Family in England, 2003

The dialectic of the state and the family in England:

  • The state continues to prove itself unable to do anything for children beyond what their families have already done for them: Schools crisis deepens under Labour. Despite all the programs, the gap between the attainment of working-class and middle-class secondary school children has actually widened.
  • The proper bureaucratic response to failures in education and other branches of family policy is greater rationality. One part of greater rationality is to treat parents as agents of the state who are untrained and difficult to supervise and so must be granted only the most limited authority so they won’t murder anyone: British parents set to lose right to smack children. In response to the death of Victoria Climbie, a little Ivorian girl who was killed in London by her great-aunt after social workers missed glaring signs she was in danger, Labour MPs are planning to outlaw parental smacking. The system broke down, so the natural conclusion is that stricter central controls are needed.
  • Judged as a job, however, parent-as-state-agent really isn’t that appealing: You thought children would make you happy? Not really – just poorer. If it’s a job rather an identity, status and destiny, why not choose other more manageable roads to happiness? The proposals for tax credits the article mentions would in effect raise the salary paid for being a parent, but somehow they seem to miss the point.

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