It’s important to spend more time on someone’s statement than their qualifications. Qualifications are certainly useful. They are shortcuts to seeing the worldview and level of thinking from which the statement comes. Unfortunately, they are not a guarantee of quality. Take the following example…
“I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.”
“The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t”
“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”
That’s Adam Swift, a Professor at the University of Warwick. One wonders if he ever spares a thought for the “unfair disadvantage” he puts others in by being a professor. It’s also unlikely his parents were worrying about the same if they read him bedtime stories. He made the above remarks during an interview with The Philosopher’s Zone on the ABC.
One may debate the finer points of what he meant by the above statements. In fact, he asserts that he has been misunderstood. If so, he should ensure that is made clear on the ABC site itself given he’s aware of it as the primary source of this interview. It’s the least he could do given ideas have consequences.
What’s obvious however is the plain reading of “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children”. Such a statement comes from a poverty point of view. It’s a point of view which seeks to eliminate advantages, not share them. This is particularly concerning given he’s a Professor of Political Theory and a member of Warwick’s Centre for Ethics, Law and Public Affairs (at the time of writing). His views are not purely private. They have real consequences for today’s policies and in the training of tomorrow’s leaders.
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.”
Since loving families confer an advantage to children, rather than eliminating aspects of it to create “a more level playing field”, let’s channel our efforts in helping more families be loving so that the playing field is greener for all.
Sharing a blessing is a far more productive and generous choice compared to withholding it.
Finally, in the spirit of spending more time on what’s said rather than the qualifications of the person saying it, one can see some accuracy in some of his other statements…
‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important. 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 a child makes for what we call a distinctive and special contribution to the flourishing and wellbeing of adults.”
For those seeking to redefine these foundations of society, take note.
This is another reminder of the importance of not only thinking rightly but influencing with it. Knowledge without influence is dry and powerless. Let’s encourage others to see and share the benefits of a good family through our own. Especially those of you who have influence in academic circles – clearly it’s needed.