly relies as much on the community as it does on the family. Harris-Perry is taking that idea one step further by saying that not only is the community an important part of the raising of the child, the community shares ‘ownership’ (“Kids belong to whole communities”) as well.

And if you have ownership, you have control, right?

And there is the rub.

What happens when community values are not shared by the family? Imagine being part of a community which has a value system radically different from your own, say a liberal family living in a deeply conservative rural community. What if the community strongly values church attendance while you are agnostic, atheist, or simply a more private believer? Obviously, you will reserve the right to raise your child with the values you hold. But according to Harris-Perry, you might not have that option if the community chooses otherwise. Religious instruction might be introduced into a school setting, or maybe into extracurricular activities. On more likely, community schools could stop providing extra-curriculars, and allow the local church communities to sponsor sports, etc. That way, the school would not run afoul of the First Amendment, yet there would still be considerable community pressure placed on families to make sure their children attended a church.

Obviously, given current trends in the US, this is not a likely scenario, but what about the opposite? Deeply conservative/religious families living in liberal, more urban communities. Isn’t there the same potential for community standards to be imposed on children, particularly when communities adopt the mindset that children “belong” to the community? As an example, let’s look at home schooling. Despite research which shows that home schooled students far outperform their peers in academic achievement, are more likely to graduate from college with a higher GPA, and show no increased signs of socialization problems when compared to traditionally schooled students.

Despite the numbers, the NEA still opposes homeschooling (pdf, pg 37 Item B-75.) One of the more common objections to homeschooling is that children schooled at home will miss out on socialization, which makes the NEA’s stance somewhat confusing since it directly states that home schooled students should not be allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities with in school students.

Does that ring a bell? Yep, the exact reverse of the scenario I put out earlier. And if the NEA is already saying this, what more will they say if the idea that children belong to the community and not their families grows stronger?

Let’s take a quick look at Germany. In Germany, homeschooling is illegal and families may lose custody of their children if they persist in homeschooling. In fact, one German family is living in the US after an immigration judge awarded them asylum based on persecution. The Department of Justice has appealed the decision and gotten it overturned, but the family has filed its own appeal and the case is slowly making its way through the court system.

Could we face the same here? Well, the fact that the DOJ is appealing the asylum ruling speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Once we agree that our community has a vested interest in our children and how they are raised, we are giving it a license to determine how our children are raised and educated, and I refuse to do so. My children are my family, not property that can be bartered away or shared. Nor can my responsibilities be shared with the community at large, although my community, in its own best interest, may seek to help me to raise my children, but that ‘help’ ends when it becomes directives.

And I do recognize that there are times when directives are required, for example, childhood vaccination for school attendance. I recognize that there are risks inherent in the vaccination process, and that some children do become ill as a result of a vaccine. While no study has found a definitive linkage yet, that is, in my opinion, because they are studying vaccines in isolation, rather than as one part of a combination of factors. On the other hand, the benefits of a strong vaccination program in a public school setting are obvious and overwhelming. In consequence, the rule that children who go to public school must have a complete vaccination record is acceptable, especially since home schooling is available as an option for parents who evaluate the vaccinations as too risky based on their individual circumstances.

But acknowledging a public safety interest in no way means that I acknowledge any sort of public ownership of my children by the state or community. I am a parent, and that means that I am the primary authority in my children’s life. The state does not and cannot have a competing interest in the raising of my children.


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