Wards of the state

In light of the Ontario government's a brave new plan to nationalize children, might I submit a modest proposal of my own? Forget kindergarten and after-school programs. The state should pick up your kids from the maternity ward and return them with an MA and a social conscience 22 years later.

No, really. The Toronto Star characteristically gushed about Dr. Charles Pascal's new report, "Ontario parents of 4- and 5-year-olds should be able to leave their children at school from 7:30 in the morning to 6 p.m." creating "the so-called 'seamless day'... Research has shown that, especially for younger children, the fewer transitions, the better." A day later the Globe and Mail chirped about making "the neighbourhood public school the hub of every community, where parents will get everything from prenatal advice and nutrition counselling to childcare for those under four, full-day kindergarten, and before and after school programming" so "parents can minimize the difficult transitions that disrupt their own lives and the lives of their children ..."

So let's get serious and dispense with a bunch of other disruptive transitions like rushing the kids home at night and back to the bureaucrats in the morning. Who could object?

OK, teachers' unions squawked about having to share their turf with those wretched "early childhood educators" and threatened legal action. But they can be bought off. The only really sour note was my friend Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and the Family Canada saying parents would rather look after their own kids and complaining "What this suggests is professionals can do a better job than parents." Silly girl. Of course it does.

Behind all this prattle is one central assumption, so let's cut to the chase. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1920, "the latest light on the education of the young ... assumes that a child will certainly be loved by anybody except his mother." It still does, assuming that a close and nurturing bond naturally exists between public employees and young people that is absent or defective between them and their parents.

Whatever the solemn media greybeards think of the program's details, has one of them raised the possibility that children might, as a rule, be better raised and educated by their own parents? Even the Globe's Margaret Wente kicked off her critique of the report: "Who could possibly argue against more kindergarten for our kids? Not me. You might as well denounce apple sauce and motherhood. Kindergarten is a lot of fun, not to mention a safe, convenient place for mom and dad to stash the kids while they go to work." So much for motherhood. And Dalton McGuinty and the experts know it. So why pretend?

It might be thought tactful to avoid blurting out anti-family sentiments and spooking the vulgar masses. But they are openly voiced when the hicks are assumed not to be listening. Like John Kenneth Galbraith's would-be bon mot in 1973 that "the modern household does not allow expression of individual personality and preference" because it "is essentially a disguise for the exercise of male authority."

Or Michael Ignatieff's claim in The Rights Revolution that: "So-called family values, as propagated in the rhetoric of North American popular entertainment, pulpit sermonizing, and political homily, are a downright tyranny. ... Nature and natural instinct are poor guides in these matters. If good parenting were a matter of instinct, families wouldn't be the destructive institutions they so often are." Whereas social science is ... um ... gee ...

This is no mere fad. Seventy five years ago Chesterton called the family something "now never mentioned in respectable circles." When parents are mentioned in discussions of the Pascal report, it is almost universally to note what a relief it will be for them to be rid of their offspring for a whole day. The Globe editorialized that the report's social science might be unsound but "no doubt the Ontario plan would make life easier for working parents. ..." And this newspaper headlined a Wednesday story, "McGuinty plan called 'great' for parents, tough on day cares," though it did warn that some need to warehouse their kids outside these bourgeois working hours. Indeed. But since we are all gender communists now, let's stop pussyfooting around.

Even my initial proposal was too timid. Forget maternity wards. The state should cultivate children from conception in nutrient-rich artificial wombs, care for them through college, guarantee them jobs and social security as adults, furnish pensions for their senior years and wrap things up with government nursing homes, euthanasia clinics and cremation.

Talk about convenient.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson