In my last column, I proposed some explanations for why many conservative parents have left-wing children.
In a nutshell, American parents who hold traditional American values — such as belief in small government as the basis of liberty, or a God-based moral code, or American military strength as the greatest contributor to world peace and stability, or American exceptionalism, not to mention the man-woman definition of marriage or the worth of a human fetus — are at war with almost every influence on their children’s lives. This includes, most important, the media and the schools.
Here, then, are some suggestions for raising a child with American — i.e., conservative — values:
First, non-left-wing parents need to understand that if they do not articulate their values on a regular basis, there is a good chance that after one year, let alone four years, at college, their child will adopt left-wing views and values. Do not think for a moment that values are automatically transmitted. A hundred years ago they may have been — because the outside world overwhelmingly reaffirmed parents’ traditional values — but no longer.
You have to explain to your children — repeatedly — what America and you stand for. (That, if I may note, is why I wrote Still the Best Hope and why I started PragerUniversity.com).
Second, they need to know what they will be taught at college — and now in many high schools — and how to respond. When they are told from Day One at college that America and its white citizens are inherently racist, they need to know how to counter this libel with these truths: America is the least racist society in the world; more black Africans have immigrated here of their own volition than were brought here forcibly to be slaves; and “racist” is merely one of many epithets, such as “sexist,” “intolerant,” “xenophobic,” “homophobic,” “Islamophobic,” and “bigoted,” that the Left uses instead of arguments.
Third, when possible, it is best that your child not go to college immediately after high school. One reason colleges are able to indoctrinate students is that students enter college young and unworldly. It is very rare that adult students are convinced to abandon their values and become left-wing. Why? Because they have lived life and are much less naïve. For example, someone with life experience is far more likely than a kid just out of high school to understand that the best formula for avoiding poverty is personal responsibility — get a job, get married, and then have children — not government help.
Teenagers who spend a year before going to college working — in a restaurant, for a moving company, at an office — will mature far more than they would after a year at college. And maturity is an inoculation against leftism.
If your home is Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Mormon, another option for the year after high school is to have your child devote a year to studying religion in some formal setting. The more your child knows, lives, and adheres to the principles of any of these religions, the less likely he or she will convert to leftism, which has been the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years. For example, it is a fundamental belief of each of these Judeo-Christian religions that the root of evil is within the evildoer. But it is a fundamental belief of leftism that people murder, steal, and rape overwhelmingly because of outside influences such as poverty and racism. The moment your child understands that people who commit evil — not poverty or racism — are responsible for it, he or she cannot be a leftist.
Fourth, don’t be preoccupied with instilling high self-esteem in your child. It is the Left that believes that self-esteem is a child’s right, something that parents and society owe children. Conservatives believe that everyone, including children, must earn self-esteem. Indeed, the belief in earning — rather than in being given — is conservative.
Fifth, teach character. The Left has essentially defined a good person as one who holds progressive social positions — on race, the environment, taxes, health care, etc. That is why the Left, including the feminist Left, could so adore Bill Clinton, who regularly used his positions of power to take advantage of women: He held progressive positions.
If your child recycles, or walks five or ten kilometers on behalf of breast cancer, that is lovely. But if your child refuses to cheat on tests or befriends an unpopular kid at school, that is character. And teaching that definition of character is more often done in a conservative (usually a religiously conservative) context.
It is not all that hard to produce a son or daughter able to withstand left-wing indoctrination. You just have to understand that it doesn’t happen automatically.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.