July/August, 1999 Volume XIII Number 7

Holding parents responsible

By Thomas Sowell

Of all the irrational ideas that have been thrown around in the wake of the high school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, one of the most reckless is the proposal to hold parents legally responsible for what their children do.
Whether the particular parents of the particular young killers who committed this particular massacre had knowledge in advance that would make them criminally liable is something for a court of law to decide. What is at issue is whether parents in general should be held legally liable for their children’s acts.
Responsibility and control go together. For decades now, our laws and our educational system have consistently undermined parental authority. Yet new legal responsibilities for parents are being proposed after parental control has been eroded.
Preschoolers are taught that their parents have no right to spank them. All sorts of propaganda programs in the schools -- from so-called “drug prevention” to “sex education” -- stress that each individual makes his or her own decisions, independently of parental or societal values.
Most people have no idea how pervasive and unremitting are the efforts to drive a wedge between children and their parents and to replace parental influence with the influence of teachers, counselors and even the children’s similarly immature peers. Many of the books, movies, and other materials used in the public schools mock parents as old windbags who are behind the times.
“Trust-building” exercises teach students to rely on their classmates. Handing out condoms in school and giving girls abortions behind their parents’ backs are just isolated manifestations of this underlying philosophy, which reaches far beyond sexual matters. Nor are these just idiosyncrasies of particular teachers or schools. There are nationwide networks -- some of them government-sponsored -- which have disseminated pre-packaged programs designed to wean school children away from the values with which they have been raised and mold them to the values of self-anointed agents of “change.”
The materials used and the things said in these materials would simply have to be seen to be believed. I certainly would never have imagined such things before doing research for my book “Inside American Education.” My assistant said she had trouble sleeping after seeing some of the movies shown to school children.
Invasions of family privacy with diary assignments and other intrusions are all part of the same mindset. So are groups like the so-called Children’s Defense Fund, which seek legal powers to impose their notions of how children should be raised. Hillary Clinton’s pious hokum that “it takes a village” to raise a child is more of the same.
What all these efforts have in common, aside from an arrogant presumption of superiority, is a drive for power without responsibility.
They don’t even take responsibility for their own activities, which are hidden, denied or camouflaged. Above all, they are not prepared to be held accountable for the consequences of their playing with children’s minds.
Columbine High School was in the news long before the recent tragic shootings there. It was featured in a “20/20” broadcast about “death education” back in 1991. This macabre subject is one of the endless procession of brainwashing programs that are taking up time sorely needed for academic work in schools across the country. One of the Columbine students who is now grown blames the course’s morbid preoccupation with death for her own unsuccessful attempt at suicide.
Zealots who are pushing New Age notions of death under the guise of “education” are undeterred by parental protests that their children are having nightmares or depression. The “educators” who have been on a brainwashing ego trip have done their best to cover their own tracks.
Manuals accompanying some of these programs show how to evade and mislead parents and the public.
Running through all these programs is the notion that morality is optional: If it feels good to you, do it!
We will never know how good it felt to those young killers to shoot down those around them. Nor can we know how much the school’s own reckless experiments with brainwashing contributed to the tragedy.
But it is truly galling to have those who have been undermining both morality and parents for years now demand that parents be held legally responsible for the acts of their children.

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Copyright © 1999 Advocates for Life Ministries