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Four Counter Points to MSNBC’s “Lean Forward”

In an advertisement entitled “Lean Forward,” MSNBC co-host Melissa Harris-Perry takes Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” to a new level. Ball criticizes Americans for not holding a “collective notion [that] these are our children.” She goes on to explain that “[w]e have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents.” If this wasn’t enough to get your attention, she concludes with the assertion that kids don’t belong to their parents or families, rather “kids belong to whole communities.”

Counter #1: MSNBC’s Theory is Inaccurate

First, there is no such thing as a “society” in the sense that it thinks or acts as one entity. Society is a collection of individuals and the individuals who make up that society all have different ideas, opinions, and moral convictions. In MSNBC’s context, society is the majority opinion of all of these individuals; but the majority opinion is always in flux. Right now that majority opinion may be liberal, but in two years it may be libertarian, and two years after that it may be religious-conservatism. MSNBC’s theory also assumes that there is only one best way to raise a child–society’s way. Yet, as society’s views are always in flux, the “one best way” of how to raise a child will also be in flux. Thus, the “one best way” to raise children would change; and this means that there can be no one way.

Counter #2: MSNBC’s Theory Denies Children Individuality

Secondly, children are not collective entities; children are individuals with their own needs, interests, and preferences. And who knows better the individual qualities and needs of children than their parents? According to MSNBC’s theory, society does, even though “society” doesn’t know the individual children. Therefore, the importance is not placed on the child and what is best for each individual child; rather the importance is placed on what the majority opinion perceives to be best according to its principles; and it is assumed that whatever is best for the majority must be best for each child. This theory exposes an amazing amount of hubris because it robs children of their individuality for the sake of the majority’s convictions.

Counter #3: Self-Interest, Not Hubris, Dictates What is “Best”

It’s also important to note that nobody is better situated to raise a child in the best manner possible than the child’s parents. Parents love their children, they have an intimate knowledge of each child’s needs and desires, and they are connected to their children for the duration of their lives. Thus, it is in the parent’s self-interest to do everything possible to raise their children to be happy, healthy, and successful adults. Society, on the other hand, has no knowledge of or interest in the child’s individuality and is not bound either through love or life to the child. Exposing another round of hubris, MSNBC’s social theory of child-rearing upholds its own convictions at the expense of the value of parental self-interest to children.

Counter #4: Reality and Liberty

At the end of the day, MSNBC’s theory boils down to the idea that some people don’t like how other people raise their children. I’m sure many liberals would disagree with the way in which conservatives raise their children. I’m just as sure that many conservatives would disagree with the way in which liberals raise their children. This is all okay–it is okay to disagree. However, disagreeing with somebody does not give anyone the power to force other people to comply with their beliefs. After all, this is America–the Land of Liberty.

*Edited on 4/10 with new link (better summary) and name correction.

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