Hilary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, shares very real concern sof a mother combined with that of a Democratic politician. This is of course entirely reasonable for Hillary Clinton of the 1990s. Then I would have agreed with most of her suggestions. Well, really they are arguments. We suspect a political agenda that is decorated by personal stories, but that is surely forgivable. However, from the vantage point of 2014, her thesis seems naïve, if not dangerous, because the government is not a village.
The work was most criticized on the basis that children need parents more than government policies. To her credit, she does say clearly, early on, that children need parents. Furthermore, it is true that parents are best supported by extended family and “the village.” She mentions small towns of yesteryear. Many of my friends talk about tribe, the people they run with. I think of the congregation. Clinton jumps very quickly, however to national governmental policy. To jump so quickly from the assumed lack of parents directly to the need for government intervention is a logical error, misses the hope of having consensus social values, and today is dangerous due to the increasing authoritarianism, secrecy, and corruption of the government.
Clinton did valiantly, first as a lawyer in Arkansas, and then as governor’s wife, and then later as First Lady, working for what she saw as the benefit of children. It is no wonder or fault hat she might write on behalf of policy aimed at improving the lives of children. There is a giant gap, however, between a mother’s concern and the immediate leap to government policy. This involves many of her suggestions in real errors, which we might take up individually elsewhere, but the overarching error is to miss the need for a consensus value set, such as our nation was founded upon, and which the Clintons partake of personally inasmuch as they go to church and pray with their child, but which their policies omit. Societal values can do more than laws. Societal values are the only hope that laws, law enforcement, public policy and social programs have of being salutary. Without responsibility, personal and public, – and more than that, altruism, policies will at best fall short. A social turn toward righteousness and love (exactly what Judeo-Christian values centrally teach) is all that can save us.
Love is What it Takes (Along with Righteousness)
Parents always have had the option to consider themselves before their children: in distribution of goods, safety, and attention. Some truly loved. Most, through the history of our country, did a reasonable job of parenting. Many did it because it was expected; because it was what being a parent meant in their society; it was the only Christian, or “civilized,” thing to do. For those more educated, the history of family recorded in Jewish scripture gave great grounding to wider aspirations. The extreme centrality of teaching one’s children to Biblical faith in Deuteronomy 6 lends great spiritual importance and commands teaching as a primary duty.
“ And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
“ And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6: 6&7
Finally, the very rudiments of parenting are commanded in the duality of Proverbs urging discipline and Ephesians and Colossians urging moderation.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Proverbs 23:13
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6”4
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Colossians 3:L21
As out of favor as these scriptures may be, and indeed as quoting scriptures in a work such of this undeniably is, it is equally undeniable that parenting was grounded in precisely this during the founding of our nation through the 1800s and up until there was a general changeover, beginning with the educated elite after 1900. When we were colonies, our academic achievement was second to none. Our health, was better than Europe’s. Our economy was growing dramatically. And while there are isolated cases of extraordinary tragic judgment in parenting documented, overall, our nation led the world in concern for children if one judges by the fact that the first bill providing for general public education was penned in the colony of Massachusetts. That was 1674. By the way, it was called the “Old Deluder Satan Act.”
The Old Deluder Statan Act was a law that provided that any town of 50 households was to levy a tax in order to provide for a school. It provided that the tax should not be so onerous that a family would be tempted to send their child to another school, or I presume, move, to avoid the tax. Notice first that the government itself did not try to take up the money itself (avoiding expense and the possibility of corruption), nor did the government try to control the outcome (showing some humility). Notice more importantly, that the law was based on a public consensus values. In this case the value is clearly spelled out. The act is so named because it explains that in order to continue to be free, it is necessary that the citizens first read the Bible and then compare that to the laws they must read, in order to strike down any non-Biblical laws. Thus, the need for freedom is based in Scriptural literacy, and thus there is a need for schools.