Now we are told to add parents and children to the list of privileged groups who are getting a free ride from the government. Leading the backlash against "family friendly" social policy is Elinor Burkett's Baby Boon, which argues that nonparents shouldn't be forced to pay taxes and suffer other inconveniences to help support other people's children. "Handing out goodies to parents just because they are parents," writes Burkett, "is affirmative action--the preferential treatment of one group designed to correct real or perceived discrimination or inequality--based on reproductive choice."
If there's one thing most Americans agree on, it is the ideal of giving all children a fair opportunity to succeed in life. Government programs such as Head Start and election-year slogans such as "Leave no child behind" invoke the time-honored metaphor of a contest that every child has a chance to win. The very idea of free public schooling is based on this goal--and to the extent that schools don't succeed in providing equal opportunity, they are vulnerable to criticism from liberals and conservatives alike.