The question of the best way to raise children is one which is widely debated in all liberal democracies. It is also commonly believed that decisions regarding childcare should be left to parents in the private sphere of the home. Typically, states become involved in questions concerning parenting only when there have been serious failings on the part of parents - such as cases of abuse or neglect. However, given the increasing concern over bad behaviour in schools, youth crime, substance abuse and a perceived lack of respect for society on behalf of young people, questions may be raised as to whether unaided parents have the competence required to raise children and whether they should enjoy absolute freedom when raising their children. A radical proposal is to require that people who want to become parents obtain a licence (just as they do before if they want to drive a car). How this measure would be implemented in the case of natural reproduction (as opposed to adoption, custody, or assisted reproduction) is controversial.
Parenting classes are a possible solution to assist new parents and parents who encounter difficulties in raising their children. Should classes be offered on a voluntary basis or made compulsory for all prospective parents? Is the state justified in using preventive measures or should it intervene only when problems occur? At present no state requires compulsory classes for all would-be parents, but the British government has shown interest in “early intervention” strategies including parenting classes for families where children are thought likely to grow up posing problems for society. One interesting proposal is that the state can offer parenting classes to all children in school as part of their compulsory education. This measure would make people aware at a very early stage of their education of the skills and knowledge base required to deal effectively with children.
The arguments below concern the proposal to make parenting classes compulsory to all would-be parents, and the proposal to offer specific parenting classes to parents who experience problems in raising their children.
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