Government Pays for Children to Walk Home from School
Walking your child home from school should be a simple process, left completely up to the individual parent. So why has the federal government spent nearly $1 billion since 2005 to help students walk home from school?
In 2005, federal funds were allocated for the creation of "Safe Routes To School" programs in all fifty states. According to the"Safe Streets Toolkit," community partners must be identified, task forces created, and goals set, and adult volunteers are needed to lead what are called "walking school buses."
Parents shouldn't need community partners and task force members to help them walk their children home. Your child, your responsibility. If a family issues group wants to advocate this practice, that's one thing, but the government should not be creating and funding programs to replace the basic role of parents.
Advocates of these new programs cite the rise of double-income families and urban families without access to motorized transportation as reasons for "Safe Routes to School." Either of these theories might be credible if not for one thing: the program's stated purpose. The stated purpose of "Safe Routes to School" is to "reduce vehicle usage, increase foot traffic, and consequently create healthier children and a cleaner environment." These four goals have nothing to do with assisting low-income, urban, or double-income families.
While the program does fund worthwhile projects such as street crossings and bike lanes, other aspects are more questionable. Other necessary components include public awareness programs and educational sessions on bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, and the environment.
Has society truly reached the point where parents aren't capable of getting their children home from school? Does it take a village to teach them how to cross the road? Ride a bike? Avoid getting run over by cars? If this is the place we have come to, then parents have reached an unbelievable level of ineptness.
In Wisconsin, a regional planning commission was awarded over $900,000 to assist schools that couldn't figure out how to help children walk home. This would be a logical use of taxpayer money only if parents truly are inept. Unfortunately, the professionals in charge of educating their children likely are even more so. If this is truly the case, why not give these people a simple fact sheet with bullet points? Option A: Walk your children home. Option B: Have in-laws or grandparents walk children home. Option C: Alternate pick-up days with friends. If parents and educators don't have enough common sense to reach such conclusions, $900,000 isn't going to fix this.
And the program's emphasis on environmental issues raises immediate questions about its ideological impartiality. Enrolled students learn of the adverse effects of car traffic, carbon emissions, and their individual role in reducing pollution. This brings us to the proposed public awareness campaigns. What is the end goal? Ultimately, if successful, such campaigns would increase enrollment in a program that replaces fundamental parental roles. History has taught us the importance of strong family units and their benefit to society. It has also taught us what happens to societies that ignore this fact.
Good parents are the foundation of healthy families. Good government programs aren't.
Unfortunately, the government is all too willing to take over traditional parental responsibility when we either can't or won't do it ourselves. Look at the school lunch and now breakfast programs, which are really all about government bureaucrats dictating what is healthy and what is not. We have government making parenting into something optional, something that readily can be delegated to the state.
Political agendas and fiscal responsibility aside, parents simply don't need government handbooks on how to get their children home from school. While this makes perfect sense to most, liberals have a more "compassionate" (read: totalitarian) perspective. Jonah Goldberg, writing in Liberal Fascism, sees it this way: "American liberalism is a totalitarian political religion, but not necessarily an Orwellian one. It is nice, not brutal. Nannying, not bullying. Liberalism today sees no realm of human life that is beyond political significance, from what you eat to what you smoke to what you say. Sex is political. Food is political."
To liberals, people are inherently incapable of making decisions without the government's assistance or input from experts. Liberals dream of a society where an all-powerful state's desire to help overrides the individual's quest for independence.
As progressive President Woodrow Wilson put it, "[a] lot of nonsense has been talked about the unalienable rights of the individual."
Walking your child home from school doesn't require experience, education, or even common sense. However, it does require a basic sense of responsibility. Nanny-state liberals don't believe that parents are capable of such maturity. And even worse, nearly a billion dollars has been wasted on a program built on this premise.
Josiah Cantrall served as Rick Santorum's national coalitions director. www.josiahcantrall.com