While most Christian parents would say that they believe they are responsible for the care and upbringing of their children, in some ways they do not live as if they believe that. Whoa, pretty broad statement–let me explain.
Walter Williams’ newest column started me thinking about who is responsible for our children. He discusses the war on Christmas and the war on smoking in the context of private property rights, liberty, and the abuse of the political process to impose tyranny. How does he go from those issues to children?
“The institution of private property offers the liberty-oriented solutions to both the school prayer and the smoking issues. I believe it’s a parental right to be able to decide whether one’s child will, or will not, say a morning prayer. Conflict emerges because of government- produced education. While there might be an argument for government financing of education, there’s absolutely no argument for government production of education. Therefore, if each parent were given an education voucher to pay for education, those parents wishing prayers, or those against prayers in school, could enroll their children in the school that meets their preference. Thus, conflict would be eliminated. Of course, a superior solution would be getting government entirely out of education.”
Of course, most Americans believe it is the parents who are, or should be, responsible for their children. But children require feeding, caretaking, training and civilizing, clothing, housing, educating, and loving. A parent who accepts government assistance to feed, clothe, house, or babysit their children (through welfare) does not live the belief that it is the parent who is responsible for their children. They are allowing another party to shoulder child-rearing responsibilities.
And those who have the responsibility, also have the power: if the government is assuming the responsibility of feeding someone’s children, then the government also has the power to say that those children must not have sweets or soda, or must have five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
In the case of food stamps, the responsibility-power connection is not well-defined. In the case of education, however, it is much more so. Public education allows an outside party, the government, to shoulder the child-rearing responsibility of education. Thus, the government gains power to determine what that education will and will not consist of. Parents who protest explicit [s-x] ed content, or the exclusion of Christmas carols from the “Holiday” music program, do so because they intuitively understand that they, as parents, have the right to determine these matters for their children. But they do not understand that they have voluntarily relinquished that right to the government when they accepted the government subsidy of their child’s education by sending them to the public schools.
But, someone will say, I do not expect the government to pay for my child’s education; I pay for it myself through taxation. Yes, a completely deplorable state of affairs inconsistent with the principles of liberty and individual responsibility. For now you pay for–assume the responsibility of–that over which you have relinquished power.
to be continued …