Conservative writers are reacting to a new MSNBC commercial in which Professor Melissa Harris-Perry discusses education and tells the audience that children belong to whole communities, not families.
The reason that the United States does not invest more in education, Harris-Perry complains, is that Americans have a "private notion of children." Instead, Americans should have a "collective notion" that "these are our children." (Video is posted below.)
"We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once we recognize it's everybody's responsibility and not just the households, then we start making better investments," she concluded.
Harris-Perry hosts MSNBC's "The Melissa Harris-Perry Show" and is professor of political science at Tulane University, where she teaches courses on social justice and African-American religion and politics.
Her view of education is consistent with a liberal philosophy of government and somewhat reminiscent of a book written by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – It Takes a Village.
The commercial is part of MSNBC's series of "Lean Forward" spots that feature network hosts waxing eloquent about issues of the day, usually outdoors in a park like settings. All the spots demonstrate the network's liberal point of view but none has received the same level of attention from conservatives as the Harris-Perry commercial.
Mike Riggs posted the video and a transcript at Reason with the title, "Is This the Creepiest Show Promo MSNBC Has Ever Run?"
"The hubris in this video is amazing," Shane Vander Hart wrote at Caffeinated Thoughts. "While my child is not 'my property,' my wife and I are the ones who are responsible before God to raise, clothe, feed, educate, and most importantly train up to follow Christ. My child is not part of 'the collective.'"
Joy Pullman, at American Enterprise Institute's Values & Capitalism Project, argued that, besides being inconsistent with what the U.S. Supreme Court has said about parental rights, the commercial is also inconsistent with biblical teaching.
"The Christian tradition teaches that children do, indeed, belong to their families, and not to 'whole communities,'" Pullman wrote. "My favorite of many examples of this is Ephesians 6:4: 'Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.' That word translated 'discipline' here actually has a massive meaning. In Greek, it's paideia, which actually means every single thing that goes into a child's upbringing and education and encircles the child into maturity – body, mind and soul."
At The Week, Matt K. Lewis suggests that Harris-Perry read two books from science fiction author George Orwell – 1984 and Animal Farm.
"Sure, it's true that we need strong communities and institutions to help grow strong Americans. But the primary responsibility rightly belongs to the parents. Family is the fundamental building block of society," Lewis wrote [emphasis in original].
Harris-Perry wrote a response to her detractors in a Tuesday article for MSNBC.
"I venture to say that anyone and everyone should know full well that my message in that ad was a call to see ourselves as connected to a larger whole. I don't want your kids, but I want them to live in safe neighborhoods. I want them to learn in enriching and dynamic classrooms. I want them to be healthy and well and free from fear. I want them to grow up to agree or disagree with me or with you and to have all the freedom and tools they need to express what they believe," she wrote.