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Fall 2005

You've Come a Long Way, Baby…Don't Go Back Now
Elizabeth Ross

When I heard the Senator Rick Santorum had written a book --- presumably in direct response to Hilary Rodham Clinton's It Takes A Village --- I had to have a look at what my Senator had created. At first it seemed innocent enough, promoting the concept of parental involvement in the lives and education of their children. The extremism crept in slowly, first implying that parents knew more than educators about the educational needs of children. At least he pointed out that education was like that before in our history --- before the Industrial Revolution.

On a very simplistic level, this is a generally harmless assertion --- such as in the context of school choice. Parents do know better than anyone most of the time about what kind of school is best suited for their children, guided by the family's choice of faith, location, and finances. But Santorum did not stop there, and described a system that could best be compared to our current retail economic structure.

Schools would have to compete for the business of clientele --- the families --- with parents being the primary clients. Presumably Santorum has enough faith in the American public to leave the responsibility for major educational reform in the hands of the parents --- bottom up reform. Competition in the educational “market” probably is needed, but true and lasting reform will only occur from the top down, in the form of increased standards for individuals seeking to obtain certificates in education. Post-secondary, graduate and post-graduate programs of study in education must be changed, and should eventually become some of the most difficult programs to complete. Then higher standards in education will be easier to implement in the public school systems.

It is simply short-sighted to think that meaningful reform in education can be initiated by the public at a time when low educational performance is beginning to cause businesses to search for greener pastures overseas --- it isn't just the money driving them away. If the people haven't learned enough in school to fill factory positions for Sony in my backyard --- lack of sufficient computational skills in local high school graduate applicants is their current complaint --- how can one assume they have been educated well enough to make important decisions about educational reform?

No book by a radical right-wing politician would be complete without a few words about abortion and women's rights --- Santorum spent three chapters on this all-important issue. He made it clear that his goal is to see the end of abortions in America, for the sake of the rights of the unborn child. My personal views on the moral and ethical issues surrounding this aside, I find the hypocrisy amusing. Santorum is rabidly supporting the concept of protecting a fertilized egg from being prevented the ability to mature completely, but makes no mention of an important legal definition of personhood. In three chapters of preaching from his soapbox, he never once suggests that the Federal government legally recognize that fertilized egg from conception by ordering the IRS to allow for tax deductions.

Why is that? On the purely pragmatic level, imagine the headache --- and amount of tax fraud --- that would occur if every woman could claim a developing fetus as a dependent. It isn't a matter of inability to prove financial liability, as anyone who has seen the medical bills involved in pregnancy and delivery can tell you. There are a few issues I have yet to understand about the pro-choice movement, and this is a major one. I can't understand why those on the pro-choice front have never brought up the fact that anti-choice advocates never speak from the legal high ground. The murder laws that allow for dual charges when someone kills a pregnant woman really don't count on this one --- a person can also be sentenced to prison for killing a dog. Cold and unfeeling as it may seem, the fact remains that a person becomes a person legally when the IRS allows for that person as a dependent --- that occurs only after the person has been born.

Years ago, when I volunteered as an escort at an abortion clinic, I lost my temper with the anti-choice protesters. Back then, it was suggested that we not say anything to the protesters, but if they got too close, we could speak up. One time they tried to physically pull the woman I was escorting away from the door, and I turned on them, asking which of them wanted to adopt her child when it was born. Not one came forward --- they all backed away, looks of shock on their faces. For all their dedication to the cause, they couldn't see their way clear to put their money where their mouths were. Boil it down, and that is where the anti-choice politicians are as well.

No, the real issue behind it all is really much simpler. Santorum and his ilk are dreaming of a society like we had in the 1950's, or earlier. In their minds, things became far too complicated over the years --- those pesky civil rights movements gave the wrong sort of people too much power. So they wrap themselves in the flag, pick up a cross, and hop up on their soapboxes, telling the masses how much better it would be if abortions were illegal, if the people controlled the schools instead of the educators, and if Judeo-Christian values could become the foundation for civil and criminal law.

Santorum's It Takes a Family is a collection of naïve ramblings about what one man wishes our society could be. He places great weight on what he thinks the framers of the Constitution had intended that document to be. Not unlike the literal interpretations of the Christian Bible and Koran by fundamentalist Christians and Muslims respectively, Santorum's interpretations are convoluted to justify his personal beliefs. The Constitution is a living and breathing document written, as it was to allow for growth and change --- of the government with its people. What the framers thought at the time they wrote it was that our nation would grow and look to its future. The past, including themselves, would be part of our collective history. They did not want us to examine their intentions to justify losing ground in our development as a people. Santorum shames their legacy by trying to use them for that purpose.