10 April 2013

Who Owns Your Children?

In response to my previous article, Edu-ganda, a friend directed my attention towards a comment made by Melissa Harris-Perry during an MSNBC advertisement, that we need to "break through our private idea that 'kids belong to their parents,' or 'kids belong to their families', and recognize that kids belong to whole communities."  Conservative Glenn Beck expressed that this is "so far beyond what we have ever thought as a nation, it is remarkable."  Rush Limbaugh followed suit, stating that "the nuclear family has always been under attack by communists, leftists."

When taken out of context, Melissa's statement sounds a lot more diabolical than I believe was intended.  In the video, she goes on to explain that raising a child is "everyone's responsibility", and that "once we recognize that" we can "start making better investments."

In reply to what she called "vitriolic responses from the right", Melissa said that her first reaction was "relief."
"I had spent the entire day grading papers and was relieved that since these children were not my responsibility, I could simply mail the students' papers to their moms and dads to grade!  But of course, that is a ridiculous notion.  As a teacher, I have unique responsibilities to the students in my classroom..."
Now, as I read this, I see a problem with her argument: a child is not the same thing as their homework.  If you send a child to their parents without homework, it's a slow night.  If you send homework home without their child, it's an Amber Alert.  The "moms and dads" still bear the responsibility for rearing their children, and the teacher still bears responsibility for grading those papers; the two are definitively separate from one another.  To treat the two as interchangeable makes for a childish argument (no pun intended).

One of the things that struck me as odd about her blog post, however, is that she self-identifies as being pro-choice while writing about the inherent value of children to everyone.  I find it odd that a presumably intelligent person could make the argument that children belong to the community, and that the value of a child to their community is on-par with the value of a child to their parents; but then turn around and say that a woman has the right to end the "potential life inherent with every fetus."

What I found to be somewhat distressing, however, is this concept of ownership over children.  She was correct that parents don't own their children.  But neither does the community.  My dog belongs to me.  If I were so inclined, I could take my dog out into the woods and shoot him, and it wouldn't matter because I own him.  The phrase "my children" expresses a relationship, but does not imply any kind of ownership over them, because they are sovereign human beings.

And so, we ask the question: what does the parent-child relationship have that the community-child relationship does not?  Simple.  Actual responsibility and authority.  If my son throws a baseball through my neighbors window, my neighbor is not at fault for simply being a part of the community.  If I choose to relocate, my community has no legal authority over my children.  If my daughter comes home pregnant, it's not the community who has to find a way to deal with it.  As a parent, the sole responsibility for my children falls on myself, because I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens to, or because of, my children.

While I understand the sentiment that communities should provide a safe and secure place for us to raise our children, the safety of a neighborhood should not be dependent on the presence of children.  An unsafe neighborhood is an unsafe neighborhood, and efforts should still be made to improve the quality of those neighborhoods.

No comments:

Post a Comment