Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Abdication of Parenthood

We as a society have abdicated parenthood. We have handed parenthood over to the state. The prime responsibility of raising children to become decent, humane, and successful adults has been given over to state schools.

Kids' lives are dominated by school. They spend about 6 hours a day at school, and then about 1 hour on homework. The parent's daily role has been relegated to hectoring their child into meeting the demands of the school: to "wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth so you can get to school on time"; and to "get all your homework done, and study for that test, so you can get good grades at school." The only daily meaningful interaction between parent and child is relegated to dinner: a tiny sliver of time in the day in which parents are enjoined to ask their kids, "How was your day at school."

This grip that the state has over the lives of kids not only strangles the parent-child relationship, it heavily proscribes nearly any other non-school-related fruitful relationship the child can have. The state, through laws and the overwhelming demands of the school, does not allow the child to work or to freely pursue extra-curricular passions.

And what is the effect on our children of the state's utter domination over their lives? In short, in makes our children improvident, shallow, incurious, and often immoral.

And it's no wonder. Instead of the vibrant, multi-layered, rich and loving relationships that a child would have if he were enmeshed in the world of his parents, relatives, friends-of-family, and business-parters-of-family, the child is stuck in the pernicious modern-day relationship of schoolteacher-and-student. This relationship is characterized by indolence, apathy, and impotence. The indolence and apathy comes from the fact that teachers tend to have the mentality of the bureaucratic sinecure-holder. They don't have the overwhelming Darwinian drive to improve the lot of their students that family members naturally have. And, in their padded and privileged role, neither do they have any entrepreneurial or competitive drive to maximally satisfy their customers. The impotence comes from the very format of the formal school. For the bulk of every day, each child gets 1/20th - 1/30th of the attention of one adult. No matter how "innovatively" you reform it, such a format is pure pedagogical poverty. And the rest of the day (recess, after-school hanging out, etc) is a "Lord of the Flies"-type scene of unguided, poorly-raised children reinforcing the worst aspects of each other's character.

Life in such a dysfunctional camp is an unnatural life of no meaningful consequences. The real-world realm of helping out parents, friends of parents, and other employers with work and home affairs gives a child a true sense of accomplishment ("look at how awesome this room looks now"; "alright, son, business is booming!") and a true sense of consequences ("Sorry, kid, if you don't do the work, I can't keep you on"). The artificial, unnatural realm of the school only has faux-accomplishments and faux-consequences. And kids (especially as they get older) see right through them. That is why they become apathetic about accomplishment and responsibilities, and completely shallow regarding the real world, caring only for friends and play.

In his highly important monograph Education: Free and Compulsory, Murray Rothbard tells the history of how (and why) the state progressively weaned us off parenthood: through compulsory schooling laws and an intra-school movement toward "educating the whole child". As should be entirely manifest to anyone with a shred of skepticism regarding pro-state-schooling propaganda and an open eye to local and world news, the state has made for a wretched parent. It is time we take our children back.

No comments: