The differences between villages

Published 8:52 pm Monday, March 17, 2014

By Joseph Bass

An ancient proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Although many people quote the proverb and write books and articles about it, most people don’t understand the total concept.

Another way of looking at this proverb is that young adults are a product of their villages. They are not the product of the schools, the police department, the recreational department, the library, the social welfare department, the city council, the school board and so on. They are the product of their parents and the other adults who daily interact with children in their villages.

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Personal interactions between villagers and children form the psychological framework of thinking that makes a child into either a successful, responsible, self-reliant adult or a failing, irresponsible older person.

There are differences between the villages that produce successful, responsible, self-reliant adults and those that produce failing, irresponsible ones. If we are going to improve society we must learn about the differences and work to make the failing villages into successful ones.

American villages are usually “bottom up” in terms of their development and approaches to self-reliance. The adults demonstrate a can-do attitude, and their actions reflect this view. They are can-do in terms of developing their own businesses, churches and community organizations. If something needs to be done within the village, adults and older children come together and form a community team to provide what is needed.

This pattern was repeated for hundreds of years across the American frontier. It continues today in many areas of our nation. The products of these villages are successful, responsible, self-reliant adults.

During the last 50 years a new type of village has developed in the United States that has not produced successful, responsible, self-reliant adults. These villages are based on the belief that villagers are not capable of providing for themselves. They are not capable of doing what other Americans have done for hundreds of years.

This view holds that government must form “top down” organizations, providing services and funds to support the villagers. The results have been disastrous for the villagers and their children, who are becoming failing, irresponsible adults.

To overcome the damage done during the last 50 years, it is necessary to move from the top-down governmental approach and return to what has worked in America for hundreds of years. But too many people continue to believe in the disastrous, top-down approach to social change.

Through their donations and actions they continue to support efforts that have not and never will achieve the desired results.

There are socially dynamic approaches to building villages that encourage villagers to demonstrate their real capabilities. These approaches can result in villagers taking responsibility for themselves, their children and their communities.

Perhaps one day enough people will become interested in these ideas for them to be put into effective action.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at