Should parenting be licensed?
“Most people think it’s obvious that we have a right to procreate and raise children. In fact, many people think reproductive rights are among the most important rights we have… However, undertaking to raise a child is an act with vast consequences, for good or ill—far greater than those that result from driving a car, for example. Yet society requires a license to make certain that people are at least capable of driving safely, let alone practice medicine and law or give psychological counseling. Why, then, shouldn’t parenting be an activity that also requires a license or some sort of assurance of minimal competence, as much as driving or counseling should be?”1
In his article “Licensing Parents,” Hugh LaFollette suggests that “we should require a license for activities that: (1) have a high potential to harm innocent people, (2) require some competence to perform, and where we (3) have a generally reliable method for determining that competence beforehand. Driving a car, for example, meets all three of these conditions. So we require a person to obtain a license before she can legally drive a car. Likewise we require a person to obtain a license when a person seeks to purchase a gun, to perform surgery, or to practice law. Imagine a world in which everyone could legally drive a car, in which everyone could legally perform surgery, prescribe medications, dispense drugs, or offer legal advice without a license. Such a world would hardly be desirable.”2
Based on these considerations, LaFollette argues that parenting too meets all three of these conditions. Parenting
(1) has a high potential to harm innocent people—children, in this case, e.g. child neglect, child abuse, etc.
(2) seems to require competence to perform—there is good parenting and bad parenting.
(3) has a generally reliable method for determining that competence—experts of social and human services can prepare a test, both theoretical and practical, to measure
one’s competence to be a parent, e.g., a test on basics of child care, nourishment, etc.
Therefore, LaFollette argues, parents should obtain a parent license before having a child
as much as drivers and doctors should do before they drive or perform surgery.
Question: What do you think about LaFollette’s argument? Do you agree or disagree
with him, and why? Do you think parenting is an activity like driving or psychological
counseling? Even if raising a child requires some sort of competence, as LaFollette argues, does this automatically require licensing? What about having a child? Does having a child require any sort of competence, let alone a license? Don’t forget that if we adopt Lafollette’s proposal, many people will be denied having a child unless they past the test. Do you think having a child should require a prior test or education?
Please write a critical essay on LaFollette’s argument (1500 words minimum). In your essay please specify whether you agree or disagree with LaFollette’s conclusion. And then please tell me your reasons. Please tell why this argument is good or bad according to you. Don’t forget that you don’t need to read LaFollette’s essay. The information given you above is enough. Focus on it, try to find reasons why it is a good or bad idea. You can benefit from any source that is relevant (our textbook or any other source), as long as you give reference, to support your position.
Don’t forget to put a title, your name and page numbers. You should give references as footnotes whenever you are quoting from other resources including our textbook.
Before writing your essay, please check the section “Some Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers” in our textbook (p. Ii-Iiv).
Remember that you are writing research papers so it would be better if you refer to at least one or two sources. I suggest using high quality online sources (the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy or the New York Times would qualify as an appropriate source, Wikipedia or your friend’s blog does not). If you take anything from a web site or book you must put it in “quotes” and then give a footnote. You should have full references on the footnote. These should be in the following format:
Author’s last name, author’s first name. (Year). Name of the Book, Publisher Information: Page numbers. <Web site if used>.
Author’s last name, author’s first name. (Year). “Article or Chapter Title,” in Book or Journal Title. Volume and Issue Number or Publisher Information: Page numbers. <Web site if used>.
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