“Pro-family” NY lawmaker wants mandatory parenting workshops

by Walter Olson on February 17, 2014

In the New York legislature, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-South Bronx) has introduced a bill that would break new ground in government intrusion into family life. It would require parents of school-aged children to attend a series of state-sponsored parenting skills workshops, regardless of whether their fitness as parents has come under any particular question. Attendance at four workshops would be required as a condition of children’s advancement to seventh grade. The bill would empower the state education bureaucracy to regulate the content and administration of the workshops. (More details in my new post at Cato.) For good measure, employers would be required to provide paid days off for their employees who are parents to attend.

If anyone should be screaming bloody murder about a proposal like this, it should be “pro-family” conservative groups. It’s an appalling venture in big government on so many different levels: it presupposes that government knows more about raising kids than actual parents, it serves as an entering wedge for the state to re-educate parents in officially approved ideas about family life, and it invites further incursion into intimate matters once workshop facilitators begin to query parents about their use of “bad” child-rearing techniques.

But there’s a political catch. The measure’s lead sponsor, Sen. Diaz, a Pentecostal preacher-turned-politician, is a longtime darling of national social-conservative groups, due in no small part to his relentless opposition to gays and their interests over the years. He’s been an especially valued ally because of his standing as a Democrat, a minority politician, and a representative of some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

Aside from a few social issues, Diaz’s record has mostly been one of a standard big-government advocate and lavish spender, for which national social-conservative groups have been happy to give him a pass. Will they give him a pass on this one too?

{ 5 comments }

Houndentenor February 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

I don’t think there’s much chance of this going anywhere.

But it’s funny that you think social-conservative groups don’t love big government. They just want that government to do their bidding.

Tom Scharbach February 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I can just imagine the subtext of the curriculum Diaz has in mind. The idiocy and arrogance of conservative Christians knows no bounds.

Don February 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Social conservatives do not want small government. Not even fiscally-small government. Never have. They want increased social services disseminated through block grants to churches. That was the point of the faith-based initiatives.

The fiscal/social conservative voting bloc has always had these divides. Just as labor/gays/minorities have theirs on the left. The secret to effective coalitions are unifying events where they can put their differences aside and work together.

At this particular juncture in history, the right’s coalition is falling apart. Just as it did for the left during Carter. Why? Because they won nearly everything they agreed on. That is where the right is today. They have won too much to keep their coalition together. And after 30 years of telling the socials to wait until this new bill cutting taxes and eliminating regulation is done, we’ll get to your agenda – well, they’re not buying it so much anymore.

Tom Scharbach February 18, 2014 at 7:15 pm

S142 is an odd bill, all around.

It was introduced in January 2013, referred to the Education committee, and never, as far as I can tell, got a hearing. It was referred again last month.

What is really weird about it, though, is that it is aimed at the parents of pubescent kids — kids moving from 6th to 7th grades — and the only required curriculum is a session on “the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children”.

You would think, offhand, that the need (such as it may be) for “parenting support” would begin long before puberty, if for no other reason that child abuse is just as likely to occur to younger children as it is to post-pubescent children, but apparently not in the thinking of Senator Diaz.

The whole thing is a puzzle. I’m sure that there must be some sort of conservative Christian logic behind the bill, but what that might be escapes me. I wonder if the bill isn’t some sort of “faith-based initiative” scam.

In any event, the idea that parents should be forced to undergo training by the government is over the top. The dog don’t hunt.

Jorge February 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Oooookay! Now I know why he’s a Democrat. This is almost hilarious.

Actually, coming from him, I think this idea has a lot of merit.

If anyone should be screaming bloody murder about a proposal like this, it should be “pro-family” conservative groups.

The very premise behind such an idea is that, were you to take a snapshot of the family as it stands right now, it’s sick.

Well there’s plenty of people from the left to the right who think that the state of the family could use a lot of improvement–what with single parenthood and teen pregnancy (among a few other social ills) sometimes occurring from generation to generation. It may well be that if there is only one time to intervene, best it be before the children become sexually active.

And this bill has the benefit of avoiding all the bureaucracy needed to first study the problem, then come up with solutions, and finally to figure out which solutions to use, not to mention the risk of corruption and waste along all of the steps. Better to have the legislature do its own research and enact its own solutions.

The error I think Sen Diaz Sr. is making is that he proposes a statewide solution to a local problem that only a “minority politician, and a representative of some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods” is likely to identify.

However, we’ve seen such a thing come into law nationally with the No Child Left Behind Act, an ostensibly evenhanded legislation about addressing pervasive inequalities in education. But those inequalities exist more often in specific pockets of society that are based on income and race, as do areas of privilege. Will the power of privilege overrule what is needed for us to survive?

No, the problem with this bill isn’t that it presupposes the government knows more about how to raise children than parents do. The government has a right and duty to accept that responsibility when it is for the common good. Where you run into problems is when you look at families one by one and realize that almost all parents do some things quite well, even where you have families doing things very differently. This bill will seeks to mold outcomes on only a few measures–those that will help the society as a whole. We want socially intelligent young people who work without getting into trouble. More young people working means more income equality and other good social measures.

Things that are cultural, the things that make a family actually worth living in and living for, the government is uncaring about. No, it is not the government that is uncaring. But its rules must be.

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