The New York Times reports that in a recent speech, Randi Weingarten, the new President of the American Federation of Teachers, offered her “new vision for schools in the 21st century”.
“[I]magine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?”
“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,” she said. “And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics.”
Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama echoes this sentiment: “These children are our children… [i]t’s time we understood that their education is our responsibility.”
By “our”, Obama can only mean the State, acting as agent of public opinion. On this view, children belong to us all collectively, and so the State is responsible for every child’s development. Weingarten and Obama want us to imagine a new, expanded government school system where the State serves as nursemaid, parent, teacher, babysitter, recreation coordinator, counselor, dentist, doctor, and who knows what else.
Is Obama right? Is it part of Uncle Sam’s job to play wet nurse to American children?
Of course not. Children are the responsibility of their parents. Parents are responsible for supporting their children and making the judgments necessary to raise them properly.
There is no rational argument for the belief that child-rearing is a proper government function. A government exists to protect the rights of its citizens (including the rights of children whose parents cause them demonstrable harm). The state has no moral authority to implement its conception of proper child-rearing—and certainly not at the expense of people who do not volunteer to fund such efforts.
A non-profit organization is free to try to secure donations to provide these services, and those who wish to support it can do so. If Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Obama want to provide poor families with comprehensive child-raising services, they should start a charity, not pass a federal law.