Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



February 2014

Children Are Not Property of Society

Written by , Posted in Education

One of the more pernicious examples of collectivist ideology in practice is the insistence that children belong to the state. This might seem like an outrageous assertion. Who, after all, could possibly believe such a ridiculous thing?

Well, Hillary Clinton, for one. She has argued that “there is no such thing as other people’s children.” And her book, It Takes a Village, has as its entire premise the notion that children are ultimately the responsibility of the society as a whole, which in practice she holds as indistinguishable from government.

MSNBC host Harris-Perry made a similar argument when she said that we need to “break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents,” and replace it with the more enlightened view “that kids belong to whole communities.”

To this list we can now add Common Core advocate and former Massachusetts education secretary Paul Reville:

At an event on Friday sponsored by a leftist think tank, former Massachusetts education secretary Paul Reville called Common Core critics a “tiny minority” and asserted that “the children belong to all of us.”

Reville also claimed that opponents of Common Core are against any academic standards, reports

“To be sure, there’s always a small voice — and I think these voices get amplified in the midst of these arguments — of people who were never in favor of standards in the first place and never wanted to have any kind of testing or accountability, and those voices get amplified,” Reville declared.

…“Again, the argument about where it came from I think privileges certain sort of fringe voices about federalism and states’ rights, and things of that nature,” he told CNSNews.

“Why should some towns and cities and states have no standards or low standards and others have extremely high standards when the children belong to all of us?”

The errors here are manifold. Children do not belong to “whole communities,” “all of us,” or even their parents. Children are not slaves; they belong to no one. They have fundamental rights like any other person, some of which their parents have the responsibility to exercise on their behalf until such time as they can do so on their own.

But more specific to the issue of education, Reville’s argument is a befuddled mess. Many of those who oppose Common Core for “federalism” or “states’ rights” reasons would prefer tougher standards, so to say that they “never wanted to have any kind of testing or accountability” is simply untrue. The operative policy question is how best to ensure that the standards used are the most productive. As it turns out, centralization is a very poor method.

The benefit of having a multitude of standards, or allowing “some towns and cities and states have no standards or low standards and others have extremely high standards,” is that what a central planner like Paul Reville might think is a low or errant standard could well produce the greatest educational outcomes. After all, if we perfectly understood how best to education students the debate would be moot. Rather than fighting over a one-size-fits-all standard from central planners, we should let educators try different standards and see what produces the best results.

At the same time, if we realistically want to see real, effective standards develop then we need to reform the system to encourage innovation and experimentation. The way to do this is by embracing school choice and a true market in education.