Thursday, April 11, 2013

Children belong to the Collective: My Thoughts

Two days ago, I posted  MSNBC's promo video in which Melissa Harris-Perry states that children belong not to their parents or families, but to whole communities. For many of us, her statements are eerily reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's claim that it "takes a village" to raise a child. These ideas are not new among liberals; what's new is that Harris-Perry is speaking specifically about education. She suggests that once we break through  "the private idea that children belong to their parents," America will make better investments in education. Homeschoolers, parents who have chosen to invest considerable time and energy in their children's education, rightly find statements such as these disturbing.

Having recently completed a Master's degree in library and information science with certification in school media, I can personally attest to the fact that schools of education are rife with the left-wing ideology that leads to radical ideas like Harris-Perry's. In order to be certified, I was required to take a number of education classes in which the following were taught:
  • Social Justice theory: Developed by John Rawls in the 1970s, Social Justice theory is based on a concept of fairness in which all members of a society work together to ensure equal access to all rights and liberties by exposing and ending the inequalities of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Society must guarantee access to education, employment, unemployment benefits, and health insurance. The focus must be on helping the disadvantaged because they are the most in need. While this sounds reasonable, the end result is not equal access or equal opportunity, but equal outcomes: the belief that everyone must have the same--that we must "level the playing field" and "redistribute the wealth". As you can see, Social Justice theory forms the underpinning of President Obama's policies and initiatives.
  • Critical theory: Critical theory is focused on questioning and analyzing the assumptions that underlie society, assumptions related to social identities such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and nationality. Critical theory has its roots in Marxism and German philosophy and is concerned with  ideas of dominance and power. How does one group gain economic or political power over another group? How does one group enslave another? Valid questions; however, when the theory is applied to education, we end up with a revisionist history of the United States, a focus on multiculturalism and diversity at the expense of intellectual rigor and academic achievement, and outlandish policies like allowing transgendered individuals to use the restrooms of their chosen gender.
  • Communitarianism: This is basically a long word that means placing the well-being of the community above the well-being of the individual. The belief is that when the individual works for the well-being of the community (rather than for themselves or the their families), economic and political problems will be mitigated. When the community is healthy, successful, and well-cared for, so is the individual. Unfortunately, this flies in the face of American values like individual responsibility and initiative. Such an emphasis on the community can result in majority rule--which means that the minority is oppressed in favor of the larger community.
In most of my classes, I was in the minority in that I was one of the few who questioned these ideas and how these ideas are applied to education. Most of my classmates accepted these philosophies, whether to earn favor with the professor or because they were true believes, I cannot say. Regardless, the people in my graduate classes were either already teachers or preparing to become teachers. They either had or would have enormous influence over the children in their classrooms--children who would accept whatever their teachers said.

How do Harris-Perry's comments apply to homeschooling? Most homeschoolers watch and listen with trepidation to calls for increased regulation of homeschools and homeschool curricula. Harris-Perry is not the first to suggest that the government has an interest in educating future citizens. I often feel this is the crux of the socialization question. Homeschoolers typically interpret questions about "socialization" to mean providing opportunities for their children to socialize with their same-aged peers. Perhaps what the questions is really about is socializing our children to be servants of the state who don't think critically about the government's policies and laws.

The Home School Legal Defense Association has cautioned for years against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which not only does not mention parental rights, but also subverts the role of the parent to that of the state. Currently, HSLDA is supporting the Romeike family's quest for asylum. The Romeike's are German homeschoolers who faced fines, threats of imprisonment, and the loss of their children simply for educating their children at home. The Romeikes were granted asylum by the United States, but it has been revoked. Is the United States response to this family an indication of the administration's view of homeschooling in general? I am quite fearful it is.

Yesterday, Harris-Perry issued a statement  in which she claims her Lean Forwoard promo was an "uncontroversial comment on my desire for Americans to see children as everyone’s responsibility." She provided numerous examples of people in the community who all help children: volunteers, coaches, teachers, crossing guards. In her post she wrote:

I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.

 This I can agree with, but this is not what she said in her Lean Forward video. Ms. Harris-Perry is a very intelligent, highly-educated woman who teaches at the college level and is an author and tele-journalist. She knows how to use language to its best effect. She was not speaking off-the-cuff. Her comments were not extemporaneous. The promo spot was carefully scripted and passed editorial and marketing muster. When she said children belong to communities, she said what she meant and meant what she said. Don't be fooled by her apologetic.

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