Friday, December 17

It's For Their Own Good

Mr Pierce has responded to my little essay about my reading into his assertions about a parents moral right to raise children. He has added a update clarifying his position in response to my post. (See his post here, my response here).
I think we're actually in agreement in principle, but our disagreement my be semantic in nature.

In his clarification Mr Pierce states:
  1. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children well
  2. Therefore they can't do whatever they like in raising their children.
  3. This doesn't imply the government should or shouldn't interfere.
  4. I don't have a moral right to raise my children in a bad way
  5. So the right or lack of it with respect to government interference must be grounded on some other principle

I choose to make a distinction between raising my children in a "bad" way and neglecting my responsibility to raise them. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children well. This gives them the moral right to do this. There are two ways to fail in this responsibility, by abrogating it, or by raising the children actively but in a bad way, i.e., in an immoral fashion.

I think the community has a clear moral right and responsibility to interfere when the first situation is at hand. That is to say, when the parents are clearly neglecting to take up their responsibility to raise their children, they lose that right. Putting this ethic into practice will almost certainly be a stickier task than in the abstract. As there the decision made in deciding when a parent is failing to provide, or failing to provide enough is not cut and dry.

However it is a far harder thing to discern in our democratic society exactly when a parent, who is actively raising that child, is raising the child in a way which is harmful. What I as a Christian parent see as harm may not be perceived as harm by someone with different traditions. I'm not clear where my belief that I should "love my neighbor", Levitical concepts of community purity, and the democratic tradition of allowing each citizens their right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" intersects with my perception of harm to the child. This is why I had indicated that, for me, the questions of my ethical responsibilities to my neighbor are complicated enough that I haven't come to any firm conclusions as of yet.

The fact that we find that I must use other principles besides a parents moral right to raise their child in order to intervene, supports the idea that they do indeed have such a right.

Update:Corrected #2. Lost negative (can not) on translating thought to text.