Monday, April 04, 2005


From the Premier down, many are calling for stricter discipline in the family. Sandra McLean reports from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:

Ir was Edward VIII who famously commented on American parenthood, telling a British magazine: ''The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.' Who knows if he was trying to be funny, but decades later his offhand comment would certainly raise a knowing frown among parents not only in America but also in Australia. Both countries, perhaps because we are joined at the hip culturally, sharing similar interests in movies, fashion, TV and music, are wrestling with the notion that we may have lost our way with parenting simply because we've been too keen to be nice to our kids.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie may have shocked many when he said recently that parents needed to give their kids "some bloody discipline". The Premier made his statement at an Ipswich community meeting in response to criticism over rising juvenile crime rates. Beattie revealed that he had smacked his own children and said it was about time other parents took some responsibility for disciplining their own children and keeping them home at night. "If parents played a greater role and actually gave some bloody discipline at home we wouldn't have some of these problems," Beattie told the meeting. "I am sick of people abrogating their responsibilities as parents who think that at the end of the day it should be someone else's problem."

Strong stuff from the Premier. but his views have the support of experts who feel that society has become too lax over the disciplining of children and young adults. It is an issue that has spawned many books for parents dealing with wayward children. as well as a television show. The University of Queensland's Triple P Positive Parenting Program has made a TV program with Britain's ITV called "Driving Mum and Dad Mad", about showing parents how to control their badly behaved children.

But the loss of discipline is not only of concern among parents of four-year-olds who won't eat porridge for breakfast. It has wider ramifications to do with the breakdown of an individual's ability to know how to function in society, not to flout laws and to respect the rights of others. These concerns underscored the intense debate that flowed after the Macquarie Fields riots in far western Sydney in March. The riots on a public housing estate were sparked by the death of two young men in a police car chase and resulted in five nights of violence, leading to more than 60 arrests.

When the shock of the violence wore off, people were left asking: why? Suggested causes ranged from poverty, unemployment, alcohol, frustration, anger and general disillusionment with a society that too often forgets those who fall through the cracks. A constant in the ensuing debate was the issue of responsibility - who is responsible for the behaviour of these youths and who will find a way to avert history repeating itself? Boni Robertson, director of the Murri Centre at Griffith University, told The Courier-Mail that all parties - parents, youths, indigenous, Anglo and government - needed to take responsibility for youth violence.

If asked. Beattie might have suggested discipline. although everyone knows the youths at Macquarie Fields are past a good smack. So what's the answer? Brisbane clinical psychologist Brad Johnston agrees with Beattie that it is the parent's responsibility to bring discipline into the lives of young people. This way children learn how to function in a demanding world - discipline leads to self-discipline, which can be a valuable asset in today's busy, stressful society. Johnston says the problem is not so much a lack of discipline as a slackening off of discipline too soon in a child's life. "Parents feel the pressure to relax the discipline at an earlier age now," he says. "They feel the pressure to allow their child to discover the world and learn how to cope with situations but, in many cases, parents assume the child has more ability than they really do have at that age. This can be the case for children as young as two."

Johnston deals with parents who approach him because of disciplinary problems with their children, ranging from those who are unhappy with their children taking drugs or engaging in sex to toddlers who won't go to bed on time. "The major cost to society is that people find it very difficult to to cope with the pressures of the world," he says. "This is because they haven't developed this sense of self-discipline that helps them manage the pressures of living in a world such as holding down a job, being a spouse or having children.

Dr Karen Brooks, a parent and senior lecturer in popular culture at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says she agrees with Beattie's tough stand on discipline and parental responsibility. There is a real truth in this issue about the abrogation of responsibility," she says. "This is not necessarily parents' fault because we have seen a real change in society where there is too much emphasis on teachers' roles and how they should be more than educators. But they are also now having to teach sex education and social education - this sort of thing belongs in the home."

The problem, Brooks says, is that too many parents in the 21st century are too time-poor to embrace the basic tenets of parenthood. It is also because they don't have much time with their children that they want to avoid that time being made uncomfortable by battles over bedtime and eating habits. As a result, discipline goes out the window.

Brooks says it also is about too many parents wanting to be friends with their children, a misapprehension she says which has been spoon-fed to consumers of popular culture, particularly American and Australian dramas such as "The O.C." and "Home and Away". These programs romanticise the notion of family, emphasising the role of the parent as being buddy and adviser, while any hint of a disciplinarian is frowned upon. "Too many parents try to be friends to their kids and try to strike bargains with their children," Brooks says. "I just don't think they understand their role any more. It is great to have a good relationship with your children but you can do this without being the best mate. They get friends from their own age group. Parents are meant to set boundaries."

Brooks, who describes herself as a strict parent. says it isn't too late for some so-called tough love, so that children can learn to respect household and social rules. Generations of decent people have proved that tough love works, she says. It doesn't mean belting your kids either - it just means being solid, reliable and true."

(The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on March 31, 2005, p.15. Note that the Premier (roughly equivalent to an American State Governor) referred to above is a leader in the Australian Labor Party, a moderate Leftist party)


(Excerpts from Thomas Sowell)

"The notion of a trickle-down theory is debunked on pages 388-389 of my book "Basic Economics" (2nd edition). But most of those who went ballistic over my denial of a trickle-down theory were not seeking further information.

As far as they were concerned, they already had the absolute truth and only needed to vent their anger over my having dared to say otherwise. That is a sign of a much more general and much more dangerous trend in our society today that goes far beyond a handful of true believers foaming at the mouth against one columnist.

If education provides anything, it should be an ability to think -- that is, to weigh one idea against an opposing idea, and to use evidence and logic to try to determine what is true and what is false. That is precisely what our schools and colleges are failing to teach today. It is worse than that. Too many teachers, from the elementary schools to the graduate schools, see their role as indoctrinating students with what these teachers regard as the right beliefs and opinions. Usually that means the left's beliefs and opinions.

The merits or demerits of those ideas is far less important than whether or not students learn to analyze and weigh those merits and demerits. Educators used to say, "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." Today, students can spend years in educational institutions, discussing all sorts of issues, without ever having heard a coherent statement of the other side of those issues that differ from what their politically correct teachers say.

There are students in our most prestigious law schools who have never heard arguments for the social importance of property rights -- not just for those fortunate enough to own property, but for those who don't own a square inch of real estate or a single share of stock. How they would view the issues if they did is a moot point because they have heard only one side of the issue.

People who go through life never having heard the other side of issues ranging from environmentalism to minimum wage laws are nevertheless emboldened to lash out in ignorance at anyone who disturbs their vision of the world. The self-confident moral preening of ignoramuses is perhaps an inevitable product of the promotion of "self-esteem" in our schools."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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