The political conventions, beginning with the GOP extravaganza in Tampa this week, will revel in our current myth of American parenting — that a solid education begins and ends with home discipline.
The Republicans will focus on the sturdy family values of the Romney clan, all digging ditches and filling weekends with chores.
Next month, the Democrats will likely tout the Obama version: two daughters who are expected to mind their manners, think first of others and tend their garden (literally).
The point of these upbringings, campaign strategists will try to reinforce to the audience, is that the Romney boys were raised and the Obama girls are being raised to avoid embracing the trappings of their family wealth.
The message is intended to make it seem as if the presidential contenders are not only responsible family men and good fathers but also a lot like us. They’re trying to pass on fundamental values to their children regardless of, even despite, their vast wealth.
Oh, but if they were more like us, than there would be no need to showcase the forced drudgery of their children’s lives.
It certainly appears both Mitt Romney and President Obama are committed parents who have tried to provide their kids with wonderful childhoods. Why not be more honest about that?
If they were, the two might talk about how lucky they feel that their kids have learned from so much travel and exposure to all kinds of people; how they have been awed by their children’s benefit from exotic experiences; that they have adored witnessing the fruits of their kids’ enrichment classes. Perhaps, too, that they have found the high price of private of education well worth it.
It’s not like we don’t understand that the Romney boys benefited from both a disciplined family life and mind-expanding educations. Ditto the Obama girls. Nightly dinners are important, but so are trips to Africa and lectures from Supreme Court justices (a Sidwell Friends school perk).
These parents do seem to be like us in many ways. They appear to be devoted to their families and committed to raising responsible kids and grandkids. The real difference between them and the vast majority of us is that they have been able to provide their children boundless opportunities and educations. Why pretend otherwise?
No offense to chores -- they should be imposed and endured. But few of us regular folks would be happy that our children spent most of their downtime scrubbing the floor.
We’d rather use our extra or borrowed income to try to expand, not constrict, our kids lives. Many of us look longingly at the Sidwell Friends and Belmont Hill private school curriculums and think that if only we could afford it, we, too, would give our child that gift.
Instead, we try to broaden the academic lessens our kids receive in our test-obsessed public schools and stretch our budgets to pay for the sports and arts programming that have been cut from school budgets.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if at one of the conventions, the voice-over in the life story video mentioned that the candidate’s wealth greatly improved his children’s lives? And, better, that the candidate himself follow up in a speech by suggesting that all American children should be so lucky, that public education could strive to offer all kids access to such mind-blowing educations?
Wishful thinking, of course.
The conventions are more about bringing the candidates into our living rooms and down to our size. They are about, too often, perpetuating intelligence-insulting myths, like the one that says household chores, which cost neither federal money nor political capital, are the key to family values.
Do you plan to watch the conventions? What issues are you hoping are addressed?