Parents Reading Bedtime Stories ‘Unfairly Disadvantaging’ Other Children, Says Adam Swift

Parents who read bedtime stories to their children should be concerned that they are “unfairly disadvantaging” other children who do not have a loving home, a professor said.

Adam Swift, professor and philosopher at the University of Warwick in England, told ABC News that while he would not push to ban parents reading to their children, they should nonetheless be sensitive to those who do not have this advantage.

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,” Swift said.


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Families should be concerned

The Core of the Issue for Swift

ABC News stated Swift and his colleague, Harry Brighouse, felt “conflicted” over parents who want what’s best for their children, “but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.” This lopsidedness can manifest itself in many ways, Swift said, including access to better education than other children, housing in safe neighborhoods, and help around the house for parents.

The result, Swift posited, is something that would be unthinkable for parents: abolishing the family altogether.

“One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family,” Swift declared.

“If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

Swift’s conclusions are not new, as ABC reports. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato likewise called for the abolition of the family, in part so that they would be similarly educated, and have their lives be directed by Plato’s philosopher kings — members of society whom he felt were the best and the brightest, and thus the most capable of governing the populace.

Swift does not embrace Plato’s conclusion. But as he told ABC, it all boils down to one very simple question: “Why are families a good thing exactly?”

“It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,” he concluded. “From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.”

Parenting Permitted, But With Certain Restrictions

But that does not necessarily mean that Swift advocates total parental control; for instance, he and Brighouse felt that they should not “allow” parents to do certain activities with their children, “if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children.”

Among those unallowable activities, they concluded, was sending children to private school.

“It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realize these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school,” Swift said.

Swift finds parents reading bedtime stories to children a good thing, although he was concerned that it “bestows advantage” to children who receive them that their peers will never have.

“We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage,” he stated.

Critical Response: How Exactly Would Swift’s Proposal Play Out in Real Life?

Robert Franklin of the National Parents Organization was quick to criticize Swift for his striving to protect children from these “unfair advantage(s).”

He noted that Swift did not really elucidate what he called “familial relationship goods,” but played out in real life, Franklin posited that this could have far-reaching implications for how parents rear their children.

For instance, how should parents feed their children, in Swift’s model of thinking?

“Should parents be permitted to provide high quality food to their children or should ‘we’ in the interests of equality, all be required to provide only the worst food,” Franklin asked. “After all, as long as the goal is equality, it must be acknowledged that many parents can’t afford high quality food…”

And how would Swift have children be housed by their parents?

“I think the correct analysis of Swift’s proposals is that everyone should have shelter,” Franklin stated, “but no one should have shelter that’s better than the worst shelter society has to offer. Does that mean cardboard boxes for everyone? Who knows? And Swift isn’t saying.”

What do you think? Should parents be concerned about “unfairly advantaging” their children, as Dr. Adam Swift suggests?

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