I have come to suspect that the current fights over “local control” versus “Big Government” are greatly about controlling the education of our children (seen as an extension of constructing the curriculum).
State’s rights used to be code for the defense of slavery both before and after the Civil War. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/States%27_rights).
What I am about to argue will offend many conservatives, perhaps less so Independents. I’m sorry, but we are talking about not only the emancipation of women, but about self-determination in our children, and the current imperative to defend “the family” against all allegedly disintegrating influences, whether these be (liberal) feminism, or enforcing national education standards, both hotly contested by some Rightist factions.
What do children want and need from parents? In no particular order:
- Safety. I have stated before that if parents are not willing to stay together, despite the fading of romantic love, they should not have children. [update: owing to reader feedback and recent research in parenting, divorce in some cases may be beneficial to children; of more relevance are the parenting skills of the single parent]. I have never heard of an instance where children did not blame themselves for parental discord, let alone separation and divorce (though this is rarely admitted). I have already expressed my opposition to divorce here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/16/thought-crimes/. A true confession: my own parents divorced when I was nineteen years old, and I never got over it. The world was never experienced as safe for me after that, and I made a lot of hasty decisions that I have come to regret in recent years. Obviously, there are cases where divorce is absolutely necessary, but be prepared to take the consequences if you have children. As one respondent to my blog wrote, strong, emotionally honest communication is desirable at every stage of life. (If only we knew when we are entirely honest with respect to our emotions.)
- The careful management of each stage of child development. It used to be acknowledged that the early years of childhood are “the magic years.” Why do grownups persist in such irrationalism, inventing magical escapes into apocalyptic fantasies or beliefs in various monsters? (The fight between science and religion cannot be conciliated unless the religion in question favors empiricism and a realistic view of what is (dogmatically) called “human nature.”)
- Talking about “evil” as an independent force in the universe fortifies demoralization and escapism. I.e., we will always be too weak to overcome such diabolical forces. That way lies authoritarianism of every variety. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/06/21/apocalypse-and-the-escape-artist/.)
- A realistic appraisal of the differences between men and women, including the strengths of each gender. No one who has had boys AND girls will doubt this truism. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/06/14/is-the-us-feminized-a-fathers-day-blog/)
- Children model their parents’ behavior. If we want to raise political awareness in our children, the parents’ involvement in the world beyond the home is crucial. This is how elites reproduce themselves, by frank talk. The more sophisticated elites talk about sharp differences with competing ideas about social organization with empathy and historically grounded understanding. This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish of all my categories of ideal parental conduct, for it possibly entails both affirmation and rejection of our own parents’ foibles and accomplishments.
If this sounds utopian to most readers, it is, but then the great historian Frank E. Manuel once alleged that the utopian element is a part of the human personality. At least the blog sets out what I take away from my own experience in families. There never was nor will there be a “golden age” with no conflict, but we can imagine alternatives… or can’t we?