A few days ago this "public service announcement" showed up on MSNBC:
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry says we have to get over this idea that kids belong to their parents. They belong to the community.
This is a rehash of Hillary Clinton's "It takes a village" meme. You know, I am all for "It takes a village" with one important caveat: as the parent, I get to choose the village. I get to seek out the community that supports my principles and reinforces the values I am teaching at home. Under no circumstances does the government, the school, or even the parish religious education office have the right to impose itself as my "village" and undermine my role as parent. Ms. Harris-Perry is advocating for the destruction of the nuclear family in favor of some sort of communal responsibility for children. If you haven't read Brave New World lately, pick it up and see if the dystopia described doesn't reflect much of our current culture.
On the heels of this disturbing video, I read this opinion piece in the Washington Post. Wendy Costa, a former school board member from Bryan, Texas argues that school lunches should be considered part of the curriculum and the time should be used to teach table manners and civilized conversation. Now, part of me likes this idea. I really do. If she had left it there, I could get behind this. But Ms. Costa kept talking. She goes on to say that we should just lengthen the school day since parents aren't getting off work until after five o'clock anyway. Use the extra time to give the dining etiquette training. Schools should be doing this because families are not eating together anymore so parents are not teaching their children how to behave at the table.
Hold it right there. She wants to make the school the primary source of education for table manners. She wants the school to step in and assume another responsibility that belongs to parents. She assumes that all children go to some sort of after-school care so it is better for parents if we extend the school day. Excuse me. My children say grace before every meal. Will that be allowed in their lunch time training?
No. As much as I like the idea of all children being trained in meal-time manners, that training belongs at home. Feel free to expect "Please" and "Thank-you". Remind my children to chew with their mouth closed. Seat them around round tables to encourage conversation. But do not presume that my children need school officials to take over my job to teach the art of food-associated socialization.
I teach at a community college. Most of my students were educated in public schools. Their math skills are atrocious. Solving for a single variable with one equation is beyond their math mastery. They cannot write a coherent paragraph. They have no knowledge of classic literature. Simple biology, chemistry, physics, history, government, and economics are new topics for them. Until schools adequately teach these areas, they have no business assuming the role of primary instructor for lunch time etiquette.
So Ms Harris-Perry and Ms. Costa, thank you for your concern. However, the schools have enough to do trying to teach foundational academic subjects. Why don't we just leave the parenting to the parents.
KITCHEN TABLE CHATS
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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.
All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.