Matters Of Debate | Issue 19

Matters Of Debate | Issue 19

The government should require all people to obtain a parenting license before having a child

This column is written by the Otago University Debating Society, which meets for social debating every Tuesday at 6pm in the Commerce Building

Affirmative, by By Daffy

The idea that governments should create barriers from individuals being able to have children may seem like an extreme, almost ludicrous idea. Most people see the raising of children in an incredibly individualistic sense—you raise your kids in a way that is completely determined by your own ideals, and any involvement that the state has is usually in an advisory, or secondary function. The essential crux of this motion is that we should flip that dynamic, and give more power to the state with regards to the upbringing of children. The state should be able to establish a model for what the basic standards a parent should be expected to reach, and at the point in time you reach that standard, you are given a license deeming you eligible to have children.

Realistically, there are two key grounds of discussion that need to be taken into account with regards to this motion. Firstly, principally, why should the state do this? After all, this is a fairly massive intrusion of the status quo, where it is generally held that the state should “stay out of the bedroom”, so to speak. However, state intervention can be justified in two ways. Firstly, it’s not that unprecedented. The government already recognises that it can establish ideas on whether a parent is an acceptable parent, as exemplified by the existence of government agencies like Child Youth and Family (CYFs). But secondly, it seems perfectly justified that the state should recognise it has particular interests in the raising of children. In the end, the children that are being raised today will drive NZ Society going forward, and the way that they’re raised therefore has huge impacts on the growth of NZ as a country. Considering that incentive, it seems principally clear why the state should therefore protect its future to some degree by implementing some sort of license-based system.

But the practical benefits are significant as well. A system like this could help to weed out parents who’re likely come to the attention of CYFs in the future, but it also helps to promote a narrative that the raising of children is a communal effort on part of both families and the state. That means greater communication between families and government agencies which are designed to support them, something which can only benefit those families—and specifically, those children—going forward.

Negative, by Mary Poppins

It is completely inappropriate for the government to introduce a policy such as this. A good place to start is by looking at how we approach the raising of children under the status quo. The government has some stake in regards to insuring that children are raised well, and turn into productive members of society. The reason why policies such as this are so problematic is that they fail to acknowledge that there isn’t an objectively correct way to raise a child that a government can support through a license-based system as suggested in the motion.

That becomes clear at the point in time you start to consider what sort of barriers need to be overcome in order to obtain a ‘child-raising license.’ The only politically palatable restrictions are the sorts of ones which are implemented by organisations such as CYFs at the moment—actively intervening under instances of child abuse. But you probably aren’t going to stop those sorts of actions occurring by introducing a requirement to obtain a license, as no-one ever really considers themselves at risk of becoming abusive prior to having children.

Any other restrictions that might be imposed in order to obtain a license are misguided at best, and downright discriminatory at worst. Even license requirement created under the best of intentions will fail to recognise the myriad of different approaches and understanding that individuals have over raising children, all of which can be seen as legitimate in their own right. And clear requirements do have to be introduced for this system to have any value. Because at the point in time we have no restrictions regarding who can get licenses, or the process they have to undertake to obtain that license, then the government completely fails in its objective of providing a certain basic level that parents have to reach to be deemed as ‘good parents’ in the government’s eyes.

Any sort of practical benefits that this model can reach will inevitably come at the cost of potentially great parents struggling to obtain a license due to not fitting with society’s norms around raising children. In other words, the reason why most readers will look at this motion and immediately think about how bat-shit crazy it sounds is because it is bat-shit crazy, and should not be implemented.



This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2016.
Posted 4:36pm Monday 15th August 2016 by Otago University Debating Society.