School Watch: Of Village Bondage

There was snickering across the political spectrum about Hillary Clinton’s recent book on childrearing, It Takes a Village. In fact, the conservative Report Card called it a “Snickers bar of liberalism,” a yummy serving up of every conceivable federal program. Perhaps inspired by Mrs. Clinton’s insipid but telling endorsement of the need for community “town prodders,” left-winger Alexander Cockburn entitled his review of her book “It Takes a Police State.”

Be it noted that Mrs. Clinton does endorse some conservative prescriptions, such as two-parent families and facilitating adoption. Notwithstanding this testimony, the book’s most impressive feature is its systematic disingenuousness.

Here Mrs. Clinton strikes the pose of wholesome, chatty, solicitous sage. In view of the unending swirl of investigations into her tortuous financial and professional dealings, the dissonance is often hard to bear. One particularly inane contrivance bears mention: as though what this generation of young women in jeans and sweats needs most is liberation from corsets, she officiously allows, “We can encourage girls to be active and dress them in comfortable, durable clothes that let them move freely.” (Now really, Hillary.)

Consider, too, the cozy “Village” title, which, as P. J. O’Rourke quips, derives from an ancient African proverb seeming to originate in the kingdom called “Hallmarkcardia.” This adage, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” has long been the progressives’ mantra for persuading parents that their role in educating their children is enhanced by ceding more and more control to school and school-based counselors and clinics.

Mrs. Clinton’s rhetoric is similarly manipulative. While soothingly denying public institutions’ prime responsibility for children (“I don’t want the school to become a social-service agency”), she euphemistically urges arrangements having just that effect (“I want the school to work in partnership with parents and other people who are concerned about children”).

She favors “choice among public schools,” but only insofar as it is controlled under the Clintons’ own Improving America’s Schools Act. While paying lip service to local autonomy, she supports unprecedented federal control over schools’ curriculum.

In similarly untraditional ways, the American family is to be ruled by the Village Idol, Washington. In this scenario, young children’s education is to be subject to “earliest government oversight,” meddling home “visitors” are to sniff out problems within families, and school representatives are to make weekly visits to coach and “role-play” with parents.

Predictably, then, Mrs. Clinton smiles on the structured childrearing policies of collectivist nations. She cites, for instance, Uric Bronfenbrenner, whose book, Two Worlds of Childhood, U.S. and U.S.S.R., commends Soviet methods for raising children via government intervention.

Equally predictably, she disparages those who resist centralizing America’s intimate, voluntary institutions. Betraying her hostility to tradition, she labels those disposed toward traditional notions of education and family as “nostalgia merchants” and purveyors of “false nostalgia for ‘family values.'” And, ironically, she warns against “extremists” who criticize Goals 2000, the most revolutionary education law in this country’s history.

Although this hook inadvertently reveals much about the Clintons’ radicalism, it successfully conceals their truly monolithic vision of how “Town Hall,” Kay James’s term, will manage the fate of us villagers. Mrs. Clinton’s omissions, in other words, expose her and her coterie’s real intent—citizen, not mere child, rearing; they also confirm the falsetto of her “Village” voice.

As described by Karen Iacovelli in April Crisis, for example, Clinton laws merge education, labor, and health care policy at the federal level. Services from these departments are to be “seamlessly” dispensed—from womb to tomb—in schools.

In lockstep, the Children’s Defense Fund, a powerful advocacy group once chaired and still influenced by Mrs. Clinton, crusades for much more than the day care and other subsidies promoted in her book. According to Mickey Kaus, the group’s strategy is to use child care as a wedge for nationalizing health care, welfare, housing, and employment.

Thirteen states now participate in yet another Clinton-endorsed education project named “Creating Schools That Work for Everyone.” As researched by Genevieve Young, this bogusly labeled “children’s” initiative envisages—no joke—state boards of well-being led by state chancellors of well-being who run divisions of well-being services. One model of delivery for these services is entitled the “Total Educational Governance System for Lifetime Learning.”

Finally, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Mrs. Clinton urged the president to sign, threatens the authority of parents and sanctity of families on a world-wide scale. It also dovetails nicely with her book’s overt and covert agenda. Does she advocate centralizing citizen care globally?

When the first lady holds forth on the human condition, as in her “Village” narrative, she may well be faulted for dissembling. And her perspective may well be judged untempered by the wisdom of history, natural law, or theology. But let no lifetime learner on the face of the globe accuse her of small-town—real village—thinking.

Author

  • Candace de Russy

    Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized scholar on education and cultural issues and an Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute.

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