Monday, 5 November 2007

Early childhood education and care: some of this week's news

UK government continues to allow parental smacking

Lots of disappointment: after the promised review of the law on smacking, the government has decided not to make it illegal. The main reason for this appears to be that parents themselves did not want a ban.

Setting out his reasoning, Kevin Brennan, the current Children's Minister, said in a written statement to Parliament that "a majority of parents say that smacking should not be banned outright".

Before getting onto the question of whether or not this is the right decision, it strikes me as strange that the government makes it decision based mainly on polling evidence from the group of people who would be most affected. It's always difficult to find direct analogies, but isn't this rather like the government basing its decisions on whether to implement toll roads on a poll of motorists?

Whatever happened to making decisions by considering the public good? There is not attempt to do this at all here: the views of parents are considered but no-one else's. Paediatricians, teachers, social workers, the Children's Rights Commissioner, children themselves...all interested parties to this decision, surely?

So, the argument is made in the most foolish way possible.

I am against smacking, hitting or physically hurting children as a form of discipline. Nonetheless I think that the government has made the right decision, though for the wrong reasons.

I don't think that governments should intrude this far into the family. When governments get unnecessarily in between the child and the parent, everyone - ultimately the whole of society - will suffer. We need to trust parents: and because, increasingly, we don't, we are suffering from a collective crisis of confidence in the parenting role.

I thought that Jonathan Porritt put it well on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions when he was asked what message the government had given to parents and children by failing to ban smacking?

He replied:

I suppose the message they've given is that they would expect parents to take the principle responsibility for the way in which they bring up their children without being dictated or directed as to how to do that by government. And I think they've chosen to put the moral responsibility on the parents rather than make the moral responsibility vested in government and dealt with therefore by legislation or by sanction or whatever else it might be.

You can read the whole transcript here.