I have received several comments on Twitter @michaelsabbeth about my article posted here yesterday, OBESITY, SCHOOL LUNCHES AND PARENTING. The comments are astute and insightful and also convey a sense that some undercurrents of forces are working against parents.
One reader from Canada made the illuminating point that if a parent can be intimidated when it comes to raising their child, they wouldn’t understand outside control. This perspective merits an entire discussion, but the point is, if I understand it properly, that those who can be manipulated or intimidated will lack the awareness that outside forces are impacting them. Perhaps it’s like a person in an inner cabin on a ship who has no sense of how the wind is blowing.
There is a darker aspect raised by this reader’s comment: that those who can be intimidated are invested in not knowing of the existence of forces that are influencing them. Thus, these parents are invested in ignorance, denial and a rejection of the truth. Reality threatens them. They don’t want to know.
The most pernicious aspect of such a mindset is that it will create a worldview that accommodates its weakness. Weak people don’t want to admit they are weak. The worldview will, unavoidably, lead to people who are brittle and defensive, and possibly quite mean.
Yet this reader was not disconsolate. She went on to write she loves the comments made, generally, on Twitter about parenting. She concludes that there are a lot of great parents out there in cyberspace. One implication of her comment is that these good parents share interests that are virtuous and energetic and actively seek solutions to their concerns.
I share an example of an orchestrated methodical exercise of power that I see as diminishing parents. The example has bothered me for years. When a horrific act occurs, let’s say, at a school—a crime of some sort, and a student is injured or worse. The school immediately hires grief counselors for the students. Students who feel grief, whatever that means, have the opportunity to express their grief to an ‘expert,’ or a counselor.
If this action—seeing the grief counselor—is done by the student, there is little need to express grief or anything else to parents. I find absurd the notion that one can be an expert on grief to such a degree that the expertise trumps in usefulness whatever a parent can provide. Sure, some children don’t have parents or they don’t have coherent parents or they have problems talking with parents.
But that’s a small minority of students. In my mind, the message from the schools should be: talk to your parents about this terrible situation. If you no one at all to talk with and you need someone to talk with, then talk with the principal or your guidance counselor. I find the notion that there are experts on grief that should supplant parents and teacher colleagues to be disconcerting and manipulative.
One reader wondered if some parents have the time they need to devote to kids. That comment raises troublesome issues. How one gauges the meaning of ‘have the time’ or enough time or whether time is prudently and ethically spent is an elusive and problematic process that would be highly subjective and devoid of objective measures and criteria. Like tofu, you could do about anything with it. I share that statement of Rebecca Hagelin quoted in the last chapter of my book, ALL ROADS LEAD TO HOME: Rebecca writes: How do you spell love for a child? T-I-M-E.
One father offered this insight: It does seem like parents are in the way of someone’s agenda for U.S. children. This is a very astute point. I do not pass judgment on whether this point is actualized regarding and applicable to what the First Lady is trying to do. It may or it may not be.
But the reader hits a larger point that is unquestionably true: that as the state gets larger, as bureaucracies proliferate and acquire increased power, the individual becomes less significant. Indeed, the individual becomes an annoyance, another mouth to feed, another demand for another bed and so forth. As the reader commented, regarding parenting issues—food, education, safety—the parent gets in the way.
Dennis Prager, in my mind one of the most astute commentators on culture, among his other areas of expertise, points out the larger the government, the smaller the person. As a general proposition, governments and bureaucracies do not care about individuals; they care about ‘people,’ which means no particular individual matters. All that matters is some fuzzy notion of the aggregate, which means, essentially, that individuals are have no meaning.
Thus, we can see that those who truly believe in minority rights must believe in protecting the individual, for there is no smaller minority than the individual.