If you have children, you might think that, in general, they are your responsibility. Au contraire says Melissa Harris-Perry, host of an eponymous MSNBC weekend show. Rather they are the responsibility of the “entire community” for reasons that you can probably guess:
Harris-Perry is undoubtedly using terms like “community” and “everybody” as euphemisms for government. However, what I want to address is her claim that once we realize children are “everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, we start making better investments” in schools. Not only is that wrong, in fact the exact opposite is true.
Who has a greater investment in a child? Everybody? Society? Government? Or that child’s parents? If you said the latter, go the head of the class.
Parents put “investments” into their children—emotions, discipline, time, money, etc.—that no other entity can. Given both the investments that parents make in their own children and that they will pay much of the cost if their children are not successful, the stake they have in their children’s success is greater than the community, government, etc. That’s an important reason why parents should have much greater control over what schools their children attend.
Harris-Perry’s thinking (and I use that term loosely) seems to inform the way public schools are currently run. When something is everybody’s responsibility it usually means that it is nobody’s responsibility. The end result of systems premised on that is there is little, if any, accountability. That goes a long way to explaining the miserable results we get in public schools, especially those in big cities.
On a final note, one wonders what Harris-Perry means by “we’ve never invested in much in public education as we should have.” Average current expenditures in the U.S. for 2010 were $12,017 per pupil. That’s a real increase of more than 17% over the previous decade and a nearly 35% real increase going back twenty years.
In the end, though, our schools would perform much better if public policy in education was premised on the correct belief that a child is the responsibility of his or her parents and not the responsibilty of “everybody.”