Kahlil Gibran lives! The Lebanese-American poet so beloved of hippies for his liberating views is channeled in a new MSNBC commercial starring Melissa Harris-Perry. It’s pretty scary stuff, even for MSNBC and Harris (who twice now on air has referred to human fetuses as “things”), so brace yourself before watching.
In the ad, Harris-Perry makes the case for spending more on public education, which for starters is a pretty ludicrous idea (more on which shortly). But very soon after the spot opens, it takes a sinister turn:
We have always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours, and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘these are our children.’ So we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or that kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the households, then we start making better investments. [Emphasis added]
Before turning to Harris-Perry’s flower-powered philosophical musings on the parent-child relationship, let’s explore her claim that “we have never invested as much in public education as we should have.”
The U.S. spends more per capita on education than most other nations on the planet. Its expenditures per student, as this graph at the right reveals, are right up there in the same ballpark as Switzerland and Norway, which spend the second and third most respectively. Yet, in a head-to-head comparison of 34 nations that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which the U.S. is one, we finished 14th for reading skills, 17th for science, and 25th for mathematics. The United States’ education outcomes most resemble those of Poland, which spends less than half of what the U.S. does on education.
Nor (for those who enjoy graphs) have the nation’s schools improved under the Obama administration, which has dramatically increased spending on education.
So far we have been practicing “negative -ism avoidance,” so let’s get to the meat of the Harris-Perry ad. Ken Shepherd at Newsbusters notes that “the notion of collective responsibility for children was a philosophy that undergirded the Cultural Revolution in Communist China under Chairman Mao,” but even stepping back from that, Harris-Perry’s proposition is a bookend to Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement. Both are paeans to the all-powerful state from which all goodness flows to the supplicant. Mind your p’s and q’s and Mother America will build you a business. Watch your step and Big Brother will allow you to sire children.
These are frightening times we live in.
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