Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Calling for large scale state intervention

An Auckland University Professor writes in today's NZ Herald;

Good parenting is a critical public health issue. Raising children is the greatest challenge we face in a lifetime.

It's a job most tackle with the best will in the world but with virtually no preparation or education for the role.

Just the opening sentences have raised my hackles.

As soon as someone evokes 'critical' and 'public health' in the same sentence you know their proposals will involve collectivism and inevitably, compulsion. Individuals will disappear to be replaced by an amorphous mass.

And sure enough. That's next.

It would be wrong to assume that all parenting problems rest with the most socially disadvantaged. Research shows that families right across the social spectrum suffer stress and anxiety over the many issues that arise - and in some cases escalate - between children and parents who wish they could find effective solutions.

But it would be right to assume that the most severe parenting problems lie with the most socially disadvantaged. The reason why is completely missed by this writer because, going back to his opening , he believes parenting is "...a job most tackle with the best will in the world but with virtually no preparation or education for the role."

That is rubbish. We learn how to be parents from our own. If we were raised with love and care we will almost always repeat the lessons. But if the family is decimated or dysfunctional, the lessons are not worth having.

So based on his faulty summation of the current state of affairs he proposes parenting courses for everyone.

A whole-of-community approach to supporting parenting can be contrasted with the traditional "clinical" approach of targeting only the most troubled parents with the most difficult children. We stand a better chance of reducing child abuse and preventing behavioural or emotional problems if parenting programmes known to work are available to all parents.

And he is quite open about why he wants parenting courses universally available (or required if the Children's Commissioner gets in on the act). So those who are the most lacking are not stigmatised.

Political correctness is frequently misunderstood and used as a battering ram by the rude and the rednecks. If you really want to understand it, the above proposed approach is a perfect example.

Now we get to what the Professor, also a director of the Queensland Parenting and Family Support Centre, really wants here;

Every Family was Australia's largest public health trial and the positive findings were numerous. The exercise identified a need for widespread intervention in parenting and showed it was feasible to deliver an intervention on a large scale.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is probably a buck to be made by Mr Academic.

He finishes,

It's only through communities coming together and working to help ordinary families become confident and competent in dealing with common behavioural, emotional and developmental problems of children that we will see a reduction in major mental health problems in children - and an increase in functional, happy families.

It would come as a shock to the writer, no doubt, that advocacy of 'public' solutions and state intervention has, over the past few decades, torn apart families by replacing the support members traditionally gave each other, with state support. Or perhaps he is slightly more sophisticated and believes that what the state broke, the state must fix.

Forget it. The state cannot deliver "...an increase in functional, happy families." The best hope for that eventuality is for it to get out of the way and allow the redevelopment of individual responsibility.


mojo said...

Aha ... so perhaps he has come home then Lindsay ... he was previously a kiwi professor at the university of Queensland, his parenting programme being 'Triple P,' hence his statements.

Having been associated with the 'helping' factions of society you must have become aware of the increasing self-righteous imposition on the proletariat?

That he is 'pushing'for his programme in NZ is not surprising as it would appear that there has been a tendency to adopt an american alternative, incredible really. Years of research showing an effect & he sort of gets 'shafted.' But then again after years in australia he is really, in all probability, more of an alien than the mainstream american.
What he's expressing is really what 'professionals' do best ... it is indeed the 'we know better' dictum.

mojo said...

& the cricket has reached that 'tipping point' ..rain or collapse?

Traditionally parenting courses have faced a diminishing market,
beit Triple P, Incredible years,the Oregon number, & as presented by Universities, Parent Centres, Education Departments, Hospital Boards, etc. or imposed by CYFs, or our courts, or imposed as a means of avoiding court ... makes not much difference.

To maintain their viability, to substantiate the initial investment in them, requires compulsion ... now this compulsion can be 'voluntary' (and you will benefit from it) or it can be coercively initiated and maintained ... mais c'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

The best hope for that eventuality is for it to get out of the way and allow the redevelopment of individual responsibility.

The state can legislate for personal or familial responsibility rather than state responsibility

Familial responsibility - it can be your legal responsibility or provide for your kids or your parents. If they are starving or need healthcare, and you don't pay up, you go to jail, works very well in e.g. Singapore.

Personal responsibility - we could easily change the ACC act so that if you get injured it's your responsibility.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Anon, That is the other extreme of state intervention, enforcing "familial responsibility". In fact in the 1800s NZ legislation did require family members, sometimes quite distant relatives, to support another. The Act was something like The Destitute Persons Act (don't quote me). I wouldn't want to see a return to such draconian measures. If people need help the source of it should be voluntary - family, friends, church, community group, charitable agency, etc. Keep the state out of that network because the state introduces force. Either through the sort of legislation you have suggested or by using taxpayer's money for purposes that he does not support.

ZenTiger said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same, don't you think. No real changes and no real improvement, just the state sill throwing money to all and sundry with nil checks, nil ethics involved.