BBC News recently reported on the concept of “parental determinism,” as discussed by Kent University (England) sociology professor Frank Furedi:
There was a pervading prejudice that virtually all of society’s problems were caused by poor parenting. There was an attempt to “weed out” unfit parents and intervene before they even had children, he said. In an article for Spiked online, he likened “parental determinism” to Hitler’s eugenics and Stalinism.
He said: “The idea of a one-dimensional causal relationship between parenting and socioeconomic outcomes, dreamt up by the British think-tanks and policy makers, threatens to take public discourse to a new low.
He points to the roots of “parental determinism” in Britain:
The idea of early intervention was conceived by Tony Blair’s regime which “promoted the fantasy that the government could fix society’s problems by getting its hands on the nation’s toddlers before their parents had chance to ruin them”.
“He believed it was possible to spot tomorrow’s ‘problem people’ even before they were born,” he added. This notion of parental determinism allowed politicians to promote the “most absurd prejudices…Over the weekend, Iain Duncan Smith the former Tory leader, argued that children from broken homes and dysfunctional families have underdeveloped brains and start school with the mental capacity of one-year-olds,” he said.
Furedi argues that “parental determinism” is particularly damaging in the realm of education:
This was because of the way it could erode adult responsibility and authority, he said. If adults were reluctant or confused about giving guidance to the younger generation, then the challenge facing the teacher in the classroom could be “overwhelming”, he said. “It is hard to be the last bastion of authority in a society where adult authority seems to be crumbling,” he added.
He called for adult authority to be affirmed both in and out of the classroom and for the relationship between parents and teachers to be re-drawn. “There is a difference between raising children and educating them, and this distinction must be re-established to allow for a clearer and more constructive relationship between parents and teachers,” he concluded.
Click here to read Furedi’s full article in Spiked.