Summary: 21st Gentle Thinkers Debate (Parent Licenses)

“People should require a licence to become parents.”

Note: This summary is based and interpreted from notes taken during the debate and may contain errors. If you wish to correct, be attributed to or contribute content, please contact me or post a comment.

More summaries can be found via the Summary Index.

When asked who was for, against or supportive of the idea, the group was divided into:
No: 4
Yes (perhaps as legitimised as mandatory education for prospective parents):  1
Good idea but difficult to implement: 5

  • One member of the group noted that the highly educated people are less likely to have children but these people may treasure their children more.

  • Due to this phenomena, we may see negative population growth (as seen in some European countries). These countries may have to start relying on immigrants to fill jobs and care for the elderly.

  • Another member asked if more affluent parents would be better parents if they aren’t able to give their children time and affection due to chasing their own pursuits or personality defects.

  • Nearly half the group felt that a parent license would equate to a “Big Brother level” of control over reproductive rights. One member commented that it would be against social justice.

  • A parent license shouldn’t be confused for a breeding license unless you are working on population control.

  • Questions surrounding the development, assessment and control of a parental licensing system indicated that:

  • There is no manual for raising kids but there are things that you SHOULD not do.

  • The concept of being tested and retested for a parent license would be fraught with problems.

  • No one knows who would create, operate or control this system. Some members argue that no one has the right to decide how you should raise your child.

  • For some, it isn’t moral to genetically engineer people.

  • Our current and future governments wouldn’t be good at managing a parental license system. Nor do we trust them to be good.

  • Legalising marriage and having age limits (e.g. being 18+) are ways of regulating who is a parent and how children are cared for when divorce and death occur .

  • A member argued that a license is required when one needs specific (technical) skills.

  • For example, a driving license is necessary if there is a moral and practical imperative to protect oneself and others from reckless driving.

  • Our current licensing system for wheeled vehicles is flawed and a member suggested that having additional testing to keep your license would be a more effective way of keeping unsafe drivers off the road.

  • We may not have the moral imperatives to have a parental licensing system in place. Parenting is a subjective and moral action.

  • Many members agreed that we need a better social services system to improve quality of life rather than a parenting license.

  • The group agreed that classes on child nutrition, developmental psychology and other things necessary to raising children would benefit society greatly. Results would be gradual if this was implemented.

  • Some people may not be good parents because they lack sufficient education to understand the information available or aren’t good at identifying generational or cultural barriers. E.g. “My parents hit me as a kid and I turned out alright.”

  • While compulsory education may be more effective than a parenting license, it doesn’t help those who have no desire to learn and we may need to use various different approaches to fill in the gaps.

  • One member of the group commented that our society isn’t “valuing” children which can be seen in how we deal with child abuse, neglect and crimes involving and against children. It is also seen in how we intervene or stay silent in regards to this.

  • If we had a zero tolerance towards crimes against children, we might see more positive changes. Systems like the Blue Card, Kids Helpline and these posters are small steps towards this.

  • There is mandatory education for parents who have been observed and reported as abusive or neglectful.

  • Our media has a tendency to depict stereotypical abusive families (e.g. the alcoholic father, the neglectful mother). If more nuanced and common scenarios were presented, people may become more aware and proactive about getting help.

  • The effects of a bad childhood may not be apparent until adulthood. As commented by one member, “Everyone had a bad childhood, nothing is perfect”.

  • Australia has mostly nuclear families (2 adults, 1.9 children as at 2011 census) and having extended families may increase the focus on children.

  • Parenting skills aren’t entirely instinctive for humans. Without help (expert or otherwise), a lot of parents get by. Demonstrating different ways of raising children may help parents “get it right”.

  • As noted by one member, pre-natal education is readily available but there is very little available for anything past this stage. We also have mass education systems for children but none for parents and adults.

  • A member noted that it is considered offensive to “criticise” the parenting methods of others. This might be problematic if you need to deliver feedback.

  • It might be difficult (or impossible) to avoid indoctrinating your child. You could be doing it without realising it. Some people may be unintentionally creating clones of themselves.

  • Due to the impressionable nature of children, parents may need to force themselves to present balanced views to their children.

  • As adults, we might not be able to see the world in the same way as our children.

  • Children (and adults) may have to retrain their brains once they start thinking for themselves.

  • The group agreed that teaching critical thinking skills is necessary for human development. If our education system worked well, this would be standard in our curriculum.

  • One member commented that you can predict the political system by observing how children are raised.

  • Due to the difficultly of raising children, a member suggested that parenting licenses be given to societies as we need help.

  • We may have to teach compassion so that we become better people and be able to educate society.

  • Community inclusion would help prevent problems with raising people (children and adults). We can’t enforce or teach affection.

  • One problem with this is that social interaction requires money and what can we do for those who are socially isolated or are outsiders.

  • Other problems stem from mitigating and fighting the hordes of varying cultural groups and norms. Some of these groups have a lot of difficulty integrating into society.

  • Agreeing on how to change society and where we intervene is difficult to consider and do. Yet social workers are the invisible and invaluable people who make these choices and rarely receive any accolades.

  • Some of the group mentioned that our government doesn’t value children as they can’t support the economy. Laws are generated by and for those who have the power. Children don’t have a voice in this kind of debate.

  • While education is a vehicle to reach people, it is very difficult to reach those who don’t measure to standards. The cost of a prison inmate is approximately $60, 000 – $70, 000 a year, we could do so much if that money could be used elsewhere.

Effective educational techniques and suggestions for adults and children:

  • A ratio of 1:1 for teacher and student would be ideal but unlikely to occur.

  • Having students and teachers making positive emotional exchanges can help facilitate learning.

  • As can having both groups learn from each other.

  • Mentoring can be help teaching and training in the educational system.

  • Group role-play sessions may help students explore and understand the lives of others.

  • People may need to create and find support groups of similar people to assist them and their education.

Interesting questions posed by the group:

  • Is it worthwhile to have kids?

  • Who decides what is “correct” parenting?

  • Would a carer (biologically related or not) need a parenting license?

  • What would you do if you had passed the parental license test once but failed it another time? What would happen to your children?

  • What is the definition of a good parent?

  • Can you raise children without indoctrinating them?

  • Should we have tests to prevent psychopaths from having kids? What happens to the kids who had psychopathic parents?

  • Is competency based testing effective?

  • Would support systems be more effective than providing education?

  • Why aren’t we concerned that the government could enforce changes to who can have a driver’s license when we would be frightened by them controlling the criteria of a parent license?

  • Humans seem to find the universal right to have children as extremely important. Why do we uphold this? Don’t children have the right to have good parents?

  • Why are adoptive and foster parents screened so heavily when biological parents aren’t until abuse or neglect have been reported?

Additional content covered by the debate:

Kevin Andrews and the relationship voucher program

Pet licenses

The Stolen Generation

Eugenics and genetics


More summaries can be found via the Summary Index.

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