Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Human beings" and "human becomings"

Warning; If you are a parent the following could make you very angry.

First an extract from a paper that appears in the July 2008 Social Policy Journal (only recently published at the MSD website);

A research project analysed a sample of the submissions to Parliament in 2006 on the Bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961. S.59 had provided a defence to parents accused of assaulting their children, the defence being that they used force for the purpose of correction. The project examined two particular contrasting social viewpoints of children -- children as "human beings" and as "human becomings" -- and whether these two viewpoints were implicated in people's views on the use of physical punishment. The research hypothesis was that people who advocate the use of physical punishment are more likely to conceptualise childhood as a phase of development, where the child is on his/her way to becoming an adult, unable to reason and in need of constant guidance from adults; in other words, that children are human becomings. Alongside this, we hypothesised that people who see childhood as a complete state in its own right, and see children as fully developed at whichever age and stage they are in, having full human rights and contributing to society -- the human beings view -- are more likely to reject physical punishment. We found that submitters expressing a view of children as human beings were more likely to oppose physical punishment and support repeal, whereas people who saw children as human becomings favoured physical punishment and opposed the Bill.

I take exception to this concept for starters. It leaves no room for another view which is that children are becoming adults and are at varying stages of development. That I do not see a child as an adult does not mean I do not see it as a human being - that is a preposterous idea. Most people cherish their children. The idea that people who opposed the repeal of section 59 do not view children as human beings is pretty offensive to be honest.

The different ways of viewing children have implications for how children should be raised and what sorts of rights children should have within society. In the developing adult view of childhood, where children are seen as on the road to adulthood, their status as children now is less important than what they will become in the future. Viewing children as social actors and childhood as a structural form has implications for the roles and relationships of parents and children. Here, adults are no longer seen as all-knowing and all-powerful, and children are no longer viewed as incompetent, ignorant and unable or unwilling to reason, or in need of constant adult guidance in their development towards becoming complete human adults.

It gets worse. Because I see my child as "on the road to adulthood" it follows that I also see her as "incompetent, ignorant and unable or unwilling to reason."

In fact I see her as none of those. Quite the opposite. If anything the labels are more fitting to adults I have experienced.

We developed a hypothesis which we would test by examining the submissions using Qvortup's (1994) summary terms as a framework. Our research hypothesis was that people who advocate the use of physical punishment are likely to conceptualise childhood as a phase of development, where the child is on his/her way to becoming an adult; in other words, children are "human becomings". The logic of this view is that since children are less than adult, not yet competent and reasonable human beings, or even in some cases, sinful, then adults can assume a right and a duty not only to guide but also to chastise if necessary, as the child is unable to be reasoned with and is in need of correction.

We also hypothesised that, on the other hand, people who see childhood as a complete state in its own right are more likely to reject physical punishment. In this view children's competencies are valued and children are viewed as able to understand others' perspectives and to respond in sensitive and reasoned ways to others, according to their abilities. A children's rights perspective fits within this view, since here children are perceived as full and complete "human beings", who therefore command the same human rights as any other people. Of course children always need care and nurturance appropriate to their development.

Are you starting to form an impression that the researchers are slightly biased? One of the reasons I never had my children christened (their father has a faith) is the ceremonial utterance that children are born into sin. I can't pretend to really understand what theologians mean by it but the words are unpleasant and I want no part of it. Now because I see children as "less than adult" (and sometimes more than adult) I am associated with a view that sees children as "sinful".

Further, there is no discussion of nuances. No consideration of how a two year-old might differ from a 12 year-old and how their parent's regard for their faculties and handling of them will change over time.

Although submitters clearly either supported or opposed the Bill, most did not comment on the nature of children. Thirteen wrote that children are bad, wilful, and sinful; six submitters thought that children were good and intelligent. For nine submitters children did not have cognitive ability and could not be reasoned with, whereas 13 submitters thought that children had cognitive ability and could be reasoned with.

In 41 submissions, using the categories listed above, children were considered as human becomings whereas in 50 submissions they were considered as human beings. Although this total of 91 submissions is only slightly more than half the total number of submissions analysed (170), there was a very distinct difference in the support or opposition to the Bill among these submitters....

....for those 91 submissions indicating views of children as either human becomings or human beings, the results support our hypothesis. Those people who saw children as human becomings were more likely to oppose the Bill and support physical punishment, and those who saw children as human beings were more likely to support the Bill and oppose physical punishment.

Well of course the results will support their hypothesis. They have borrowed a faulty concept and overlaid it according to their rules.

Next they can extrapolate their 'findings' to anyone who disagrees with a ban on smacking. We are all vilified by their silly black and white ideas.

This post is already too long. But let me leave you with this. These people make a public living out of intellectualising life; the behaviours and relationships of your world, of which they have no knowledge. They arrogantly pigeon-hole views they disagree with or cannot comprehend and then charge you for the privilege of receiving their wisdom.

This nonsense really has to stop.


Swimming said...

Amazing! Im reading that right now. Maybe I`ll do a post when Ive done a proper analysis. suffice to say, the hypothesies and conceptualisatin are crap. WTF is a "human becoming"? you're either human or your not.

brian_smaller said...

Stop funding their research and it will stop immediately. After reading that post I have realised that I am a human becoming fucking angry.

Anonymous said...

You are quite right, this has to stop. Today we are informed Christine Rankin is to be anointed families commissioner. That means its not going to stop, it'll just get a different bias.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Brian :-))))) I am in your debt

Anon, Hopefully, the Families Commission will just implode.

Swimming said...

Ummm. it was Save the Children that funded the research.

Anonymous said...

That is correct Dave, I was simply referring to the unmitigated stream of hogwash research that is spouting from all of these various institutions that invariably distribute their "research funding" amongst a small in-crowd of similarly minded idealogues, quoting and referencing one another's nonsense.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Who pays for the publication and dissemination of the Social Policy Journal? But thanks for the tip off. That's another 'charity' I can put on my blacklist. You know I stopped my monthly donation to Barnardos over this business and I am sure I won't have been the only one.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Dave, I see that you have pointed out on your blog that Save the Children get 40 percent of their funding from the taxpayer anyway. Good on you for going straight to the source for some clarification.


Daniel said...

As Orwell said some ideas are so preposterous that only an academic could think of them.
I used to think the last government failed the country so badly because they were misguided socialists. I am coming to the view that a government of academics is actually much more destructive.

Anonymous said...

Autism, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder are all potential pitfalls when a child doesn't have proper child development. I think all families should be wary of this.