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The Incredible Shrinking Parent

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.


An ongoing search is taking place to secure some simple answer to reconcile the dreadful events that occurred in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. To return to the more routine, and decidedly less painful, aspects of our lives, we desire an immediate yet plausible explanation. And so, public attention has been cleverly turned toward a familiar target of our times, that of the parent.

Anointed experts from various broadcast media have ruminated aloud as to how and why the parents of the assailants could have been unaware that their children were constructing weapons of terrorism while scheming to commit mass murder.

News reports have indicated that Dillon Klebold and Eric Harris had been on a long road that was littered with depravity. Their obsessive and repetitive viewing of violent videos, engagement in murderous computer games and collecting of exotic weaponry should have alerted their parents that something was terribly wrong.

Over the course of the past several years, the role of the parent has been under severe attack in the form of a schizophrenic barrage emanating from the cultural elite. When public tragedies occur, parents are told that they should have done more. Yet mothers and fathers are consistently sent another message - that the job of parenting can be easily, and sometimes better, fulfilled by someone else. All too often, that someone else is the ever-present state.

A stream of initiatives flowing from our governmental institutions is directly undercutting parental authority and influence. However, the public is largely unaware that a plan to replace the traditional family unit is already underway and is successfully being implemented through various means, particularly through our educational system.

Educational blueprints such as Goals 2000, sometimes referred to as outcome based education or mastery learning, were developed by several prominent individuals, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ira Magaziner and Mark Tucker. Under these types of educational models, the family ceases to retain its fundamental role in society. Instead, it is displaced by the federally controlled, public school. In this manner, the hand of government asserts primacy over the family by mandating internationally uniform educational standards.

The so-called international children's rights advocates have worked diligently to reduce the scope of influence that parents have traditionally enjoyed within their families. The intentions of these activists are most apparent when the contents of an international treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are scrutinized. The UNCRC has not yet been ratified by the United States, but pressure to do so resurfaces on a regular basis.

Parents would understandably wish to protect their children from exposure to the kind of materials and media that Klebold and Harris were devouring. The UNCRC would have something very specific to say to those parents who would like to regulate their children's exposure to violent movies, music, videos or computer games. Under the UNCRC, parents could actually be prosecuted for keeping such material away from their children. The treaty gives minors the absolute right to receive information and ideas of all kinds "either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice" (Article 13). Parents would be in specific violation of the treaty if they were to restrict their child from watching a pornographic video or from reading a book with objectionable content (Article 17).

If a child wished to join a religious group that his or her parents deemed unacceptable, perhaps even dangerous, as in the case of a cult, the UNCRC would prohibit parents from interfering with the pursuit of any religious belief that the child so desired (Article 14).

If a child were acquiring friends that, in the parents' opinions, had questionable character, the UNCRC would again override parental judgment. Parents would be unable to inhibit their child's ability to freely associate, no matter what the individuals or groups were espousing.

Another recent invasion of family intimacy is a plan to place home visitors into the households of first time parents. In a program called Healthy Families America, developed by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, the traditional family is considered insufficient to accomplish the task of child rearing. The state, therefore, benevolently intervenes. What would happen, in actuality, is that the federal government would seize the power, effectively becoming the head of the newly defined family.

It is interesting to note that, of the eight instances of school violence that have occurred within the last eighteen months, all took place in public schools. Educational settings such as these are saturated with federal influence through a myriad of mandates and regulations.

On the other hand, private school sites typically enlist more parental involvement. The miracle of home schooling illustrates even further what can happen when parents take on a more active role and greatly minimize the influence of the state on education. Recent studies have shown that home schooled children have achieved much higher median test scores than the national average.

When parents willingly accept maximum responsibility for the nurturing of their children, society is enhanced immensely. This fundamental principle has withstood the test of time, transcending geographic regions, cultural mores and diverse stages of history.

In these uncertain times of ours, at the very least, we must preserve and reaffirm our inherent parental functions. We must assert our rightful authority and refuse to allow a further usurpation by government, whether it emanates from the local, state, federal or international level. It is then that the children of America will recapture their God given birthright and rest assured that their parents will be the ones to satisfy their needs, foster their growth and love them as no government ever could.


Copyright © 1999 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

All Rights Reserved