Can Government Save the Family?

By Largent, Steve; Dobson, James et al. | Policy Review, September-October 1996 | Go to article overview

Can Government Save the Family?


Largent, Steve, Dobson, James, Engler, John, Kennedy, D. James, Ashcroft, John D., Galston, William A., Blankenhorn, David, Quayle, Dan, Weyrich, Paul, James, Kay, Policy Review


What can government do, if anything, to make sure that the overwhelming majority of American children grow up with a mother and father?" Policy Review asked a number of family experts across the political spectrum to address this question, considering state and local government as well as the federal government.

Rep. Steve Largent Encourage Parental Involvement In the classic movie King Kong, the giant ape lifts the tiny heroine into his hairy hands with a puzzled look on his face, as if to say, "She's small and cute, but now what do I do with her?" Similarly, what can or should that giant leviathan known as "government" do to provide children with parental guidance? My first thought is the same one I had when I saw the massive Kong delicately hold the fragile heroine: "I hope he doesn't hurt her."

Government should always keep in mind that no one loves children more than their parents. There are many in Washington who believe otherwise, and think that they know what's best for your children. The best thing that government can do to ensure children grow up with a mother and father is to recognize that parents -- both a mother and a father -- are fundamental to a child's upbringing in the first place.

Government needs to encourage and solicit -- not frustrate -- parental involvement in the education of children. In the early 1930s, there were more than 130,000 school boards in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 15,000. We need to encourage parental participation by restoring local school boards for each and every school and empowering them -- together with faculty and administrators -- to determine educational policies and curricula. We must also enact school choice and voucher plans to give parents more control over their children's education.

Finally, we must stem the tide of divorce, including so-called "no-fault divorce." Nothing harms children more than losing the support and involvement of either parent, a frequent result of divorce. We should give the institution of marriage greater respect and protection. A marriage ought to be difficult to enter and even more difficult to leave. How about requiring a waiting period before every wedding?

We need to acknowledge that government -- in any form -- can never provide what children need most: love. Only two people are qualified for that -- Mom and Dad.

Steve Largent, a Republican, represents the 1st District of Oklahoma.

James Dobson

Revive the "Marriage Culture"

A distressing number of children in this nation will go to bed tonight without the participation of both a mother and father in an important family ritual: reading a bedtime story, saying nighttime prayers, and being tucked in with reassuring goodnight kisses. This experience is more and more often a solo act for one reason: the slow death of a marriage culture. It is being replaced by a culture of divorce and illegitimacy, each of which now exists, for the first time in our nation's history, in equal proportion to their opposites. It is paramount that we re-establish an appreciation of the value and virtue of marriage, both for the individual and society. As recent history shows, this work cannot rest on the ever-expanding shoulders of government (also known to some as "the village").

When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report on the declining health of the black family in America, few authorities took his warning seriously -- except his boss, President Lyndon Johnson. Largely influenced by Moynihan's work, Johnson's "Great Society" swelled a small government bureaucracy of 45 domestic social programs to a leviathan of 435 by the end of his administration. Yet for all this "help," things have only gotten worse since then. What can be done?

There are four obvious imperatives for government. First, it should clearly define marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. Second, states should reform no-fault divorce laws. …

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