Mark W. Hendrickson
Mark W. Hendrickson is a faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. These articles are from The Epoch Times, and Visionandvalues.org, a publication of Grove City.
The Evolving Social Context of Parenting
Procreation has been one of the few constants throughout history. Indeed, it is the sine qua non of human existence — no procreation, no human race.
For centuries, it wasn’t unusual for a wife to be pregnant a dozen times or more. It involved little planning, but was more like a biological imperative, impelled by the survival instinct. It was a numbers game: A certain percentage of pregnancies did not culminate in live births, and due to malnutrition, poor sanitation, and the ravages of disease, many children didn’t survive until adulthood. The hope was that two or three children would make it to adulthood and be able to care for their parents during their senior years.
Multiple developments in the last few centuries have radically altered the parental calculus. In America, the land of opportunity and individual freedom, economic progress elevated standards of living higher and higher, resulting in declining death rates and increased longevity. Twentieth-century medical advances against disease gave longevity an additional boost, raising life expectancy from the mid-40s in 1900 to the upper-70s by 2000. With higher survival rates, the incentives to have many children were reduced.
The steadily increasing prosperity of the 19th and 20th centuries had a profound impact on family life. As the productivity of parents’ labor increased, and incomes rose, children were liberated from the necessity to work. Instead, they could go to school. Economic progress enabled “childhood” to become a period in which children were increasingly exempt from the responsibilities of adulthood. They could be “children” as we think of them today, not just little people working alongside big people (adults) in the grim struggle for survival. Eventually, the productivity of labor grew to the point where a father could earn enough to become his family’s sole breadwinner, enabling the mother to stay home as a full-time mother.
This sociological phenomenon — sometimes called the “Ozzie and Harriet ideal,” after a popular TV show — peaked in the 1950s. While still the basis of our society today, starting in the 1960s, the nuclear family consisting of a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, and kids was buffeted by several major challenges.
In the early 1960s, the birth control pill came on the scene. A wedge was driven between sex and procreation; family ties started to loosen. By the late ’60s, the emerging environmentalist movement popularized the notion that a human population explosion, resulting from plummeting death rates and too-high birth rates, would quickly engulf the world in lethal disasters. According to groups like Zero Population Growth (ZPG), human survival depended on us having fewer babies.
In the 1970s, abortion was legalized, making it even easier to separate sex from parenthood and obviously reducing the number of live births. Concurrently, the women’s liberation movement was rebelling against the Ozzie and Harriet model, arguing that women should no longer feel obligated to have babies, but instead should pursue whatever vocation they wanted to and not take a back seat to men in the economic life of our society.
(For the record, I am glad that females today feel free to pursue whatever goals they set for themselves. My own daughter, as a matter of fact, is making her way in one of the most male-dominated professions. But please remember, ladies, our society depends on enough of you having enough children to keep us going. That isn’t a matter of ideology or personal preference; it is simply a statement of a biological reality: Unless we switch over to having test-tube babies, only women can bear children.)
The Economic Factor — Impacted by these developments, the birth rate in the United States fell dramatically throughout the ’60s. The decline continued until 1975, when it more or less leveled off for a generation before starting to tail off gradually in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. The concurrence of a falling birth rate with an economic phenomenon like the Great Recession is no irrelevant coincidence.
Yes, technological change (the pill), legal change (abortion), sociological change (feminist movement), and ideological influence (fears of population explosion) have all contributed to fewer adults choosing to have fewer children, but don’t underestimate the economic factor.
I’ve told my environmentalist friends for decades that capitalism is the cure for overpopulation. The explanation is simple: Capitalism generates prosperity, and very few people who have tasted prosperity will procreate their way out of prosperity. Given the choice between having two children and enjoying an affluent middle-class standard of living, and having six children and struggling to scrape by, rational adults will opt for fewer children. Indeed, this underlying economic reality was already in play before the convulsive changes of the ’60s and ’70s — remember: Ozzie and Harriet had only two children.
Unfortunately, I believe that America’s affluence and resulting desire for material ease has gone too far, with some ominous implications. Americans (like people in other affluent countries around the world) are opting for parenthood less and less. Couples are having children at a rate lower than the “replacement” rate needed to maintain a level population. The danger today is not from a population explosion, but a population implosion.
The State as Caretaker — In the modern welfare state, government retirement and health care programs have replaced children as the primary caretakers of senior citizens. Knowing this, many citizens were “liberated” from the traditional reliance on their children to care for them in their senior years. (The exception is seen among my Amish neighbors, who continue to have more children, on average, than non-Amish Americans, and who still faithfully care for their aged parents instead of depositing them in homes where strangers tend to them.)
The problem is, so many citizens in our country and abroad have counted on the state to be their financial support in their senior years that they did not bother to have and raise enough children to produce enough workers to supply the state with enough revenue to be able to pay for sufficient eldercare when the welfare state Ponzi schemes eventually break down.
Sadly, a “who needs kids?” mentality has taken hold. Many adults refuse to have children because they want to enjoy the good life that modern affluence provides. They don’t want what they consider the distraction or expense of raising children to get in the way of their “self-fulfillment.”
In extreme cases, the animus against having children is pathological. About a decade ago, I wrote an article titled “Sex, Life, and Death” that was prompted by hearing the statistic that the second-most common cause of death among pregnant American women was homicide. It turns out that some men murder their lovers for getting pregnant. Those stunted males so intensely want to avoid being saddled with the responsibility of parenthood that they murder their own children and the women bearing them. In their warped mentality, a woman is a sex toy with no right to get pregnant.
Fortunately for all of us, enough Americans are still opting for parenthood in spite of all the cultural and societal headwinds they face. One formidable challenge American parents face today is from those who should be most supportive of children: their teachers — or more precisely, from certain powerful elements within the public school establishment. Let me hasten to say that there are many wonderful, talented teachers in our schools who are real blessings to the children fortunate enough to be enrolled in their classes. Hats off to all of those good people.
The problem is the progressive ideological mindset that permeates public education. When I went back to college after earning my bachelor’s degree to add a teaching certificate, I can honestly state that I was never taught a single thing that would make me a better teacher.
All I ever got were steady doses of thinly disguised collectivist doctrines about how the purpose of education was to “socialize” kids, to make them malleable, compliant, and willing to accept a place in the social order that supposedly enlightened leaders would plan for society. I know of teachers active in teachers unions who believe fervently that parents should surrender their children to public education starting at two years of age, because the “experts” employed by the state know much more about proper child-rearing than parents themselves do.
And then there are the many children in poor neighborhoods, often minorities, who want desperately to escape dysfunctional schools that cripple their intellectual development, but the teachers union and their progressive political allies conspire to deny these children the freedom to attend a better school. That monstrous policy shows that the political establishment doesn’t give a hoot about children, but has become a cynical, oppressive alliance willing to ruin children’s lives for their own self-serving purposes. No wonder so many American parents opt for homeschooling.
One more peek of gloom before I close on an encouraging note: Being a parent in the future isn’t going to get any easier. I am thinking of the potential issues pertaining to genetic engineering. Think of the decisions would-be parents will have to make if the technology of genetic modification gets to the point where humans can customize designer babies. Will couples planning to have children want to equip them with genius IQs? What if you believe that nature shouldn’t be meddled with, but other parents are choosing to use genetic engineering to boost their child’s intelligence (or any other desirable characteristic)? Would you choose to leave your child relatively inferior? And what if the state starts regulating who and how many babies can be genetically enhanced? Then our society would be on the threshold of something akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World with the state, not parents, making life-altering decisions about their children.
The Joys of Parenthood — OK, let’s walk back from that peek into potential darkness and close by celebrating the joy of having children. For those of you reading this who are parents or planning to become parents, God bless you. You are hugely important and much to be respected. You are the ones perpetuating our society and giving us a future, and given some of the challenges swirling around us today, you are to be commended for your courage and strength.
The rewards of parenthood are considerable and incalculable. Think of all you can accomplish as a parent — to give the gifts of life and love and then to be repaid with the priceless reward of a child’s love.
Thank you for all you are doing for society by teaching your children right from wrong. If you are religious, you have the joyous privilege of sharing with your children the good news of a loving God — a just God who will give a full reward for goodness — if not in this world, then in the next. What a sublime accomplishment it is to impart to your children the ability to feel comfortable in their own skin and to gain confidence and a sense of self-worth and security. What a rich reward you will deservedly receive for sharing a love with your children that is so special that, when they grow up, they will want to recreate that love by starting a family of their own.
The bottom line is that parenting — like everything else in this world — is confronted by challenges and pitfalls, but it can bring a joy unmatched by anything else this world has to offer. Again, God bless you parents — and your children.
Educational Malpractice on a Massive Scale: The Exploitation and Indoctrination of Children
During the World Economic Forum conclave in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January, more than 60,000 students around the world boycotted their classes to urge world leaders to do more about climate change, according to a report from the British newspaper The Guardian.
While teenagers demonstrating peacefully may seem innocuous, if you look beneath the surface, the view is disturbing, scandalous, and ugly.
I commend kids for caring about their world. And I strongly believe there are times when children can teach their elders valuable lessons. Not only can they teach us beautiful lessons of kindness and forgiveness, they can also teach us practical knowledge that we lack. Think about how many adults turn to youngsters for help handling their digital devices.
What is so ominous about the kids’ climate protests is the cynical way in which their elders have exploited them. The kids acted in good faith on the basis of what adults — particularly their schoolteachers — have taught them about climate change. These caring young people have been taught (actually, mistaught) the simplistic and fallacious dogmas of politicized climate change “science” — that CO2 is the grand regulator of global temperatures and that, in the reckless words of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “the world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.”
I’ve repeatedly rebutted the assertions of the climate-change narrative of the global political elite, but the reality of these recent (and upcoming) student protests is how those poor kids have been duped and exploited by their schools. What business do the teachers of the world have in teaching wildly speculative theories as fact, and influencing students to become activists in a particular ideological and political movement?
Indoctrination — My colleagues and I have lamented that the students coming into our college classrooms have had increasingly poor writing skills over the past few decades. One reason for this is that students are being taught climate-change hokum instead of the basic skills that would serve them so well in their adult careers. Education should teach youngsters how to think rather than indoctrinate them into what to think.
And what are these youthful climate-change protesters really protesting? Look at what the 16-year-old Swedish girl who started the strike movement said:
“Some people — some companies and some decision-makers in particular — have known exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. . . . I want to challenge them into real and bold climate action, to set their economic goals aside and to safeguard the future living conditions for humankind. I ask you to stand on the right side of history.”
The anti-capitalist bias in these words is obvious. What she is really protesting isn’t global warming, about which humans can do so little, it’s markets and profits — in short, capitalism. And this goop about “the right side of history” is pure Marxist claptrap.
The educational malpractice of indoctrinating children into being climate-change warriors (a variation of the Hitler Youth) has been deliberate. Indeed, it has been an elaborate, thoroughly thought-out strategy of the Left for decades. Progressives, socialists, and Communists, have never been shy about expressing their intention to use schools for indoctrination.
Marx’s 10th point in his 10-point platform for how to achieve socialism by the democratic route was for the state to control the schools.
The late Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci wrote:
“Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
UNESCO, the U.N. bureaucracy that focuses on children, wrote in its book, called “Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit,” that “Children are the key to changing society’s long-term attitudes to the environment.”
The same blatant propaganda campaign has infiltrated many of America’s public schools. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the National Environmental Education Act, which put the green foxes in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in charge of guarding the chicken coops of our public schools, by clearing green educational materials through an Office for Environmental Education.
A report in Education Week in 2011 noted that students in Maryland had to demonstrate that they had learned the mandatory green curriculum in order to graduate. Another 2014 report “found that global warming is being taught in almost every area of the [UK] curriculum.”
As the report’s authors write in their conclusion: “The fact that children’s ability to pass their exams — and hence, their future life prospects — appears to depend on being able to demonstrate their climate-change orthodoxy is painfully reminiscent of life in Communist-era Eastern Europe or Mao’s China.”
I mentioned Ocasio-Cortez above. She is young enough to have gone through her entire academic career subjected to green propaganda, so her alarmism shouldn’t surprise us. Even where I lived in the hinterlands, the green curriculum has been in place for several decades.
Here’s a personal story: In the late 1990s, I served for four years on a curriculum advisory committee for my local school district. I examined the environmental curriculum in detail and discovered numerous errors. When I provided corrections to the curriculum coordinator, she looked annoyed when she accepted my report, and refused to make any changes in the curriculum.
As if the hijacking of education by ideologues to indoctrinate children isn’t reprehensible enough, there are more troubling aspects to green indoctrination in schools. The first is the psychological damage inflicted on innocent children. Many have suffered from anxiety and depression due to the lurid descriptions included in many climate-change predictions. The second is the threat to families.
Part of the green message drummed into impressionable children is that it is up to them to teach their ignorant or obtuse parents the “truth” about climate change. Lenin once told the Soviet commissars of education in 1923: “We must teach our children to hate their parents if they are not Communists.”
Well, the greens aren’t using the word “hate,” but they are suggesting to kids that their parents need to be corrected.
Al Gore told children a decade ago that while their parents undoubtedly mean well, they don’t have access to the latest “scientific” information that the students will be given in school. In other words, believe schools, and not your parents, if they doubt the alarmist scenario.
How fiendish and cruel! Teachers are putting children in a position where they have to choose between respecting and trusting their parents or respecting and trusting their teachers. The teachers have the advantage, because they have been pushing the same green message for years. I wonder how many young Americans are going to be alienated to various degrees from their parents because of disagreements about climate change.
For schools to take a side on controversial issues (besides being a departure from the correct purpose of school) is unfair to families. And picture what it must be like for those youngsters who realize at some point how they have been systematically deceived by their teachers: Can you imagine how hurt and betrayed they are going to feel?
Teaching the green agenda of climate alarmism in schools is child abuse. It’s diabolical, wrong, and un-American. It must be stopped.
Was Last Weekend a Portent of Things to Come?
What a nasty weekend! There were at least four reported cases of left-wing citizens abusing political officeholders or office-seekers either physically or verbally.
It’s concerning that surly, aggressive behavior is bubbling up already — a whopping 17 months before the election — and Antifa hasn’t even gotten into the act yet.
Here, in case you missed some of the action, is what happened.
Headline No. 1: “Woman Arrested after Hitting Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz with a Drink Outside Town Hall Event”
This is the only one of the four incidents in which the politician involved isn’t running for president. It was also the only one in which a Republican was targeted, and the only one in which the politician was physically struck. A woman, reported to be a “former political rival” of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), hurled her drink (cup and contents) at the congressman, hitting him in the torso.
Thankfully, Gaetz wasn’t hurt. Indeed, given the nature of the projectile, the intent appears to have been to disrespect him, not to injure him. Compared to the attacks on two other Republican lawmakers in 2017 — the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and the smashing of Sen. Rand Paul’s ribs — what happened to Gaetz was mild. This has led to some pathetic attempts on the left to defend the woman’s actions.
So, what is the left’s standard — that attacks against Republicans are justifiable as long as they don’t send the target to the hospital? That’s setting the bar of permissible conduct far too low.
No member of Congress or congressional candidate should have to wonder if they’re going to be attacked for speaking in public about what policies they favor. Such actions are brutish and fascistic. They are an assault against our democratic system whereby citizens settle disagreements at the ballot box, and candidates are as free as the rest of us to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech. In fact, I’m sure that there are already decent, qualified citizens who have decided not to run for office because of the threat of such thuggery.
Why do progressive activists act as if the normal rules, laws, and social conventions don’t apply to them? Too many of them are so drunk with their own sense of moral superiority that they feel justified in assaulting those who disagree with them.
Headline No. 2: “Protester Grabs Mic from Kamala Harris”
A young man — apparently an animal rights protester — ran onto a stage where Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was speaking and seized her microphone. The man said he wanted more attention given to “a much bigger idea.” He didn’t get too far before he was removed from the stage — again, thankfully, without anybody sustaining an injury. From this incident, we can conclude that, as far left as the Democratic Party has turned early in this election cycle, it’s still too conservative for some people.
A message to this protester and other would-be protesters: If you want to call attention to your favorite cause, you are free to do so. Write articles and books, hand out flyers in public, rent a public hall and give a speech, run for office. But please don’t think you have a right to hijack someone else’s event. That is disrespectful, undemocratic, and a form of theft. It is also self-defeating. Many of us who sympathize with some animal rights’ groups’ less-extreme ideas will turn our backs on activists who don’t respect the rights of other human beings.
Headline No. 3: “John Hickenlooper Booed for Saying ‘Socialism Is Not the Answer’”
Happily, the last two incidents don’t involve any sort of physical harassment. The harassment was verbal. Democrats booed fellow Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination for daring to compromise on the socialist agenda.
In the first of the two booing incidents, the crowd got onto former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at the California Democratic Convention for saying, “Socialism is not the answer.” The democratic socialists are going to make life hard for any candidate who doesn’t hop aboard the “full speed ahead to socialism” train. The ideological zealots on the left are going to rip any candidate who offers them half or two-thirds of what they want.
They would rather risk four more years of President Donald Trump and achieve almost none of their goals, rather than unite behind a candidate who doesn’t promise them the whole loaf. Whether this gamble pays off for them may be the biggest story of Election Year 2020 and may chart the course for our country.
It will be interesting to see if any Democratic contenders who don’t unreservedly promote socialism gain any traction in the race. If so, expect a civil war in the Democratic Party; if not, it will be a standard-bearer for socialism versus Trump next year.
Headline No. 4: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tells 2020 Democrat John Delaney to ‘Please Sashay Away’”
Hickenlooper wasn’t the only speaker at the California Democratic Convention who elicited boos. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney was booed for a solid minute for expressing reservations about “Medicare for All.”
“We should have universal health care, but it shouldn’t be the kind of health care that kicks 150 million Americans off their health care. . . . I want everyone to have health care, but it’s got to be a plan that works for every American.”
I suspect a majority of Americans would agree with such a reasonable statement, but the pro-socialism crowd rejected it roundly. This inspired the ever-outspoken Ocasio-Cortez to write on Twitter that Delaney should “sashay away” (i.e., drop out of the race).
Delaney actually was trying to do his party a favor by urging them to craft a Medicare for All program that would actually deliver on its promises. Apparently, though, the socialists are so convinced of the rightness of their cause that they care less about passing competent, helpful legislation than about squashing all opposition to their grandiose socialistic plans. What contempt this shows for the American people!
Last weekend’s incidents portend a toxic, bruising political brawl over the next year and a half. Fasten your seatbelts, folks. This could get uglier than anything that any living American has ever seen before. *