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Assuming Responsibility

Filed at 9:13 am under by dcobranchi

D.C. officials are considering a law that would suspend the driver’s license of a parent whose teenage children break the law. Psychologist Michael Hurd says that’s not a good idea:

It’s tempting, I know, to hold irresponsible parents legally accountable for the actions of their children. But in the process two things will happen. First, innocent parents will be unfairly punished. There are some parents who do everything possible to control the actions of their kids but to no avail. This is because children, especially teenagers, have free will. They are influenced not only by parents, but by peers and the all-pervasive media culture. It’s not right to punish parents who are trying their best for the misdeeds of their youth.

Second, there’s the principle at stake. Once government starts to hold a significant other responsible for the misdeeds of an individual, the whole basis for law is undermined. It might seem harmless enough to suspend a parent’s license to drive when his son acts in a delinquent way. But where will it stop? We know that some kids commit serious crimes, such as murder. Are parents to be prosecuted for murder—facing stiff prison sentences or even the death penalty—for the actions of their sixteen-year-olds?

I would add that some D.C. officials have called for forcing children as young as three to attend government-run preschools. As children spend more and more time locked up in these institutions, at what point can we say parents have no responsibility at all for their children, the state having assumed that function. Come to think of it, shouldn’t government officials–teachers–be held responsible for the crimes of teenagers? They probably spend more time with the kids than parents do.

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