Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A straw man?

In my essay "Defending Families", published in Passports to Liberty 5, I wrote:
no one will take exception to the statement that we do not own our children. Indeed, given that no one alive in Britain has ever heard anyone claim that we do own our children, you wonder quite why it is being made. Is this argument addressed to a 21st-century audience or to some long-dead Puritan ancestor?
On the Guardian's Comment is Free blog there is an article by David Archard. He writes:
Parents do not own their children, although this view has a surprisingly long and respectable intellectual history. Aristotle, for instance, thought that children belonged to their parents as a product belongs to a producer or even - like a tooth or hair - as a part of them. But although such views cast a long shadow over current thinking about parenthood, we no longer do or should think of children as chattels to be disposed of as parents think fit.
Again the view that we do not own are children is being challenged, but it is not clear who is putting that view forward. It is quite a jump from Aristotle to the present day.

So can someone come with an example of the view that parents do own their children from, say, the last 100 years? Or is Archard attacking a straw man, just as I claimed a certain Liberal Democrat peer was when discussing her views in "Defending Families"?


Lobster Blogster said...

A bit of googling and I found this example from 30th June 2006.

According to the common law, a creator absolutely owns that which he creates. That is why parents DO own their children.

From a comment on magicvalley.com

I'm not pretending I read all this, it looks like balooney to me, but it seems it is being stated in the Aristotelian form.

Onlinefocus Team said...

As far as I can judge, what Archard is criticising is the idea that at around four years of age, children are sent to a school that will teach them the religious beliefs of their parents.

Why is a four year old sent to a school of a particular faith? After all , they would have to be theological geniuses to have decided by that age what their own religious faith is going to be, if any.

They are sent to that school because it is the preferred choice of their parents. Historically , many English village schools were Church of England schools because of the way they were created - but that doesn't mean that we should create any more (particularly as CoE schools have tended to treat religion with a fairly light touch and not turned out generations if fire-and-brimstone creationists)

Jonathan Calder said...


He is obviously barking mad, but I grant you this is an example. Thanks.

So any sane examples from the UK anyone?

Lobster Blogster said...

I fear this one will be ruled out of order too, but I've just got to try.

In Britain it is accepted that parents own their children, we can hit them and we can exclude them from important parts of education.

From a chap named Mark Sandell, Oxford who submitted a post to a blog on 16 April, 2004.

No idea if he's sane or not. He seems to have got the hang of sentences and paragraphs, although I have spotted a missing apostrophe. He appears to be making a fairly coherent argument and the ownership thing is just dropped in as a bit of background, so sadly he doesn't give any reason why he holds the belief.

I guess you could always drop him a line and see if he can justify his belief.

In tackling this little exercise I've come to the view that the child ownership thing is an "almost" straw man. There are plenty of examples of people holding it up to knock it down, but its just a little bit too much to say that no one holds the view.

My fear is that you will say that you can't count this example because we have no idea why he says it. But even irrational beliefs are beliefs so I'm looking for a more definate reason why this won't count.

Jonathan Calder said...

Surely he is claiming that this is what other people believe rather than stating his own belief?

Your first example was on the money but this one does not qualify.

Lobster Blogster said...

Drats! Foiled again, I'll crawl back under my rock now...