Far right view on day-care is baffling

January 13, 1998|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- I was absolutely certain that the moment President Clinton proposed a huge expansion of child-care programs conservatives would shout that day-care centers are the most dangerous thing for youngsters since the bubonic plague. It took the Wall Street Journal less than 24 hours to launch such a broadside.

In an editorial Thursday, the Journal told us that ''day care can sometimes hurt children. Longer hours in day care can hurt them even more . . . Mom and Dad matter most. Mom and Dad are the best teachers.''

The Journal ridicules ''the Clintons and their allies'' because they are not advocating ''staying home one's self with a lonely child from time to time.''

Amen chorus

This little sermon may get ''amens'' from those conservatives who think they invented family values, but the ''Mom and Pop'' stuff has no meaning for the 18,938,000 children the Census Bureau says were living in one-parent households at last count (1995). The great majority of these heads of household are women who have no choice but to work long hours, and thus need good, safe day-care centers desperately.

The Journal bolstered its attack on day care by also printing Thursday an article by a Phoenix lawyer, Andrew Peyton Thomas, asserting that ''children raised in day-care centers and similar institutions are often emotionally maladjusted and mentally impaired.'' Mr. Thomas can't possibly understand the mental and physical afflictions of the children of working parents who don't have access to good day-care centers.

Mr. Thomas glorifies the 1950s when he says ''children were raised by two parents in a safe, comfortable home, and Mom was almost always there to look after them when they were young.''

His nostalgia for the 1950s is flawed by his lack of memory that the moms in many thousands of poor families (like mine) were off in menial jobs, struggling to keep their families above a subsistence level of life.

Mr. Thomas and the Journal ignore the real-world fact that more than 23 million American women with children under the age of 18 are now in the labor force, and that day care for their children is better than anything else that is available.

Mr. Thomas says ''religious leaders should decry the selfishness and materialism that lead parents to put their careers ahead of their children.'' That is baseless slander of the parents who work mostly for their children -- to allow them to go to private schools, a good college, to have a computer and access to ''the information highway.''

The Journal was out front pressing for abolishment of welfare programs, saying that indigent mothers should ''get a job.'' Does it now really want to deny their children day care?

Bill Clinton surely knew that right-wingers would assail day care as ''psychological thalidomide'' and worse. He is to be commended for facing the fight.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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