Harris-Perry: Our kids aren’t just ours

Under attack for her MSNBC promo, which said “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,”  commentator Melissa Harris-Perry has issued a statement. She meant that “our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities.”

I get it. Children are our future.

When the promo hit the fan, she was grading papers and thought “since these children were not my responsibility, I could simply mail the students’ papers to their moms and dads to grade!”

But of course, that is a ridiculous notion. As a teacher, I have unique responsibilities to the students in my classroom at Tulane University, and I embrace those responsibilities.

It’s ridiculous because Harris-Perry, a political science professor, is paid by Tulane, an elite private university, to grade papers. Her students — surely very few are children — and their parents pay a great deal of money to have those papers graded. If she volunteered to tutor kids whose parents couldn’t help them with schoolwork, she could congratulate herself on her service to the collective.

Instead, she mentions various people in her life who’ve taught her about “our collective responsibility to children,” starting with her parents, who did volunteer to help others.

Then there’s this bizarro logic paragraph:

I’ll even admit that despite being an unwavering advocate for women’s reproductive rights, I have learned this lesson from some of my most sincere, ethically motivated, pro-life colleagues. Those people who truly believe that the potential life inherent in a fetus is equivalent to the actualized life of an infant have argued that the community has a distinct interest in children no matter what the mother’s and father’s interests or needs. So while we come down on different sides of the choice issue, we agree that kids are not the property of their parents. Their lives matter to all of us.

If Harris-Perry listened more carefully, she’d discover her pro-life colleagues believe a fetus, which they would call an unborn child, has individual rights as a human being. They don’t think the community’s interests are relevant any more than they think the parents’ interests are relevant. And few parents see their children — born or unborn — as “property.”

Harris-Perry concludes:

I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.

It takes a village to raise a child!

I was an op-ed columnist for many years. If I wrote a column and one or two people read it wrong, I blamed them. If lots of people read it in a way that I hadn’t intended, I figured it was my fault.

I’m sure Harris-Perry intended to say that we should spend more money on schools, parks, day care, health care and other social programs because children are our future, it takes a village to raise a child, as the twig is bent so grows the tree, etc. But she said “kids belong to whole communities” rather than to their parents or families. Nobody at MSNBC caught it. And she still doesn’t get that this one’s on her.

AllahPundit includes a tweet by Sarah Palin, which I thought was funny:  “Dear MSNBC, if our kids belong to you, do your kids belong to us too? If so, can we take them hunting after church in our big pickup truck?”

About Joanne


  1. Also, if their children belong to me, can they come over and help clean the house? Because mine would rather be out playing than doing chores.

    ‘Your kids belong to the community!’ is the line people who oppose homeschoolers use when they want me to put my kids in school. Because they’re a community resource and should be there, bringing up test scores, instead of at home, writing screenplays. (Not very good screenplays. But they’re young yet. And they shouldn’t have to donate their time to make a school look like it’s doing a better job….)

  2. Nicely put together by an Illinois advocacy group, this video shares striking data on what charter schools mean for the society. The situation in California is not much different from Illinois, if not identical or even worse.

    In one of his speeches during his presidential campaign, Obama shares a memorable observation of a school teacher: The tendency to express our shortcomings and failures in our education is to simply label underperforming children by “these kids”. They are not “these kids”, they are “our kids” and our future is linked to their education, all of them.

    • SuperSub says:

      You’re exactly right…our future is linked to the education of “these kids.” The insistence upon college-for-all education has robbed our society of skilled blue collar industries, devalued diplomas, and created generations of individuals completely dependent on the government…who pass that same dependency and irresponsibility on to their children.

  3. What I read from Harris-Perry is that she doesn’t object to children being property but them being private property — that is, of the parents. As far as I can tell every one of her policy recommendations involves removing choice and control from parents and giving it to the State, the non-voluntary, non-optional organization. So parents, community members, and the children would be made more the property of the State (which, I presume, Harris-Perry thinks will be run by enlightened thinkers like her).

    If that’s her view, then I think “belong” was quite the right word choice for her.

    P.S. I have to say, for someone trying to “explain”, everything I read from her makes her original promo even creepier.

  4. So then, if my 16 year old kid crashes his/her car while smoking pot in a pot friendly state and wrecks property belonging to someone else, I should breath a huge sigh of relief because the community will bear part of the responsibility for the accident. The community obviously didn’t make safe enough roads, didn’t provide proper driver’s-ed training, didn’t make sure that the car my child was driving was safe for a 16 year old to drive while being high on pot and making it legal to smoke, etc. Further erosion of my personal responsibilities. Sweet!

  5. Obi-Wandreas says:

    My aggravation comes from the opposite direction – those parents who think their kids are everyone else’s responsibility.

    Boys who think they can sleep around and just let the baby mamas take care of the consequences.

    Parents who don’t see the need to provide a stable home and family, just some random place for the kid to sleep.

    Parents who give their kids cell phones and designer clothes but think it’s someone else’s responsibility to feed them.

    Parents who feel no need to teach their children to behave respectfully or actually pay attention in class.

    Parents who think that it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that their child passes despite putting forth absolutely no effort whatsoever.

    This is what collectivism always becomes: someone else’s job, someone else’s fault.

    • Ah, the tragedy of the commons, applied to raising children. I hadn’t seen that connection before.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        The efficiency of any one aspect of our social and economic life is directly proportional to how socialized its become. The more government encroaches, regulates or other wise intrudes whether via subsidy or outright price controls the less effective that segment becomes. Education – both k-12 and higher ed -, healthcare, agriculture, energy production are all either heavily subsidized or price control are in place and all distort the market, raise prices and produce inferior products.

        All areas that exist primarily outside of the capacity of government control experience incredible innovation and progress. Technology being a great example – not that government doesn’t seek to fund and control it, but because it’s developed faster then government can manage to strangle it.

        Government always at the behest of interest groups seeks to lock in conditions in a search for security. The rigidity actually makes those institutions fragile becomes they cannot tolerate creative destruction.


        • Stacy in NJ says:

          All the above just to point out: The tragedy of the commons writ large indeed. 🙂

  6. Tim-10-ber says:

    Joanne – great response! melissa harris- perry needs to get off the air.

  7. “It takes a village to raise a child!”

    And it takes a village idiot to believe this.

  8. I wonder how Ms. H-P would feel about the subject if, by some horrible mischance, the presidency and congress were controlled by Republicans. Would she still feel that kids belong to the community if the community happened to be run by conservatives?

    Liberals never seem to be able to see that one coming: that they won’t ALWAYS be in power and that the crazy ideas they push while they are in power could come back to bite them when they are out.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Well of course we are left with the fallout of the elites insistence on all cultures being equally valid and the primacy of “personal expression” -sex , drugs and divorce which has devastated the african american and blue collar communities to the point where society needs to step up “in loco parentis”.