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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Children of the State

The rights and freedoms defined in the Constitution of United States don't really apply to children. They can't vote, own guns, etc. It's not surprising that the founders didn't consider the rights of children. After all women and slaves had no rights either and I think it was assumed that parents had the final authority and responsibility for raising a child. Of course, most of the parents back then belonged to a community and church, each of which absorbed part of the burden of raising children.

On the other hand, the Constitution doesn't define any rights for parents either. While I'm confident the founders expected parents to raise their own children, there's no inherent conflict between the Constitution and Jonathan Swift's Lilliputian style society (from Gulliver's Travels) where children are taken away from their parents at birth and raised by the State:
Their [the Lilliputians'] notions relating to the Duties of Parents and Children differ extremely from ours. For since the Conjunction of Male and Female is founded upon the great Law of Nature, in order to propagate and continue the Species, the Lilliputians will needs have it, that Men and Women are joined together like other Animals, by the Motives of Concupiscence; and that their Tenderness towards their Young proceeds from the like natural Principle: for which reason they will never allow, that a Child is under any Obligation to his Father for begetting him, or his Mother for bringing him into the World; which, considering the Miseries of human Life, was neither a Benefit in it self, or intended so by his Parents, whose Thoughts in their Love-Encounters were otherwise employ'd. Upon these, and the like Reasonings, their Opinion is, that Parents are the last of all others to be trusted with the Education of their own Children: and therefore they have in every Town publick Nurseries, where all Parents, except Cottagers and Labourers, are obliged to send their Infants of both Sexes to be reared and educated when they come to the Age of twenty Moons...
It sounds eminently reasonable. After all, I can't count the number of times I've been told that some/most/all parents are incompetent idiots/fanatics because they do one or more of the following:
  1. Bring up their children to be religious;
  2. Bring up their children to be non-religious;
  3. Advocate for teaching Intelligent Design in high school;
  4. Advocate for teaching Evolution in high school;
  5. Teach their children to play a lame sport like soccer;
  6. Teach their children to play a lame sport like baseball;
  7. And so forth...
The reasons parents are bad are varied and contradictory. There's only one common denominator: that everybody else who doesn't raise their children the One Right Way is a bad parent. Bad for the child. Bad for society. So, if only the State would follow in the footsteps of the Lilliputians and take over the task of childrearing, both the children and society would be far better off.

Where have I heard an argument like that before? Ahhh, I Remember. It sounds much like what advocates for Socialism said: why let ignorant and loathsome merchants, businesses owners, and entrepreneurs, who are distributed throughout the country control the means of production? Clearly the government with centralized control and access to numerous experts can do a better job!

Well, that didn't work so well.

Same for the kids. Why let ignorant parents control the upbringing of the future citizens of our society? Clearly the government with centralized control and access to numerous experts can do a better job!

Well, that won't work so well either.

Centralized authorities can do okay at one-size-fits-all sorts of programs. However, children are individuals with large variations in their needs and abilities who live in communities that are each unique. Thus, the one-size-fits-all approach is likely to be far from optimal.

Some parents will be bad parents. However, overall, the individualized attention parents can give their children is a huge advantage relative to one-size-fits-all and will create more robust generations of citizens which will be able to deal with a wider set of challenges in the future.

Let parents do their jobs.


Hey Skipper said...

It is worth noting that Lenin advocated removing children from their parents in favor of the state.

Given Communism's tenets, that was an inevitable conclusion.

Given Communism's tenets, it is no surprise that such an inevitable conclusion was as antithetical to human nature as everything else in that panoply of awfulness.

Duck said...

The problem with the state theory is that they would end up hiring the same incompetent people to raise children that they couldn't trust to be parents.

With parents at least you have the genetic odds in your favor, via the selfish genes.