Monday, 9 November 2009

Do we undervalue adults?

I'm busy these days, and so blogging is extremely light.

However, I came across an interesting article in the Spiked Review of Books about Frank Furedi's new book, Wasted: Why Education isn't Educating.

Professor Furedi is an interesting gentleman. He was, for example, a co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party. More recently, he has attacked the scientific consensus on global warming. And he will have annoyed a lot of people with his critique of that most dubious of big charities, the NSPCC.

But if he is right, and we do undervalue adults in our society, surely the reason is that we have been so afraid of undervaluing children that we have felt it necessary to make adjustments in order to make sure that children are listened to. And while that sounds reasonable in practice, the inevitable result is that adults will become less valued. I suspect that it cannot be otherwise.

It is the same with every group in society that we suspect may be undervalued. Every legislative attempt to give them a more valued place in society inevitably will impinge on some other group.

I suspect that if Professor Furedi's view that adults are undervalued catches on, we will see a lot of government initiatives to ensure that adults are properly valued. The proper response, however, would be to dump all the initiatives we have had in the past 30 years to make sure that children were properly valued.

3 comments:

Renegade Parent said...

If we dumped all of the initiatives we have had in the past 30 years I reckon we'd still be left with a faulty system. It's people who value personal responsibility that are undervalued.

The rights we have seen conferred to children in the last 30 years:

1. usurp the ultimate rights that parents must necessarily have over their children if they - and not the state or the collective community - are to take primary responsibility for those children.
2. usurp the rights of everyone else, by virtue of them belonging to the chiiildren.
3. do not require children to accept the responsibilities that accompany rights.
4. Attract rent seekers and vultures as a matter of course.

But the normal alternative offered to this contemporary approach often harks back to the "good old days": a highly authoritarian, top-down model that treats children as though they are a different species altogether; naturally lazy/ignorant/evil and incapable of enjoying freedom responsibly.

Libertarians tend to have a problem with positive rights for very good reason - but we also generally agree that coercion and unnecessary intervention is wrong and often counterproductive.

The answer is surely to treat children as people and confer on them freedoms according to their ability to handle the requisite responsibilities - even if this goes against the grain of what others think a standard childhood "should" be like. It means allowing and expecting children to make mistakes in order that they can learn right from wrong.

In my opinion, that is the way to creating independent, responsible, critically minded and self-regulating adults - which is surely the goal of most parents.

Young Mr. Brown said...

If we dumped all of the initiatives we have had in the past 30 years I reckon we'd still be left with a faulty system. It's people who value personal responsibility that are undervalued.

You are right, of course. I should have written "300 years" instead of "30 years"! I dread government initiatives, largely because, while I'm sure that some are helpful, on the whole they seem to be getting worse.

The answer is surely to treat children as people and confer on them freedoms according to their ability to handle the requisite responsibilities . . . . It means allowing and expecting children to make mistakes in order that they can learn right from wrong.

The difficulty that parents face, of course, is that judging the ability of a child to handle the requisite responsibilities is not easy. Nor is it easy for parents to know which mistakes they should allow their children to make - since surely no parent will allow their children to make every mistake.

Renegade Parent said...

It is not easy - but parents are better placed than anyone else to make that judgement call, as I am sure we would both agree :-)