by Rhonda Sherrod, J.D., Ph.D.

(c) July 29, 2012

Let’s talk about government.  Yes, government, and how it is supposed to work in our communities.  Listening to WVON-AM radio in Chicago on this past Saturday night, it was excruciatingly painful to hear a beautiful older sister try to school the host on the importance of community programming for the healthy development of our children.  The host appeared to feel, unequivocally, that it is up to the parents to make sure their kids don’t get into trouble.

Okay.  I have had enough of that argument.  NO ONE denies the importance of parental involvement, guidance, and supervision.  We all know that, in general, parents are the earliest, most important, persuasive, and effective teachers.  But guess what?   Many children do not have parents who are functioning at a level that would allow them to be good stewards of their children’s development.  Also, there are children out there who have good — even great — parents who go astray.  Those two unassailable facts have always been the case, across cultures, and will likely always be the case.

However, the fact is, traditionally, in modern American communities there have been many different structures that assisted in the child and adolescent developmental process by providing support for parents, children, and families so that all could have a better chance at thriving.  Good schools with good teachers that are determined to educate, together with meaningful community programming, like boys and girls clubs, the YMCA, the park district, music and arts programming in the schools, etcetera, all of which are government supported in one way or another, have all played a part in keeping communities strong and kids off the streets where danger is often fomented.

When people ask for — and they need to DEMAND — programs, they are not asking for the government “to raise our kids” or “to give us handouts” as so many people like to phrase it.  No, they are asking for the government to live up to the social contract that exists between taxpayers and governments — federal, state, and municipal.  People pay their taxes, and that money is supposed to come back to the people in many forms, like roads, highways, bridges, sidewalks, and sanitation, but also community and public school programming!  What is so hard to understand about that?  Instead of wasting billions of dollars with government contractors making a mint off the people’s money for no good reason, bring that money back to the communities — ALL of the communities — where it belongs, so that the legitimate needs, hopes, aspirations, aims, and desires of the people can be supported.  We need to stop listening to the ridiculous diatribes spewing out of the mouths of right wing nuts, whose communities actually receive most of the same things you are asking for, and start thinking for ourselves about what is needed to make our communities stronger.

Parents cannot be with their children all hours of the day.  There are no Ann Romneys in the inner-cities, and even if one is a stay at home mom, she is still unable to be with her child every waking moment of every day.  We need better and more community programs and school clubs, organizations, and activities to consume our children’s time with edifying and educational content.  That is a sound and valid function of government to “insure domestic tranquility…promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”  (Emphasis added)  Do you understand?