POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES
This is an old set of arguments.
In the United States over the last half century, versions of both views have been given time and time again.
What seems intuitively clear is that poverty and poor parenting do not automatically go together.
Indeed, some of the best parents are those who struggle against difficulties to do their best for their kids.
These are people often who are, for one reason or another, trapped in a temporary poverty: they and/or their children will almost certainly rise out of it. There are many cases of this, especially among immigrants without the language or who have lost all their resources in some tumult back home or who have difficulty getting their professional qualifications recognized in their new home.
But what is also clear is that some portion of poverty is owing to the lack of any marketable skills, relatively low intelligence, and perhaps mental disorders of one kind or another. Then, too, there is addiction to drugs, but we might put that down to mental disorder.
There are parents who see their children only as unpleasant burdens, accidents they did not want to happen, types which occur both in the well-off and the poor.
In the case of some wealth, the wealth of the family gets the child through, as do perhaps native gifts. Winston Churchill was a perfect example: his mother was almost completely indifferent to his existence while his father actually disliked him.
But in cases where there is both poverty of resources and an indifferent parent or parents, the die is pretty well cast.
Nothing guarantees having even one good parent, having even one must be regarded as a blessing, the luck of the draw, much the same as having good looks or special talents or being born into wealth.
Nature is utterly indifferent to the inequalities doled out at birth, a reality quite the opposite to the cozy, warm notion of a benevolent God.
And while society needs to do what it can to intervene, the task of completely making up for having terrible parents and no resources is beyond its capacities. In terms of sheer time, let alone resources, it is impossible to make up for all the bad parents in society.
Of course, therein resides the heart of the matter with the David Cameron view: if you just say parents need to love children, you often are blowing hot air and passing the blame for not even trying to help.
We have a whole generation of school teachers, for example, I’m sure in Britain as in North America, who insist parents must be involved, some knowing full well that there are parents who are hopeless, ignorant, and even vile. So their mantra about parents becomes effectively an excuse for not rolling up their sleeves and helping the child.