“Mom, I need to ask you something,” my daughter begins as she buckles her seat belt. Knowing the drive to school lasts only six minutes she must figure the answer will be either concise or embarrassing, so I brace myself for a question about the meaning of a phrase I will undoubtedly have to look up on Urbandictionary.com.
“What’s the difference between liberals and conservatives?”
Whew. An easy one. I’m just glad she didn’t ask the difference between Democrats and Republicans. That’s harder to explain.
“The short answer is, liberals think government can solve a lot our problems, while conservatives believe the government should be limited so that people can solve their own problems.”
I offer up a couple of examples of government programs to illustrate the point – the stimulus package, “Cash for Clunkers” – but there’s not much time to elaborate as we arrive in the school drop off lane.
“Well, I’m definitely a conservative,” Amy says as she climbs out of the van. “See ya.”
I’m amused, but not surprised, that my 12-year-old already has decided on a philosophical label. Knowing Amy, it won’t be long before she’s asking me the difference between neo-cons and libertarians or the “Old Right” versus the “New Right.” Clearly, she was sent to us by God to keep us on our toes.
I’m also not surprised to be having a conversation about political theory with one of my children. Call us geeky (we’re OK with that), but we believe it’s crucial to teach our children not only our core religious beliefs but also our political beliefs. This is what it means to instill our values, and thus, to do the real work of parenting.
Of course, my “civics lesson in a nutshell” doesn’t even begin to articulate the differences between liberals and conservatives in our country today. Beyond the political implications, these labels also describe a general worldview about freedom and responsibility, liberty and license, duty and entitlement.
Lofty stuff for the ride to school, to be sure, but timely nonetheless.
Today in Alexandria, some 80 conservative leaders, including the heads of some of the nation’s most influential groups of the right, gather to sign a document that has been more than a year in the making called the Mount Vernon Statement. For those of us seeking to pass on our conservative values and ideals to our children, this new document reinvigorates the old – but not outdated – concepts behind the founding of our country.