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Posts Tagged ‘children’

As I wrote in the comments following this post, I believe parents — being responsible for the birth and day to day care of their children — should also have considerable freedom in how they choose to raise them. Short of physical abuse or gross neglect, they have an absolute right to bring their children up in the way they think is best and teach the kids their religious and moral beliefs or whatever else they feel strongly about. Nothing will convince me that the state has any business interfering in those matters or that telling your kids about heaven or hell (or the superiority of socialism) amounts to “child abuse”.

However I draw the line when the parents’ beliefs actually lead them to deny their children vital medication or other fundamental assistance the lack of which may lead to death. Thus, I agree with every word Andrew Sullivan writes here:

We rightly understand sexual abuse to be horrifying and a legitimate reason to intervene. But withholding vital medication from a child out of religious or ideological reasons strikes me as no less abuse. I’m reminded of this acutely by the case of Christine Maggiore, a woman I met and interacted with as another person with HIV. Christine adamantly denied that HIV was related to AIDS and refused anti-HIV medication on those grounds. She died last week. Of AIDS. That was her choice, it seems to me, however tragic it is.

What was also her choice, however, was to refuse anti-HIV meds when pregnant and then to refuse HIV meds for her daughter when she was born. Eliza Jane lived three years before succumbing to HIV-related pneumonia. Magiore was never prosecuted for negligence, since she had taken Eliza Jane to doctors. One of those doctors suffered mild professional consequences.

What rights did Eliza Jane have to protect her very life from her own mother? What rights did Jett Travolta have under the control of Scientologist parents? I find it hard to believe they had none; and I find the sympathy for parents under those circumstances to be misplaced.

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Via a post by Althouse, I was alerted to this recent Richard Dawkins quote about children reading Harry Potter and other fantasy fiction:

I think it is is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don’t know…

I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious [e]ffect on rationality, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something for research.

In fact, Dawkins goes further than simply advocating that children should not read Harry Potter. He thinks identifying children by their religion or even teaching them your religious views, is child abuse:

Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality […]

It’s a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn’t want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it’s as bad as many forms of physical abuse.

It is worth noting that Dawkins also once advocated that legal action be taken against astrologers under trade laws.

Now, I am an atheist. However, on the Harry Potter issue, I am more inclined to agree with the Althouse commenter who writes:

Does he have kids? Does he remember being a kid? Does he approve of the way our culture infantilizes children through and beyond the age of 18?

To which I could add some more — does he understand freedom? Imagination? The simple fact that indulgence in fantasy is a necessary component of growing up?

Also, I am disturbed by his tendency to impose rationalism via coercion. For a very personal take on coercion vs science, read this old entry of mine.

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Britain is getting spookily close to the world Orwell described.

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Jim Lindgren has an excellent article over at Volokh on the dangers of Barack Obama’s proposals on community service for middle and high schoolers.

On the surface there is nothing wrong with the proposal. Voluntary community service can be an enriching experience both for the child and the community. The trouble starts when the government steps in. The inevitable effect is the substitution of individual volunteerism by a huge bureaucratic machine that subsists on tax money. Like many bad proposals, the detrimental effects show up slowly, but when they do, they are hard to remove.

Eventually, these kind of proposals convert non-governmental organizations that flourish on private philanthropy into inefficient arms of the government. Furthermore, as this article points out, those who lead these social-services groups tend to become advocates for government-funded solutions to social problems. The result is more social problems, not less.

Volunteerism is a wonderful thing but to be truly voluntary and useful, it needs to be more than an arms length away from government control.

I suspect there are ways the government can make a positive difference to the issue by encouraging high schoolers to do public service at private voluntary organizations (possibly by offering certain incentives) without actually stepping in directly. However, I fear that the plan Obama has in mind is more sweeping than that and (hence) more likely to do bad than good.

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This is what happens when political correctness is taken too far.

The ordeal began last week when Hensley’s wife sent him to a local grocery store to buy ground beef. While there, Hensley encountered a woman with her two nieces, ages 11 and 13. “I offered to trade her a fattening hog for those girls,” Hensley said. “I meant it as a joke. I’ve said it a million times. Most people get a kick out of it.”

The woman didn’t laugh. Instead, the family obtained a warrant for Hensley’s arrest from the local prosecutor, claiming the comment was intended to entice the children into illegal sexual activity.

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Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old son find his way home from downtown NYC using the subway system. When she wrote about it in the New York Sun, many were upset, some wanted her to be charged with child abuse. But there were others who applauded her for trusting her child and felt it was a great parenting gesture. I am with the latter group. There is too much infantalizing going on these days, and not just directed as children. Sometimes it is good to just let go.

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.

The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

I agree. And in that vein, I think its worth quoting what one of the commenters said in response to this story:

This reminds me of a story that Virgin-founder and adventurer Richard Branson told. He had bet with his mother as a child that he could find his way home, so she dropped him on the streets. And sure he found home walking for several kilometers.
And from that on he knew, that when he relies on himself, he can achieve anything. And look what he has done since…

(Link via Boing Boing)

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It’s a brilliant morning. The air is cool and fresh, the sunshine abundant and there’s not a cloud in the sky. I sit on a metal chair outside Corner Bakery sipping my coffee. 

The road is full of colourful kids. It’s the annual parade day. They walk, they smile, some wobble along on their tiny bikes wearing their impossibly cute red helmets. The proud mothers and the enthusiastic drummers follow. I eat my breakfast, watching happiness and listening to the sound of drums and twinkling bells. Occasionally I read the mathematical paper I have brought along. I am struck by a sudden urge to extol, to write about this. But the air is magical, the beauty exquisite and I cannot make myself get up. There is too much love and freshness around. I sit there smiling, musing, dreaming – what?

Oh outdoor cafes, I love you so!

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