SKOKIE, Ill. – “Government is like a nation’s family.”

That was the message of a social studies lesson assigned to fourth-graders in Illinois’ East Prairie School, according to

The government-as-family lesson was taken from the “U.S. Government and Presidents” workbook created by Carson-Dellosa Publishing.

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A worksheet taken from that book – titled “What Is Government” – presents students with a series of 10 questions that compare the functions of the U.S. government to those of a family. Students are asked to give examples of how their family and government keep them safe and healthy, help educate them, and create and enforce rules.

To help drive the comparison home, the lesson includes “a drawing of Uncle Sam cradling a baby that represents the citizens,” reports

The purpose of the lesson is found in its introduction:

“Government is all of the agencies, departments, organizations, groups and individuals in a nation who make, carry out, enforce, and manage conflicts about rules and laws. Government is like a nation’s family. Families take care of children and make sure they are safe, healthy, educated, and free to enjoy life. Families encourage children to be independent, hardworking, and responsible. Families make and enforce rules and give appropriate punishments when rules are broken. Government does these things for its citizens, too.”

East Prairie Superintendent Teri Madl told the the assignment did not have a political agenda and was only “meant to offer a simple analogy that helps children understand that part of a government’s role is to set rules, enforce those rules, and provide safety, security and freedom for its citizens.”

That seems to be a reasonable explanation. Other lessons in the “U.S. Government and Presidents” workbook appear balanced, which makes it difficult to ascribe political motives to this particular lesson.

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Still, it’s understandable that many parents and taxpayers are uncomfortable seeing the federal government depicted as a benevolent, father-like figure who just wants to protect his “children.” That’s an analogy one expects to find in third-world dictatorships, not in American classrooms.

Besides, it’s far from accurate. In many cases our government, at the federal and state level, does not encourage hard work or personal responsibility. It attacks personal liberties instead of providing citizens with more freedom. Many Americans are not “safe, healthy and educated,” despite various government efforts to promote those goals.

If our government is like a family, it can only be described as dysfunctional.

If teachers and lesson makers want to avoid this type of controversy in the future, they should introduce students to this warning from George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”