Mr. Zarbin, a retired newspaperman, does historical research and writing in Phoenix, Arizona.
More often than I can recall, I have heard people, especially at school graduations, say that children are our (the nation’s, the country’s) most precious resource.
This declaration always chills me. Children are not a resource, metaphorically or otherwise. Children are growing, maturing people, dependent upon their elders for moral, spiritual, ethical, and practical guidance. They are not something to be shaped, fabricated, or spent in the manufacturing, production, or political process.
Children are not the resource of either the nation or parents. Children are individualistic souls with the ability to exercise their own free will. In formative years, when they are subjected to the wisdom, or lack thereof, of parents and others, their judgment likely will reflect immaturity. It is to be hoped that by the time they reach adulthood they will know enough to make choices that will enhance rather than injure themselves. In any event, they are likely to make some good decisions and some bad ones, just as the rest of us do. The most that we can ask of young individuals is that they extend to other people the degree of respect and appreciation they want for themselves. If they do, chances are excellent that as young adults they will fit readily into the larger community.
Children are not the nation’s to mold. They are born with no debt, obligation, or other service to the state or to the government. (There is, of course, the politically created national debt that will be paid in taxes, inflation, or be repudiated, but that is not the subject of this essay.) They will learn soon enough that there are adults who would use, abuse, and corrupt them in the name of the mystic nation or state. There is no antidote to this beyond training children and adults to understand that their liberty and freedom may depend upon uniting to resist oppression and oppressors.
Nor do parents possess children except in the familial sense of accepting responsibility for the physical and spiritual nurture of their offspring until they are ready to take responsibility for themselves. It is the duty of parents to direct their children toward understanding and acceptance of this responsibility.
It should be clear that children are not possessions, they are not property, they are not someone’s resource. But what children are, and what they become, is to considerable measure dependent, at least initially, upon the condition of their progenitors.
If parents are schooled and believe in freedom, it is likely their children will, too. The reason should be obvious: the superiority of freedom as a way of life exceeds by far any other choice or means of existence. It is only as free, independent, thinking people that we can cooperate voluntarily and aspire for truly decent lives.
We are born of woman to be no man’s, no woman’s, no country’s, no nation’s resource, property, or servant. With that understanding, it is easy to see that our most precious resource is freedom.