Hillary Clinton wrote a book called, “It takes a Village”. The title reflects an African proverb: it takes a village to raise a child. She suggests that the model of the western nuclear family is inadequate for the complex task of raising children. She was both right and wrong.

The African village offers to the western mind a romantic picture of community. There we see an extended family: multi-generational relationships living in the stability of a deep rooted heritage. It’s an idyllic image, undisturbed by the relational fragmentation or frequent relocation that characterizes our culture.

So far, so good. We need a counterbalance to the rugged individualism of the modern era. But then Ms Clinton suggests that it is the State that should be the village that raises the child. This represents something of a leap. Parenting responsibilities are certainly daunting in today’s climate. In this day of specialized experts, it seems so natural to turn to the highly qualified. But whether the bureaucracy of government programs is really the equivalent to an African village is less clear.

God, in his wisdom, entrusted children to parents, not experts; to families, not institutions. He knew the terror of inadequacy that would grip parents when first holding their own child: “Help!” But still he chose parents. Amateurs, rather than professionals. And of course he understood what an amateur is: as the etymology of the word suggests, it is somebody who does something for love (Latin: amare) rather than money. But he also heard their cry for help – and placed families in community.

We suggest that the State is not the best expression of the kind of community that parents need. In fact, contrary to Ms Clinton’s argument, the State is anything but a village. In its apparently benevolent provision of free public education it has its own agenda. That, as we shall return to see, is a cause for concern. G.K.Chesterton was far-sighted in his observation that, “The State did not own men so entirely when it could send them to the stake as it sometimes does now when it can send them to the elementary school.”

We shall explore the suggestion that Ms Clinton was both right and wrong. “The Village”, in the way that she used that term, looks somewhat more like inner city chaos than rural tranquility. The public school system is not God’s answer to a parent’s cry for help. But help is needed; it takes a community to raise our children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.

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