June 2, 2000
The war on momBen Boychuk and Matthew Robinson
Is government-run day care the next great weapon in the fight against crime? You might think that if you read a deceptive new report embraced by Hillary Clinton at the White House recently.
Without "quality educational child care," the report says, at-risk kids are more likely to grow up to be violent offenders. The report is a compilation of studies about children in and out of government-funded day care programs in North Carolina and Chicago. It was issued by Fight Crime: Invest In Kids, described as "a 700-member bipartisan coalition of police chiefs, sheriffs and crime victims."
If you've ever wanted to be at the birth of one of those liberal clichés that purports to explain a complex issue of life in the width of a bumper sticker, this is it.
Every part of "quality educational child care" is meant to sound nice, harmless, comforting. It is also meant to demonize the critic subtly, drive media coverage, mobilize legions of activists, and create a sense of crisis on Capitol Hill. In the forked tongue of Beltway speak, "quality education child care" means a taxpayer-funded array of government programs, bureaucracies, agencies and panels to fix social problems.
Harvard pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, one of the report's authors, says: "The most powerful weapons in our anti-crime arsenal are the investments in children and youth that get them off to the right start."
The most powerful? Really? And just what's on the investment wish list? Preschool care, the prevention of child abuse and neglect, good schools and after-school programs, and school-to-work and job training programs.
Notice, however, there is no mention of two-parent homes in that litany of "investments." In fact, Fight Crime's coalition of police, social scientists and child-welfare activists take it for granted that the two-parent home is no longer a viable goal worth striving for. "Wishful thinking won't save lives. Good educational child care will."
Can daycare really reverse decades-old social pathologies? Not likely. According to new data from National Center for Health Statistics, one of three births are out of wedlock. Despite the economic prosperity of the last decade and the increased social spending that's part of the Great Society legacy, illegitimacy is still our nation's most far-reaching problem.
We know that boys with both parents in the home are half as likely to be incarcerated, regardless of the parents' race, income or education level. According to Cynthia Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, each year a boy spends without a father in the home increases the odds of his future incarceration by 5 percent. That means a boy born to an unwed mother is 2.5 times more likely to end up behind bars, as opposed to 1.5 times for a boy whose parents split up when he was a teen-ager.
Most every problem — from teen sex and drugs to violence and gangs — is traceable to the disintegration of the family.
The authors of the Fight Crime study claim their solution isn't "about ideology or philosophy." Yet these advocates of the therapeutic state are just cloaking more programs, committees and spending under the rubric of crime-fighting.
In fact, it really is about ideology — an ideology dressed up in numbers and disguised in science, being pushed by the same people who believe the people shouldn't be trusted with their own money and own decisions. They want more government control over retirement, medicine, education — so why not trust the government stepping in for mom and dad?
Mrs. Clinton has put government daycare at the top of her U.S. Senate campaign agenda. She's joined by a number of prominent Washington Democrats who want to spend another $1 billion on Head Start — for a total of nearly $6 billion. They also promise that another $2 billion in Childcare and Development Block Grants to further subsidize child-care will do what 35 years and $3 trillion in welfare hasn't.
Washington do-gooders keep pressing for government intervention earlier and earlier into the life of children. Yet since the push for universal kindergarten, preschool, or Head Start, not a shred of evidence has turned up to prove that the cold concrete of government care can replace the loving arms and warm attention of a devoted mother and father.
Since the 1960s we've learned that the Great Society was an extended war on the role of the father in bringing up children. Let's not make the sanctimonious phrase, "quality education daycare" a synonym for a war against mom.
Ben Boychuk is director of publications for the Claremont Institute. Matthew Robinson is a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow and an adjunct fellow of the Claremont Institute.
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