Tuesday, October 30, 2007


In the course of a review of What Democracy Is For: On Freedom and Moral Government, by Stein Ringen, Albert Mohler quotes a section describing some of what families do for children. Merely recounting those things makes obvious how much is lost when children grow up without that support, or without important elements of it. From the book:
Then families provide for those children. They feed, clothe, and give them a place to live. They give them a home, a place where they can usually be safe and protected.

Families tell children who they are: where they come from, who their grandparents and ancestors are, of what kind they are, where they belong, and what their identity is.

Families teach children values and norms. From parents and in the experience of family cooperation, children learn about the difference between good and bad and right and wrong and acquire the ability to believe in that knowledge.

Families teach children to learn. They teach them how to work and how to be social. The family experience is the basis for success in schooling and formal education. It is in the family that children first learn about discussions, negotiations, and shrewdness; about give-and-take, cooperating and fighting; about what it takes to get on with others; about the combined ability to be flexible and to stand one's ground. Each family is a political academy where children get their grounding experiences of citizenship, of rights and duties, of freedom and responsibility. It is in the family that children learn the elementary virtues of manners, politeness, civility, and charm (or do not learn it, as the case may be).

Families educate children. They teach them to walk and speak, to dress and eat, to wash and brush their teeth, to behave-the thousand and one skills that make up daily life and that all who have learned them perform with intuition and obviousness (and make those who do not know them intolerable people).

All these things these ordinary little institutions provide for. Different families do it in different ways, some do it better than others. They are not alone in these jobs. Families share the raising of children with kin and friends and the training of children with schools and nurseries. But to the question of what families are, one answer, also when we see families from the point of view of children, is that they are institutions of production.
AlbertMohler.com: Democracy and the Family - Setting the Record Straight

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