Monday, March 23, 2015

A Critical Examination of the Book and Concept of "Licensing Parents"



Jack Westman, author
of Licensing Parents
Licensing Parents is a book written by a professor of psychiatry named Jack Westman, which attempts to convince the reader that if the government required parents to be "licensed" before they were allowed to have children, it would result in fewer cases of child abuse and neglect.  Exploring and analyzing the concepts put forth in this book are important as there are people in positions of power that take this book, and concept, seriously.  One of those people is former judge for the Litchfield District Superior Court in Connecticut, Charles D. Gill.  Gill wrote the foreword to Licensing Parents, and says that this was the book that convinced him that parents should be licensed.  The influence of Judge Charles Gill in Connecticut law and politics was briefly explored in the article Parents Beware: The United Nations Looking To Give Children of Connecticut Special "Rights"This influence of Judge Gill deserves a more in-depth critical analysis, but for the sake of brevity, we will just focus on the concepts presented in Licensing Parents by it's author, Jack Westman.

There is great deal of information presented in this nearly 300 page book, a lot of which is easy to agree with.  For example, it does not take a trained psychiatrist to see that there are problems in society, and that many of the functions that are supposedly set up to fix these problems, are not working.  Westman begins his book mentioning some of these issues such as "widespread crime", "the abduction of children", and an increase in suicide among teens.  It is not so much Westman's diagnosis of society's problems that deserve scrutiny, but his radical solutions to these problems.  Before exploring Westman's proposed solutions, though, it is important to understand what he believes to be the causes of societies ills.


Incompetent Government

Westman acknowledges the detrimental effect that government policies have had on all members of society:
"The cost of federal policies that would bankrupt you and me and corporations have lowered the standard of living for most families and children in this country..." (pg. 101)
(Oddly, he goes on to blame this federal policy problem on individualism, or as he puts it, "Our individualistic emphasis on personal and special interests..."  Westman's resentment toward individual liberty will be further explored later in this analysis.)

Also discussed are problems with the foster care system, and how a large number of the "hard-core" group of habitual criminals have backgrounds as "children of the state", that is children whose guardianship was with government agencies, as opposed to actual people.

A connection between incompetent parenting and welfare dependency is also made.  Citing a figure from the American Association for Protecting Children, Westman states that "53 percent of reported child neglect cases involve families receiving public assistance."

It is important to keep in mind that while Westman acknowledges the massive failure of government laws, and programs, he does not seem to find a connection with the problems he discusses, and government itself. He makes the dubious claim that "the existence of the welfare system itself cannot be blamed for welfare dependency".  As will be shown later in this analysis, Westman does not have a problem with government welfare, collectivism, wealth redistribution, or strict government intervention into the family, he just feels that it should be done differently than how it occurs now.

Anti-Family

Westman references sociologist Mary Jo Bane and how she "found that the availability of welfare benefits encourages those mothers to remain unmarried and raises their separation and divorce rates."  While, by all indications, that statement is true, it is Westman's choice of referencing Mary Jo Bane that is interesting, and probably of no coincidence.  Mary Jo Bane and Jack Westman share a similar collectivist philosophy when it comes to children and families.  As discussed in the article, Go To Work and Give The Government Your Children: The Feminist UN Agenda 21 Plan To "Empower" Women, Mary Jo Bane, a former Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been quoted as saying "in order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them."

Also discussed in the article, Go To Work..., is how the feminist movement has been used, and is being used to promote a post-nuclear family, and more state involvement in the raising of children.  The feminist movement promotes the idea that men (and women, oddly) who think it is ideal for a woman to stay home to raise her children, are oppressing women.  Westman touches on this idea, while briefly mentioning the feminist movement:
"Until recent decades, early motherhood was the career of choice for Caucasian blue-collar families, in part because of stereotypes about the roles of women.  Then early marriages strengthened girls' identifications with their mothers and provided boys with socially sanctioned sexual gratification.  The inroads made by feminists on sexism have altered that pattern, however.  Still, the sexist sexual exploitation of females by males and the sexist restriction of females to childbearing roles strongly operates in some minority groups in the United States today." (pg. 189)
Westman acknowledges that public benefits increase a societies tendency toward more "post-nuclear" families.  Westman uses the example of public benefits in Sweden leading to an increase in premarital sexual intercourse, postponement of marriage, postponement of first child birth, women entering the workforce, full-time employment of parents away from the home, a large increase in out-of-wedlock births, and more. (pg. 106-107)

This connection between a collectivist philosophy and an anti-family philosophy is not unique, and has been briefly described in the Go To Work... article.  One example that clearly shows this connection is The Communist Manifesto, which specifically calls for the "abolition of the family".  In the section "THE POLITICAL REJECTION OF THE FAMILY", of Licensing Parents, Westman appears to bemoan the fact that "[e]ach one of the many political efforts to abolish the family as a social institution from the time of Ancient Greece to the present has failed..."(pg. 260)  Westman cites questionable claims against the family, such as:
  • "Equal treatment in a society, in a strict sense, probably is incompatible with family ties"
  • "For critics of the family, the abuse and neglect of children by their parents is seen as signaling the need to shift the responsibility for the care of children from parents to society in a collective sense"
  • "It (the family)...has been recognized accurately as the main site of violence against women and children."
  • "...the elitism of families..."
Westman's collectivist philosophy pushes him to propagate the idea that children do not belong to their parents, but to society:
"..children are not the property of their parents, but are our future citizens..." (pg. 217) [emphasis added]
Westman claims that even though a man and women conceive a child, and the women gives birth to that child, neither person can claim ownership of that child.  To make his point, Westman says that "[t]here even is a biological basis for the legal position that we do not own our children" (pg. 159), and goes on to justify this statement by making the illogical claim that we don't own our genes, thus we don't own our children.

Anti-Individualism

Westman's solutions to the problems in society appear to come from his hatred of individualism, and his advocacy of a collectivist philosophy.  Westman is not shy in admitting his bias against individual freedom, and openly states that "[t]he United States is rapidly reaching the point at which limits must be set on the freedom of individuals to do as they wish...." (pg. 102)

Like many collectivists, Westman associates individual liberty with selfishness:
"Individualism has great appeal because it emphasizes our freedom to do as we wish and gives us license to ignore our responsiblities to others" (pg. 100)
According to Westman, this American problem of focusing on individual liberty goes back to the days of the American Revolution:
"The fear of tyranny of the Revolutionary War period biased our political and legal systems toward protecting individual freedoms even at the expense of community interests." (pg. 116) 

Licensing Parents

After discussing the many problems in our society, and alluding to the idea that the cause of many of these problems is individual freedom, Westman goes on to finally reveal the details of his collectivist based solution of licensing parents.  This solution includes major changes in the fundamental principles in which the American justice system operates. To make his ideas seem less radical than they really are, Westman uses confusing rhetoric.  For example, Westman states that:
"Licensing parents would not compromise the right of each woman and man to conceive and each woman to give birth to a child.  It would elevate parenting a child to the level of a privilege." [emphasis added]
The problem with this logic is that if something is a right, it can't also be a privilege.  The founding document of America, the Declaration of Independence, says that humans "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", meaning that you are born with rights that cannot be taken away from you.  Having a "privilege", on the other hand, implies that a thing was given to you by some human "authority" (in this case, government), and thus can be removed from you by the same "authority."  Therefore, Westman's classification of parenting as a "privilege", is not an elevation from a "right", but a demotion.

Incredibly, Westman makes an argument against the principle that people are "innocent until proven guilty", bemoaning the idea that "the legal system also implicitly assumes that is preferable to let the guilty go free than to falsely convict an innocent person."  Westman goes on to explain his belief as to how this principle has hurt our society:
"The resulting emphasis on the freedom of the individuals to be irresponsible and to fail means that there are continual tugs to loosen societal restraints on irresponsible behavior." (pg. 104)
Using this logic, Westman suggests that people should be forced to prove their "parental fitness" before having children, as opposed to the current system of the state proving parents to be unfit:
"From the legal point of view, the burden of proof would lie with parents to demonstrate evidence of minimal competence, or of their "parental fitness" in legal terms, rather than on the state, as is now the case, to prove "parental unfitness" 
If you decide not to get "licensed" before having your baby, you're child will be taken from you at birth:
"If a mother could not meet licensing standards, child protection laws would be invoked at the time of the child's birth.  The custody of the child would be with an agency..." (pg. 241)
Westman understands that this policy of licensing parents may have unintended consequences, like mothers being falsely accused of incompetence and having their children taken away, but feels it is for the greater good:
"The denial or revocation of a parenting license would be expected to be a painful experience, particularly for mothers.  Still, the fact that disappointment or inconvenience results for people who are denied licenses for other activities does not diminish the conviction that we must regulate activities or occupations that are potentially harmful to others.  We also maintain licensing procedures and competency tests even though they sometimes are subject to error.  The overall importance of protecting innocent children from incompetent parenting justifies the inconvenience to a few parents and the inevitable imperfections of a licensing system." (pg. 243) [emphasis added]
As alluded to earlier, even though he pointed out the inherit flaws of government welfare programs, Westman does not have a problem with these programs, he just believes that they should be used to influence and control the recipients.  Under Westman's scheme of parental licensing, a parent will not be eligible for any government aid or support, unless they are licensed:
"...becoming and being licensed parents would provide a basis for eligibility for government financial aid and supportive service in order to insure that public funding supports competent and not incompetent parenting." (pg. 219)
Interestingly, Westman claims that parents don't talk to their parents enough, therefore the need for societal institutions to replace parents is increasing, and uses school based health clinics as an example:
"Unfortunately, surveys carried out by the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin indicate that even in families with two parents only half of the adolescents surveyed talked with their mothers and only one-quarter talked with their fathers about their concerns.  Because of this lack of communication between adolescents and parents, the pressure on societal institutions to assume parental functions is increasing.  For example, school-based health clinics that bypass the roles of parents in securing health care for their teenagers are growing in popularity." (pg. 171)
One possible example of school-based health clinics needing to bypass the roles of parents in "securing health care for their teenagers" may be in the administration of vaccinations.  Without explicating stating it, Westman considers parents who choose not to vaccinate their children as being incompetent. (pg. 77-78)  There have been various controversial instances of schools across America administering vaccinations without parental consent.

The questionable influence of Big Pharma and school-based health clinics in Connecticut was explored in the article Forced Mental Health Assessments Being Proposed For All Children In Connecticut.  It should also be noted that NAMI, an organization with questionable ties to large pharmaceutical companies, which advocates for school-based health clinics in Connecticut, has also lobbed in favor of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in the Connecticut state senate.  The UNCRC is a global treaty that will strengthen the role of the state in raising children, and will be explored more in depth later in this analysis.

Westman's criteria for licensing would require a women be eighteen, agree "to refrain from abusing and neglecting the child", and take a parenting class.  (pg. 240)  If a woman fails to meet the licensing requirements, parental rights will be terminated, and the baby placed in the custody of the state.  Amazingly, a mother showing "emotional resistance" to her child being taken by the state is a sign, according to Westman, of her incompetence as a parent:
"A mother who truly loves her child and recognizes her inability to rear her child is more likely to desire placement for the child than an emotionally immature or disturbed mother who is unrealistic about her capabilities and disregards the child's needs" (pg. 253)
Similarly, Westman says that children who will cry out for their parents, are just "fearful of alternatives that are unknown to them":
"Another circumstance that is mistakenly construed to indicate that a child should remain with an abusive or neglectful parent is that many abused and neglected children suggest through their words and their behavior that they want to remain with their incompetent parents.  The reasons for this vary, but these children usually are clinging to an idealized image of their parents and are fearful of alternatives that are unknown to them and that mean leaving a familiar situation, however inadequate it may be." (pg. 253)
United Nations Agenda 21

Important to note is Westman's endorsement of the United Nations, and more specifically, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  Strangely, before praising the United Nations efforts to enumerate the rights of children, Westman suggests that we be aware of powerful forces conspiring to limit our freedoms:
"History and the contemporary world situation repeatedly demonstrate that powerful forces inevitably conspire to limit our freedoms." (pg. 150)
Westman doesn't mention any of the powerful forces actually conspiring to limit freedom.  Some would suggest that the United Nations is one of those conspiring forces.  In the article, A Critical Analysis of Agenda 21 - United Nations Program of Action, it is described how the United Nations plan of action for the 21st century includes limiting the sovereignty of individual countries, transferring their decision making power to the world government at the United Nations.  Through Agenda 21, the United Nations looks to regulate most human activity on the planet.

Westman alludes to the idea that American culture does not promote the competent parenting of its children, therefore the United States should model itself after the United Nations, which does, according to Westman, promote competent parenting:
"Although inevitable conflicts exist between the interests of older and younger generations, it seems clear that the American cultural will is to promote the competent parenting of its children, as it is for the United Nations.  We need to find feasible ways to do so.  Some of those ways are revealed when we recognize that each parent has a right to be competent if possible." (pg. 161)
Westman specifically praises the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  As described in the analysis, "Parents Beware: The United Nations Looking To Give Children of Connecticut Special "Rights", the UNCRC would drastically reduce the rights of parents over their children, by increasing government involvement in the lives of children, in the name of "protecting" them.  The previously mentioned United Nations plan for the 21st century, Agenda 21, states in Article 25, Section 14, that governments are required to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The UNCRC's goal of increasing the decision making power of the state, into the lives of families, is openly admitted by Westman, as he states that "[t]he United Nations Convention clearly declares that the state has a role in childrearing." (pg. 153)

An important aspect of the UNCRC is the concept of "the best interests of the child" being the primary goal of the treaty:
"In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare
institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." [emphasis added] (Article 3, Section 1)
Though Westman praises the UNCRC, later in the book he criticizes the concept of "the best interests of the child" as a legal standard, without making the connection to it being the basis for the UNCRC treaty that he previously endorsed.
"Parent licensing also would not be based upon the legal standard of the child's best interests.  The practical problem with the best interest standards is that they tend to be idealistic and are used to remove children from their homes when less drastic and more effective remedies, such as training, assisting, and supervising foundering parents can be used." (pg.243)
Gun Control 

Of course a collectivist philosophy is not complete until it demonizes those who are willing and able to defend themselves with lethal force; gun owners.  Here are some quotes from Licensing Parents relating to gun ownership:
  • "In societies that do not permit the personal possession of handguns and military weapons, aggressive acts are much less likely to become violent and fatal crimes."(pg. 56)
  • "The widespread availability of handguns in the United States has resulted in the highest homocide rate in the world." (pg. 19)
  • "The availability of guns is responsible for the increasing numbers of children who are killed while playing with guns and in mass shootings" (pg. 19)
  • "In addition the presence of firearms in homes increases the risk of consummated suicide among teenagers" (pg. 19)
For the sake of brevity, I will not get into the hypocrisy and fallacy of gun control, but one absurd statement made by Westman should be highlighted and subject to ridicule:
"All of this makes clear that the assertion "guns do not kill people, people do (or guns do not kill children, children do)" should be replaced with the factual statement that "people without guns injure; people with guns kill" (pg. 20)
How Westman is able to claim that "people without guns injure" is a factual statement is beyond my comprehension.  There are many ways to kill a person without a gun, including with a knife, a car, poison, etc.  Murder has existed on this planet before the invention of guns.  This is just one of the many illogical claims that Westman is willing to make to push his collectivist agenda.

Eugenics

In Chapter 12, titled "Arguments against Licensing Parents", Westman goes into damage control.  He brings up possible arguments against licensing parents, and attempts to alleviate the concerns that people might have about the idea.  Westman brings up the concept of eugenics, and says that "the experience of Nazi Germany stands as a warning that the powers of the state can be used against minorities."  Westman fails to acknowledge that the United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics.  Further distorting the issue, Westman claims that "the possibility of such abuse of government powers is remote in the United States because of Constitutional guarantees."  Putting aside the fact that eugenics policies were carried out in America, with the U.S. Constitution in place, the fact that Germany had a constitution when Adolf Hitler came to power shows the error in this logic.  It should also be noted that earlier in the book Westman, when attempting to justify the states involvement into families, makes the claim that "the family's absolute right to privacy is not guaranteed by the Constitution."

In a different part of the book, Westman appears to be actually endorsing a system of eugenics as he feels discontented with the current medical practice of doing everything to save a newborn babies life, regardless of it's complications:
"The crisis-recoil phenomenon is illustrated further by regulations that mandate medical treatment for every newborn who is not born dead.  The response to the crisis at birth is to save the life of the child.  Because of recoil from the cause of the newborn's crisis and its repercussions, however, there is no assessment of the impact of preserving life and no provision for the treatment of the child after leaving the intensive-care neonatal unit.  As a result the child remains dependent on expensive technology simply to maintain physical life often with the consequent financial ruin and disruption of the child's family." (pg. 119)
This analysis is meant to counter the massive amount of collectivist propaganda in the media and academic world.  The concept of "licensing parents" is just one way in which powerful forces are conspiring to limit individual freedom.  An interested reader should follow the related links provided to how see how this concept is connected to various actions being taken by governments throughout the world.

Related Stories:
  • Examining A Questionable Big Pharma Influence in Connecticut Law and Politics - December 31, 2014 (link)
  • Go To Work and Give The Government Your Children: The Feminist UN Agenda 21 Plan To "Empower" Women - August 22, 2014 (link)
  • Parents Beware: The United Nations Looking To Give Children of Connecticut Special "Rights" - December 28, 2013 (link)
  • Forced Mental Health Assessments Being Proposed For All Children In Connecticut - March 15, 2013 (link)
  • A Critical Analysis of Agenda 21 - United Nations Program of Action - November 1, 2013 (link)